By Nisma Chauhan
A recent report by the Women’s Human Rights and Gender section of the UN human rights office has stated that attacks on schoolgirls and girls’ education are on the rise. Pakistan, the country whose most famous Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, was shot at close range by a Taliban gunman precisely for this reason, is not a stranger to such attacks. Even as recently as December of last year, a school in Pakistan came under the deadliest assault of the year when the TTP attacked Army Public School in Peshawar, killing over 150 people, including 132 students.
The report cites a number of other high-profile cases and states that many of the attacks were committed in the name of culture or religion, while others were gang-related. “Attacks against girls accessing education persist and, alarmingly, appear in some countries to be occurring with increasing regularity. In most instances, such attacks form part of broader patterns of violence, inequality and discrimination.” In Pakistan, where we are already facing an alarmingly high level of illiteracy, the fact that persistent attempts are being made to exclude girls from the educated lot is something the government desperately needs to pay attention to.
According to the report, many of the attacks in at least 70 countries between 2009-2014, involved rape and abduction, so it is not only a matter of education but also of safety at this point in time. Many parents, who are willing to get their daughters educated are now more worried about keeping their children alive. There needs to be a change, not just in policy, but in thinking. Forming and attempting to implement laws, which encourage the education of females without spearheading a change in how people think will not be fruitful. As long as multiple reasons continue to exist for why females are not being educated, grass roots attempts will remain in demand. We need thinkers who influence public opinion to advocate education, we need movements which increase awareness of why female education is not only important but also necessary, and we also need more people like Malala, who has recovered from the gruesome attack and has gone on to become a staunch advocate for education for females everywhere.