Maybe because Eve was created out of Adam’s rib, the women today are considered a secondary race. The society is divided into jobs considered fit for men and those considered fit for women. A gender bias exists in almost every sphere of our lives. The society dictates the mannerism of a girl; the dreams a girl should have and the life a girl should lead. A girl is supposed to behave in a certain way, sit in a certain manner and remain timid and scared. While the boys on the other hand are taught to be boisterous, loud and “macho” .As a child you are handed either a doll or a car ,according to your sex. The society defines us, what we are, who we are. Most of us do not know the basic difference between gender and sex. According to WHO, “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. Whereas, “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. Our society defines what is masculinity and feminity for us.
Women comprise nearly half of the population in India as elsewhere in the world. Yet, for centuries they have been pushed aside from the path of development growth and education. Basic rights and opportunities have been denied to them and this contributed to their underdevelopment which led to a further bias. The only way to overcome this unfair bias is by the means of education because “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”(Brigham Young) It is however an established fact that there was hardly any gender discrimination in the Vedic Age in imparting education. But only a few girls used to take the austerities of hard life and in-depth study of vedic-lore. Majority of the girl preferred cozy home-life, practiced various art forms and crafts and became good housewives. Some of those who took to studying came to be known as brahmavadinis and are remembered as visionaries and composers of mantras. Although at that time early marriage was the custom, attempts were made to educate women by arranging recitation from classics and narrating stories with a moral.
Thus, it has been seen that India has a long history of organized education system for women since the Vedic period. But with the passage of time the condition of women in societies began to change and deteriorate. Owing to the changing political, social and economic scenario women were reduced to the role of mere reproducing agents. On one hand the Devis were worshipped, women put on pedestals, and on the other hand they were ill-treated, abused, violated and denied of an equal position in the society.
Education is considered to be the most powerful weapon to help restore the position of women in the society. It not only develops the rationality and personality of individuals but qualifies them to fulfill certain economic, cultural and social function of the society, thereby improving their socio-economic status. In order to justify and explain the low literacy rate in India for women we have to identify the boulders which are blocking their path towards empowerment. The Government has devised excellent policies to promote girl-education by making schools closer to homes, introducing scholarships and mid-day meals, etc. But the fact remains that most parents form deprived households cannot afford to bear the loss of income owing to their children’s non-availability for wage labour and household chores. In cases where parents can afford to send the girl child to school, they do not do so as they think that the investment in educating a girl is a wastage of money as the girl will eventually be married off and end up doing household chores. Another major issue is that most of the girl drop out of schools at puberty. This results in drastic fall in the enrolments at the secondary level. The safety of girl students in their educational institutions has also been raised. Several cases of sexual harassment and molestation by school teachers and staff has come up recently. Such instances drive more and more students away.
Another important factor that has lead to poor rate of enrolment of girl students in schools is inadequate infrastructure. Most of the schools do not provide a basic sanitation facility; lack of female teachers; not enough classroom accommodation, etc. There are parents who are interested to send their girls to school but are unable to do so because of the distance of the school from their homes, lack of transport facility and lack of sanitation facility. School curriculum also sometimes becomes a factor for lesser attendance of girl students. In most of cases the curriculum is gender based. Most schools texts have next to nothing mentioned about girls’ or women’s rights. Textbooks are filled with gender-bias. There is an absence of utility aspect in primary and secondary level education’s curriculum. It primarily includes the traditional subjects rather than emphasizing upon vocational and technical training. Such monotonous and ineffective curriculum is unable to create any urge in the parents’ minds to send their daughters to school.
According to the Constitution of India, men and women are equal citizens in the eyes of law and thus have equal rights. However, social, economic and cultural dynamics have prevented the law from translating this goal into reality.