The key to achieving awareness about women’s rights in a country like Pakistan is to educate young people about the issues relating to their empowerment and also to the problems they face in society.
That’s why I was extremely disturbed when I found out that two important sections on women’s rights and sexual harassment had been removed from the SSC (secondary school certificate) textbooks for Class 9 and 10 by the Federal Board for Intermediate and Secondary Education in Islamabad. The SSC is the equivalent of the GCSE and 10th grade students in Pakistan take them before moving on to intermediate education (the equivalent of 11th and 12 grade) and then finally on to university.
Here are the sections that have been removed (photos courtesy Mahnoor Khan, who tells me that her sister is a student and alerted her to this change in the syllabus). They cover the protection of women, what gender sensitization is, women’s rights as outlined by the United Nations and WHO, women’s rights in Islam, what measures the government has already taken to protect women’s rights, and so on.
And here is the official notification from the FBISE saying that the sections will not be included in the syllabus for the exams.
No explanation has been given for this decision. What possible benefit is there for students to not have this information? We need answers from the FBISE. Why keep this information off the syllabus? At a time when so much violence against women and girls is coming to the forefront, and young people have so many questions about why it’s happening and how to prevent it, this kind of tampering with textbooks represents a step backwards, and it’s unacceptable.