KARACHI: The provincial education and literacy department on Sunday inaugurated its new gender unit in the city aimed at encouraging girl students’ literacy in Sindh.
The unit was the joint initiative of the Sindh government, Indus Resource Centre (IRC) and Oxfam.
“It aims to mainstream gender within the education system in the province,” a panel discussion was told.
Sindh Education Minister Jam Mehtab Dahar, Oxfam chair-designate Caroline Thomson and IRC executive director Sadiqa Salahuddin led the panel discussion on promoting gender equality in schools and empowering women.
Panellists said the provincial education department gave an annual stipend to female students to encourage them to pursue their education.
An amount of Rs1.5 billion had been allocated for 275,000 female students in 2015-16 and 280,000 female students for 2016-17.
“The girls’ stipend is an incentive programme to ensure greater transition and retention of female students post-primary education,” said an official.
Minister Dahar said that initiative was reflective of the Sindh government’s commitment to increasing the enrolment of girls in school. “If you educate a woman, you educate a nation, for that reason we are encouraging girls to stay in school and benefit our society.”
However, official figures and those compiled by independent organisations put Sindh on the bottom of the literacy rankings, much lesser than the national aggregates and, in most indicators, it is just better than the figures of Fata and Balochistan.
The last Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement shows a bit more than half of Sindh’s population is literate with a greater gender disparity.
Ms Thomson of Oxfam supported the minister’s views and said poverty and inequality were present around the world but they affected girls and women the most. “Without educating women we will not have advancement in our communities. We need to have role models for female students in the form of teachers who they can look up to and who encourage them to continue their education.”
The new gender unit will be led by a deputy secretary (gender) of the education department.
The unit will oversee the implementation of national laws and policies which deal with gender inequalities and gender-based violence. It will work on the development of management capacity to promote gender equality and ensure that textbooks are free of gender bias.