Uneducated and Unhealthy: The Plight of Women in Pakistan

The title of this paper is self-explanatory. It discusses underinvestment in female education and health and the deleterious effects this has on not only women themselves but on the future generation which women bring forth and nourish. This underinvestment is more pronounced in the rural areas of Pakistan where the bulk of the population resides and where low levels of education, lack of awareness and access to medical facilities pose a major threat to the development of a healthy and productive society. Combining macro-level data on population growth rates, female mortality and literacy with two micro-level studies based on extensive participant observation and in-depth interviewing in two Punjabi villages, the data presented in the paper aims to sensitise the readers of the realities of women’s social existance and of the complexities of female neglect specifically in terms of education and health. The paper also highlights some of the dominant cultural notions regarding women which become instrumental in hampering women’s access to education, information and other structures of power. The confinement of women to narrow domestic and powerless domains has far-reaching and negative consequences of which statistics portray a picture.

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