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Muslim Women in India Can Become Change Agents With Education

Muslim women would have realised their full potential and they will ensure that India and the world do as well

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Muslim Women
Muslim mother and daughter. Pixabay
  • Narendra Modi called for empowerment and education of Muslim women
  • The literacy rate and the higher education statistics represent a double whammy for Muslim women as it relates to empowerment

June 25, 2017: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently called for empowerment and education of Muslim women. One would have expected this message to receive widespread acceptance and support. It did not.

There was resistance on several fronts for a variety of reasons. Some saw Modi’s move as a political stunt. Some questioned whether Modi was doing anything meaningful in the education and empowerment area. Others came out against it because of a connection to the triple-talaq controversy.

There is no gainsaying that there is an unequivocal and critical need to empower Muslim women through education in order for India to achieve its full potential. The status of education in general was captured by the 2001 census which revealed that the Muslim literacy rate was only 59 per cent.

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In response to these and additional findings regarding Muslims and others in the weaker sections, the Sachar Committee Report of 2006 disclosed a development deficit in a number of areas. The report resulted in the creation of an across-the-board programme for the development of minorities.

This programme and other initiatives have had a beneficial effect. In the 2011 census, the overall literacy rate for Muslims went up substantially to 68.5 per cent against the national literacy rate of 74 percent.

That was good news. But the numbers within the numbers tell a different story. The worst literacy rate for women in India is among those in the Muslim community at less than 52 percent. That is cause for concern.

Even more worrying is the performance of Muslims in terms of higher education. A US India Policy Institute released in 2013, six years after the Sachar Report, showed that only 11 per cent of Muslims in India pursue higher education compared to a national average of approximately 19 per cent. Most significantly, that study revealed that there has been a decline in the general category of Muslims participating in higher education.

The literacy rate and the higher education statistics represent a double whammy for Muslim women as it relates to empowerment. In education, literacy is the starting line and higher education is the finishing line for becoming fully empowered. These statistics indicate that not enough Muslim women even get to the starting line and very few get to the finishing line.

This must change. Muslim women must be able to participate fully along the entire educational continuum. This participation is pivotal for the future of the individual Muslim woman, the Muslim family and India.

For the individual Muslim woman, education itself is empowering. It removes the shackles of ignorance. It develops the knowledge, skills and attitudes to pursue and create one’s own destiny. It builds self-esteem and confidence. Education is the gift that keeps on giving. It is an opportunity creator and bridge to the future.

For the Muslim family, education prepares the Muslim woman to be a change agent. Too many Muslim families are trapped in poverty because of a lack of education. With her own education, the woman can educate and equip her children to escape that trap. I firmly believe education is a powerful equaliser, opening doors to Muslim women to lift themselves out of poverty.

For India, education delivers on the promise of the largest representative democracy in the world. Central to that promise are equality, opportunity and inclusive economic mobility. Education levels the playing field and makes that promise a reality. Once that reality exists for Muslim women they will be able to deliver on that promise for India by helping others up the ladder of success. They will have the capacity to change the face of India and the landscape of the world.

In the 21st century, higher education is becoming more important for climbing that ladder. By higher education, I don’t just mean four-year colleges or universities. I include technical, vocational and professional education at the secondary levels.

It might seem that I am a little delusional given the current circumstances in talking about Muslim women and higher education. But that is not the case.

On my last visit to India in February this year, I had the good fortune to give addresses and speak with young Muslim women students at Fatima Girls Inter College in Azamgarh and Abdullah Women’s College at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). I was inspired by them and their commitment to making a positive difference in India.

During that visit, my wife Debbie and I also dedicated the new Management Complex that we had financed at AMU. In my comments at the dedication ceremonies, I predicted that from this Complex “will come the future leaders who will make India and the world a better place.”

Many of those leaders will be educated and empowered Muslim women who will be in the forefront of empowering other Muslim women who will then educate and empower other Muslim women — and the cycle will continue.

When that occurs, those Muslim women would have realised their full potential and they will ensure that India and the world do as well. When they succeed, all of us succeed. India succeeds. The world succeeds. (IANS)

 

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .