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Shall I feed my daughter or educate her? Hindu Girls Education in Rural Sindh.

Article 25A of the Pakistan Constitution states, "The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law." While reading this, I pondered over the reality of the article and to what extent this has been implemented. Not to my surprise, the results were devastating.

This short writing will discuss Hindu girls' education in interior Sindh and elaborate on the causes that hinder their fundamental right to education.

Hindus constitute 4.5 million of Pakistan's population, and 96% of this population resides in rural areas of Sindh, especially Tharparkar. Like any other suppressed minority in Pakistan, this community lacks fundamental rights support. To narrow the discussion to education sector, only 1.5% of girls out of the Hindu population in Sindh receive primary education, while the ratio to higher-level studies is 0.8%. Numerous causes were observed for this; According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement Survey (PSLM) 2012, economic instability is one of the main reasons hindering education rights from Hindu women of Sindh. Being the lower-class economic population of Pakistan, this community, specifically those from tharparkar, do not get equal employment opportunities, and primarily people there work on daily wages to meet their needs.

Moreover, when there comes a question about education, parents raise their voices regarding feeding their children or educating them, and nevertheless, human priority shifts towards hunger. Moreover, the shifting paradigm in globalization has increased women's participation in markets. So there, Hindu girls are in rural Sindh to meet their family needs, which impedes their right to education.

Secondly, the state's failure to provide and protect minority rights in Pakistan has resulted in significant distress among the Hindu community as they face forced conversion of their sisters and daughters and cannot seek legal support. To elaborate, the ongoing socio-cultural context of forced conversions of Hindu girls has also diverted officials' attention from Hindu women's educational rights. Lastly, there is a lack of awareness regarding fundamental rights among this gender group, which further adds to the hindrance of bringing the topic to discussion.

To conclude, we observed that Pakistan, as a democratic state promises to provide fundamental educational rights to its citizens irrespective of their ethnicity or cast. However, the default counts in economic and socio-cultural aspects, where the state must interfere and indulge in implementing minority rights. UN report 2022 suggests that social media can significantly spread awareness regarding the issue in related communities, which could be implemented by keeping certain assumptions of accessibility in mind.

Note:*Picture taken from Dawn Article.

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A very interesting read! To add on to what you mentioned regarding forced conversions, I feel that the biggest hurdle to minority girls' education is safety. It is no secret that Pakistan is borderline hostile to women, and for a woman from a minority community, this hostility becomes tenfold. Which leads to kidnapping, rape and abuse, and forced conversions and marriages. I would imagine most parents would prefer keeping their daughters at home for the sole reason that they could keep a watchful eye on them and keep them safe(r).

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Women's education in Pakistan is a fundamental right of every female citizen, according to article thirty-seven of the Constitution of Pakistan, but gender discrepancies still exist in the educational sector. But in Pakistan, Pakistan has made significant progress in girls' education in the last decade, but 12 million girls are out of school, with only 13% of girls reaching grade nine. Some of the challenges that have been identified which impede girls' access to education are lack of hygienic facilities, the lack of transport, poverty, wrong religious perceptions, gender discrimination, early marriages, lack of education infrastructure, absence of safe environments, and physical disabilities.

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