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Changing parents’ attitudes towards girls’ education in Nepal

Classroom in Nepal. Photo: Plan International

“Yes, if my daughter-in-law is educated, she will be a good mother;” but this might not always be what people need: “I don’t care if she is educated, I need a daughter-in-law who helps me with the household work”.

Sadly, careers and well-being for girls are not yet taken seriously. Careers are considered unimportant because there is a perception that a women’s income is for meeting her ‘womanly cravings’, which in reality is largely never the case.  In some cases, marriage costs grow in line with girls’ higher education due to the dowry system.

Often in our field work, we find parents fearing that educated daughters may act indecently, bringing physical danger and shame:

“Usually uneducated ones prefers to wear simple clothes while educated ones are more fashionable and show off their body.  Yes, they show everything. If a girl dresses sensibly nothing shows, so, rape will not occur. They wear pants that are so tight. They show-off their thighs.”

We need to address this fear and convince society about the economic benefits of girls’ education to ensure families are supportive. One suggestion is the use of role models – sharing stories of educated girls who have gone onto successful careers to counter parental fears of indecency. Additionally, girls should also be encouraged to plan their educational pathways and learn to negotiate in the household.

The GAGE programme can help build knowledge on what works – and what doesn’t work – when it comes to working with families to support girls’ education and tackle discriminatory social norms.