By Anjali Singh
Friday, September 2, 2011
Muslim girls and women in northern India have the lowest levels of education and are the least likely to leave home to work. When one 19-year-old pushed her way into the paid work force she had to brave the fury of her younger brother.
Shabistan Gaffar is chairperson of the national government's Committee On Girls' Education.
"The social tradition and misunderstanding that prevailed within the community regarding education has prevented many girls from being educated," says Gaffar. "Poverty is a huge additional deterrent."
Gaffar says education and schools must be made more accessible to Muslim girls in northern India.
She also believes that there is a case to be made for strengthening the madrassa system of religious schools in India, since these age-old institutions of learning have continued to provide one of the best chances for Muslim girls to access an elementary education and break free from orthodox control.
To do that, however, means confronting widespread trepidation about the schools as training grounds for Islamic extremism.
Pointing out that many leading people in India were schooled at madrassas--including presidents Dr. Rajendra Prasad and A.P.J. Kalam--Gaffar says the schools are misunderstood.
"I understand that there are apprehensions in the present scenario but we must not negate the fact that in areas where there is no infrastructure for basic education, it is these madrassas that are imparting at least some primary education to girls," she says.
This article is adapted from one that was released by the Women's Feature Service. For more articles on women's issues log on to: http://www.wfsnews.org.
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Anjali Singh is a senior journalist who specializes in writing on human development issues with a focus on women and children. She is also a child rights activist and director of Saaksham Foundation, an organization that addresses child rights violations in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
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