It has always been difficult to grant free access to different levels of education and instruction for women.
Due to established social beliefs and blatant discrimination, women are very often denied the right to a comprehensive education. The right to a full education is reserved for men because they are considered to be the only ones capable of holding managerial and senior positions in society.
In recent decades, however, there has been significant progress in terms of access to school education for women in Asian countries.
According to what the UNESCO Statistic Institute has recorded, the percentage of women and girls that have free access to education in Asia has increased in the last decade: in 2016, 453 million of women and girls were enrolled in schools of different levels, from kindergarten to high school, to the point that it was said the average school attendance in many Asian countries (Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines) was in favour of women. This progress has contributed to the birth of NGOs directed and led by women who, thanks to the education received, are now able to assert their rights also at international level.
Despite this, there still is inequality for the lower classes and those living in rural areas.
In Pakistan, for example, around 90% of men coming from rural areas are literate while women are only 52%.
The inequalities concern teaching material, accessible scholastic projects and the high positions in college and university committees that are often covered by men.
In those countries, young women can’t finish their studies because of the tragic custom of arranged marriages (usually celebrated between grown up men and little girls), or because of poverty, strongly discriminatory legislation and other sociocultural factors. For these reasons, women are strongly denied access to various work fields (especially the scientific ones) and this leads to a lack job opportunity for women. In fact, thanks to education given from when they were young, women could have the possibility to aspire to position of a certain level and to cover public offices.
In Vietnam, economic conditions and socio-cultural heritage are the main cause of inequality between men and women in accessing educational system. Women coming from poor families can’t afford the costs linked to education like buying the books or trivially the payment of the means of transportations to get to school. Very often, the parents are ill and illiterate and therefore the young women have to work from when they’re little to support their family.
It is at this time that funding in education is needed from international donors (such as The Asia Foundation, active in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Mongolia) who are committed on the one hand, to ensuring the possibility of scholarships, housing and mentoring services; on the other hand, they are acting to raise awareness of women's education in Asian countries.
A further barrier that women in Asian countries have to face, in fact, are the taboos of society, which does not accept the idea of a woman in school, as the highest aspiration for girls born and growing up in these contexts is to find a wealthy husband who can provide for them.
Where, on the other hand, the most conservative families agree to guarantee their daughters the right to education, institutions for women only are preferred.
Those institutes (located mainly in Asiatic countries like Korea, The Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India), despite being traditionalist, are a valuable opportunity to develop leadership virtues. In fact, in these circumstances women live their education more freely, without any kind of discrimination or stereotype coming from a masochistic society. Here they have the chance to develop their confidence and talent, following the way of life of other girls that, just like them, have struggled to see their ideals realized in a reality that, even today, is reluctant to accept women as influential and authoritative figures on a par with men.
Translation by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Simona Maria Destrocastaniti
The sources used to edit this contribution can be freely consulted:
Francesca Purcell - Robin Matross Helms, “Women’s Colleges and Universities in International Perspective”, 2004
Sloane J., “It’s Time for Large-Scale Investment in Girls’ Education Across Asia”, in The Asia Foundation, 2019
UNESCO Bangkok Office, “Gender equality in Asia-Pacific education: International Women’s Day 2018 statistical snapshot”, 2018
Patricia B. Licuanan, “The Challenge of Women’s Higher Education in Asia”, 2004
Barbara Watson Andaya, “Women in the Southeast Asia”, in Center for Global Education