Education is synonymous with empowerment. Educate a boy and you improve his career prospects, facilitate his participation in public life and change his worldview. Educate a woman and, in one fell swoop, you do all that for the entire family. History shows that investment in female education can increase a country’s productivity and fuel economic growth.
And yet, the overall picture remains unfavourable to women, who represent nearly two-thirds of the world’s illiterate. Thirty-one million girls of primary school age are still out of school, around the world. The completion rates and learning levels of girls are lower than those of boys. Participation of girls in school decreases as they progress through the education system and too many girls in developing countries are denied the right to education.
In India, the literacy rate in 2011 was 82.14 per cent for males, and 65.46 per cent for females. The latter, especially in rural areas, are still pulled out of schools to work in agriculture in place of boys who get precedence when it comes to education. Fewer than two per cent of girls who are involved in agriculture work attend school at all.
At the same time, we are delighted to note, there are some Indian women who have reached the top of their professions. We have women headlining the entrepreneur world and the financial sector, and technology as well as trade. We have politicians and philanthropists, entertainers and media mavens. In our fifth anniversary issue, edex celebrates India’s women, both big and small.
We begin with the women vice-chancellors of Kerala who, though only a few in number, are on top of their game. We also celebrate the women scientists for whom the state government has developed a model ‘back-to-lab’ programme that enables them to return to research even after a break. We study the life and times of the actresses of the Odia film industry and cheer on the social activists as they fight the good fight.
We know the job ahead is not easy. As our reports will tell you, women students of colleges still need to fight for the rights that their male counterparts get so easily. They often have to face harassment at home, from professors in college and, later in life, from male employers. They have to struggle to get ahead in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields that are perceived as male bastions.
But the fightback has begun, and should get more heft from the silver bullet of education. The starting point of achievement, they say, is desire. There’s certainly no dearth of that in women.