Over the past few months, the world as we know it has been completely toppled. The pandemic has given rise to worst-case scenarios which were never even imagined. While forcing governments, households and firms to make decisions under absolute uncertainty about the future, it has also given us the time to re-evaluate our existing societal norms and structures.
Access to education for girls has seen a steady upward trend over the recent years, partly because of the widespread accessibility to information provided by televisions, mobile phones and other internet-connected devices. It has also been the case that stereotypical and patriarchal elements of society have recognized the tenfold contribution that women have and make to the generation of essential knowledge and the production of goods and services.
Furthermore, there has been the propagation of forward-looking ideas and social structures, which place the utmost importance on education being a necessity rather than a privilege. Women across the globe are gaining access to education that is providing them with the ability to foray into the world and to break down existing irrational societal barriers. And this is not just a social phenomenon. Countless economic theories have also suggested that the investment in human capital, reaps benefits for many years to come. And the greatest form of this investment is education which is undifferentiated in its providence, whether it be to a girl or a boy.
The landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA) established about two and a half decades ago the need for advancing women and girl rights. Since then, girl rights to education have consistently been the main focus of international economic development strategies, recognising the need for establishing educational structures which provide equal opportunities for growth and prosperity.
While the quantitative data has improved drastically, with the global enrolment rate for females increasing from 73% to 89%, it only tells half the story. UNESCO reports have highlighted that the quality of education offered to students is still subject to mediocrity. And this is especially the case for girls. The need for inclusive textbooks and education is what remains to be addressed.
Gender parity is one other figure where commendable growth has been achieved. While in 1995, 90 girls were enrolled in schooling for every 100 boys, this number has been equalled in 2018. Again, there is a much larger picture that remains to be seen. Harassment and discrimination within schools still plague schools worldwide, and its effects on young girls remain profound. Many-a-times, this acts as a disincentive for more girls to enrol in education, and instead remain at home or take up menial jobs to begin earning.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a major upheaval in societies. While it has created severe economic turmoil in most countries and has plunged poorer countries further into the poverty trap, it has also made light of glaring inefficiencies in our systems. Gender-biased textbooks, underrepresentation of females in the teaching profession towards higher education, curbing of opportunities for girls are some glaring issues which cannot remain unattended in a post-COVID world where populations will have to unite to rebuild societies and to prevent future disasters.