ROLE OF EDUCATION IN WOMEN’S AUTONOMY
*M.K. Raina (Ratnakar)
Education can affect people’s lives through several channels. It affects access to knowledge, information, and new ideas. It enhances overall efficiency, market opportunities, and social status. It also changes attitudes and behaviours, among other things, bringing about an openness to new ideas and experiences, an increasing independence from traditional authority, and questioning of passivity.
These effects apply generally to both sexes. However, young adult men are exposed to new ideas through their wider contacts with the world outside family and local community, as well as through formal schooling.
Education enables women to assume more autonomy or power in both traditional gender – stratified family settings. This enhanced autonomy takes the form of decision – making authority within the home, economic and social autonomy and self – reliance, emotional autonomy, the ability to forge close conjugal bonds, and physical autonomy in interacting with the outside world. These aspects of autonomy are acquired by men, in contrast, irrespective of their formal education and largely as a matter of course, simply by virtue of their gender.
Schooling increases a woman’s knowledge and competence in all sectors of contemporary life; broadens her access to information via the mass media and written material; develops her intellectual capacities and exposes her to interpersonal competition and achievement; gives her an opportunity to pursue non – familial roles; raises her image of her potential and that of her children; and, simultaneously, imparts a sense of efficacy and trust in modern science and technology, which encourages a woman to control her fate and body. It also changes her outlook on the world as being controllable and raises her sense of self – worth.
The five separate but interdependent elements of autonomy that are influenced by education are:-
ENHANCED KNOWLEDGE OF, GREATER EXPOSURE TO, THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Education moves women from a reliance on others to greater self – reliance and, correspondingly, to a greater questioning of traditional authority.
Education provides women with knowledge about the treatment and prevention of illness, infant feeding, and the prevention of unwanted births. The most obvious change is the knowledge of the causes, prevention and cure of disease, and children’s nutritional requirements.
Educated women tend to be more aware of personal hygiene, household and courtyard sanitation and cleanliness, the health benefits of a more equitable distribution of food in the household, the need for rest during sickness, and the need for speedy treatment of illness and injuries.
Education exposes women to new ideas which may be incompatible with having many children and which can lead them, more generally, to question the old ways of life. Better educated women have more skills in expressing ideas and asking questions. Better educated women are also more exposed to television and reading materials. Better educated women are more likely to read and more likely to watch educational programmes on television than uneducated women. They are also more likely to keep up with current affairs. Educated adolescent girls are more likely to have non-domestic hobbies than uneducated girls.
In a traditional setting, educated women are respected for their knowledge, however grudgingly. Even older uneducated women who, in many cultures, traditionally wield considerable power over the young, acknowledge the power of educated women’s knowledge.
GREATER DECISION – MAKING AUTONOMY IN THE HOME
Education for women is greater decision – making autonomy within the home. Uneducated young women are rarely permitted to make a decision or voice an opinion; educated women are more confident of their ability to make decisions and more likely to insist on participating in family decisions. Such decisions range from those related to child care and feeding, to those related to family expenditures and to contraception and family – size limitation.
In gender- stratified settings, educated women do not assume a greater decision – making role as they are conceded greater decision – making power by their husbands and extended family elders. Parents recognize that an educated daughter – in - law may resist decisions imposed on her by other family members and that an unhappy, educated daughter may have the power to draw their son’s loyalty away from them, either emotionally or by insisting on setting up a separate household. Thus, shrewd in – laws may hedge their bets by conceding as many decisions to their daughter - in – laws as is necessary for preserving the family unit.
A small amount of education might give women the freedom to make decisions in the domestic spheres most relevant to them, notably with regard to child health, internal food distribution, and other aspects of behaviour related to conjugal family, and possibly with regard to sexual relations with their husbands.
It takes the attainment of considerably more education, specially in highly gender – stratified societies, before women overcome these cultural constraints and are involved in decisions seen as major to the household, such as those relating to the household’s honour or its economic survival. A small amount of education, however, would not necessarily change the traditional locus of major household decisions, such as large purchases, family marriage negotiations, or sexual controls on unmarried girls.
Better educated women are more likely to make independent decisions. A combination of four less and more important decisions, both day - to – day household decisions involving child health and daily purchases, and ‘major’ decisions entailing the clothing purchases for the children and the woman herself are the most important in the process.
The proportion of women involved in all four decisions has increased marginally in the last decade from 18 percent among uneducated women to 24 percent and 26 percent among primary – and middle – school – educated women and more sharply to 40 per cent among secondary – schooled women. Women require some secondary education before they experience major gains in decision - making, especially when the range of decisions goes beyond those pertaining to everyday life.
Better educated women are more likely to agree that women should have a say in important family – size decisions, regardless of their age. In gender – stratified cultures, even educated young women expect to be excluded from decisions pertaining to family finances.
Not only are better educated women more likely to know of available services and to make decisions regarding use of these services, they are also more likely to use these services appropriately, demand them as a right and not as a favour, and extract far more from them than uneducated women do. With greater education comes a grater responsiveness to new services, more self – confidence in interacting with officials and service providers.
Educated women use modern preventive and curative health services to continue treatment with greater timeliness to demand a greater quality of care and continue treatment with greater persistence and accuracy.
Educated women are more likely to forge a close relationship with their husbands, implying greater social equality and emotional intimacy between spouses. With the strengthening of the spousal link, women can become more independent of the extended family, emotionally and, in some cases, residentially. Close spousal ties are one reason why better educated women are somewhat more likely to reside in nuclear families than uneducated women. Even when they reside in extended families, educated women display a greater intimacy with their husbands than uneducated women. Educated women have closer ties to their husbands.
GREATER ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AUTONOMY AND SELF - RELIANCE
Perhaps most important is the contribution of education to women’s economic and social self-reliance. Educated women have greater control over material resources than do uneducated women.
SELF- RELIANCE IN OLD AGE
Educated women are in a better position to control family resources irrespective of their work status. It has been pointed out that access to, or the right to use, someone else’s resources is a weak substitute for control over one’s own environment; the former implies only the right to use or consume resources with the permission of those who hold the right to dispose of them. Education enhances women’s self – reliance, economic independence, and control over resources; this link has repercussions on family – size preferences and contraception, on the one hand, and on delayed marriage, on the other.
|*M.K.Raina Ratnakar is an Indian Broadcasting Service Officer, an Educationist and a Media expert.In the realm of education ,his guidance on the matters of education for women and children is highly valued.As a brodcaster he has made striking achievements in making his listeners see through the most delicate experiences and experiments he has made in the field of communication.His gifts of observation with the magical abilities of a timely trained educationist and a communicator have been exhibited by him in the organisations of his work.
He has authored a number of books,the best sellers of which have been:- * Intruded Moorings- the Kashmir perespective.,**An Intelligent Parent's/ Teacher's Guide To Success and Achievement of the Child., ***Spoken English Skills. His latest book titled as Surreal Moments will soon be available on the stalls. He is working as Senior Director in in the office of Directorate General ,Doordarshan.
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