The cultural beliefs restrict women’s right to education, disempowering them both in family and society.
Access to education at different ages is one of the basic human rights. But women and girls in Abkhazia are often deprived of this right.
The education of women and girls is a broad term that combines different concepts and views. In particular it includes such issues as gender equality, access to education and correlation between education and poverty.
In this article we will talk about the education of women and girls in Eastern Abkhazia (Ochamchyr, Tkuarchal and Gali districts).
Access to equal educational opportunities exists in many even developed countries of the world. And Abkhazia is not an exception.
Eastern Abkhazia is mainly populated by mixed families (Abkhazian and Georgian), but if we talk about Gali district, here 90% of the population are ethnic Megrelians / Georgians. This fact makes the region specific, as it was affected by Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in 1992-1993.
The education of women and girls is an evident problem in Eastern Abkhazia. The importance of education for women and girls is not widely acceptable in many parts of Abkhazia, especially in rural areas.
We will try to find out the reasons and talk about the possible consequences of this problem.
Many families do not consider it important to educate their daughters, but the lack of education leads to serious consequences for any society. And, first of all it is poverty.
If the family does not have sufficient funds to educate all children (even in secondary school), preference is given to boys rather than girls.
This happens because parents believe that the main role of a girl is to get married and have children, while the boys have to financially support the family. That is why, when it comes to secondary and higher education, the choice is made in favor of male children.
As a result, uneducated girls marry at the age of 14-15, which lead to increased number of child marriages. And, early marriage almost always means that girl will be left without education and will lack basic skills which are, as a rule, acquired at school and university.
Such girls will have more difficulties in providing for their children and they will less likely have a healthy and educated family. It is obvious, that in most poor families the education for female children is not a priority. But this is only one side of the coin. There are other reasons too.
Such girls do not consider education as the right necessary for their development. And after marriage, in the new family, the situation regarding their education does not improve.
The causes lead to gender norms deeply-rooted in the society. It is believed that the basic role of the woman is to raise children and be a housewife. When it comes to the education of women and girls, the ageism or discrimination based on age is also an issue. If girls aged 16 to 18 can rely on getting support from their families, for women in their 30-ies it is almost impossible. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, public opinion is valued a lot in Abkhazia. Husbands fear that society will condemn them, because their wives go to school. It is deemed that it is better to spend this time on taking care of the family.
Secondly, the education in Abkhazia is not free. The cost for one year of university studies varies from 600 to 700 US dollars. Moreover, married women can only rely on distant education, since the full-time courses will not leave them time for household duties. At the same time, distant education is 30% more expensive. Even if the family can pay for the studies, there are some extra expenses, such as transportation costs.
Women in their 30-ies are told that they do not need education at this age, which is a violation of their rights. Women over 30 rarely manage to learn, even if they are willing to. Moreover, the society does not support women in their pursuit of getting vocational or higher education. According to statistics, uneducated wives are more likely to suffer from domestic violence.
The problem is very common for Abkhazia, but it should be noted that women’s organizations try to overcome it by empowering girls and women. It has been proven for many times that educated girls and women can bring many benefits to any society. They can become good professionals in various sectors including economics, medicine, finance, science, politics, etc.
Education allows women to have voice and to be heard in their families as well as their communities. An educated woman today is an educated child tomorrow. If we want to have a healthy society and a better future, it is important to pay attention to this.
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