Gender relation in access to education among dalit community in lalitpur district

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Chapter summary

Though parents’ claim we treat equally to our girl and boy children, knowingly and unknowingly they are discriminating their son and daughter. The conscious or unconscious discriminatory behaviors, attitudes and practices of parents, the reflections of socially and culturally detained patriarchal norms were the basis of their discrimination. Although such norms were not officially declared, their roots had surrounded in the society as customs and become a matter of everyday act. Such practices result in various social evils in society and the continuation of discrimination against girls (UNESCO & UNICEF, 2007).

The gender discrimination really hampered to girls education. Girls are more likely to drop out of school than boys (Save the Children, 2007). The negative attitudes, social practices, proverbs, which discriminate against girls, are supported by different institutions of society, which are: family, tradition, culture, religion and the social community, formal education system, e.g. schools and curricula (NPC, 1996).

The chart presented below captures the overall process of discrimination against girls and its impact towards girls’ education that I found during my field research.

Figure 4. Factors of gender discrimination in society and its impact to girls’ education

Chapter VI

Findings and Conclusions

In this chapter I have presented main findings and conclusion of my study in relation to my research questions.

Findings and discussions

The major findings of my study undertaken in Dhapakhel VDC of Lalitpur are summarized below as specific to research questions-

The study was conducted mainly to explore the gender relations existing in response to providing education to children in Dalit community; major reasons behind gender discrimination and its impact on education. Furthermore the overall socio-economic status of this community was also examined. The first question of my research was ‘What is the educational status of people in study site?’. The survey data showed that the number of females was higher in the areas surveyed. The caste of community was dominated by Sarki and rest two household (Out of 62) were Damai. A majority of the population of the study sites were engaged in their traditional cast based occupation (shoes making) for their survival. The educational status of people in studied areas is low. The number of female illiterates was high as compared to that of male illiterates (particularly age group above 40). All most all girls and boys in the studied areas are enrolled in school but their education performance (especially girls) was not good.

People regarded the purpose of education for girls was to make them happy after marriage (majority of respondents said); Few respondents associated education with employment and rest of the respondents explained the benefit of education for girl, educated girl/women would be free from household work.

A second research question of my study was “What kind of gender relation exists between girls and boys in response to providing education?” As I found Gender relations exist in every spheres of live including education. It means Gender and caste has been the discriminatory factors in society. Reviews of different scholars' article on social exclusion/inclusion also showed that girls/women have been discriminated in education and other spheres of lives. Here I gave emphasis to the Silver (2007) and De haan (2007) views and argument on institutional and relational basis of exclusion and inclusion because I found it most revealing from my field data. According to them, Social exclusion/inclusion connotes multidimensional aspects of society. Among them Caste and Gender are key determinants of social exclusion/inclusion. It operates as an institution (Lynn Bannet, 2006). Based on gender inequality Girls/women are oppressed and excluded in the family as well as the society.

The parents view that education is provided to girls and boys' children and they work differently. Though parents send their daughter to school, they are not worried towards their education. Few girls themselves take self- initiation for education than their parents. Inside a question of educating to girls, parents said that education would make girls happy after marriage and good daughter in law in future. Few respondents and the informants associated education with employment and explained the benefit of education for girl, said educated girl/women would be free from household work as well as to make them self-dependent and able to take care of them (parents) in the future. Whereas educating for boys is perceived as necessary because their development is associated with the parents’ development. A majority of parents' education would make boys to be a good jobholder and a good model person of society. Parents were expecting more from an educated son. Sons were expected to stay with their parents and take care of them in their (parents’) old age. Almost all interviewed parents had limited expectation from their daughter because after marriage girls will go their husband house. This is how parents make gender discriminations.

At home, girls are discriminated more than their brothers. Though the parents claimed that sons and daughter are equal and not to discriminate between them, but in practice this was not reflected. Discrimination is expressed by parents in the form of biased behavior, assignment roles of household chores only to daughters, supporting sons by giving more emphasis in their studies and neglecting studies of their daughters. Parents also have different expectation from their sons and daughters.

A third research question of my study was "How gender related discriminations are affect to girls’ education?" The conscious or unconscious discriminatory behaviors, attitudes and practices of parents hampered to girls' education. The gender discrimination prevailed at home. For instance, parents had made clear discrimination by sending their girls to public schools and boys to private schools; in the same way girls were highly involved to household chores whereas boys were free from that; parents (especially mother) forced to do household work to their daughter; they were more conscious for their sons' education rather than daughter. It seems proper learning environment was not created for girls. As a result girls' educational performance became low, they were de- motivated toward their education and finally they became school dropout. Today more girls have access to schooling but still they do not getting friendly home environment for their study. Girls did not get learning opportunities expectantly at home, so this hampers girls' study. Furthermore, lower economic status of family also influence towards girls' education.

A fourth question of my research was "What are the main reasons for gender discrimination?" The traditional patriarchal principles and practices, social exclusion within the family embedded in culture and religion shape roles of daughters and sons. So, patriarchal values and norms, and hierarchal structure of society in general are the major causes of biased behavior called 'Gender Discrimination' of parents towards their daughters and sons. The study location found that women (mothers) also practiced gender discrimination more than men by providing more support to their sons than to their daughters. Mothers discriminate, though they are women themselves, because they were brought up in a culture that regards women as less capable than men. This finding was reiterated with a mothers' version in chapter V that showed the discriminated behaviors and attitudes of parents are influenced and guided by the social norms, value, culture, belief, and practice. Some parents had very positive support towards their daughters’ education even they were not free from those social norm and traditional patriarchal principal, value and practice.

I have discussed the above finding by applying GRF and SRF. I also reflected my conceptual framework and tried to examine my field finding. As I found gender discrimination is still in practice in the study site. Generally when we ask, 'Do you discriminate between your son and daughter?' all most all parents said no, stating our son and daughter are equal for us. But when I probed in-depth in this regards, I found a clear discrimination between girls and boys. Though parents claim not discriminating between their son and daughter, knowingly or unknowingly it is in practice. This discriminatory practice is influenced by social, cultural norms, value and beliefs system. Such norm, value and belief can also be interpreted using the Social Relations Approach. For exploring discrimination as such inequality, as Kabeer (as cited in March et al., 2000) puts the actual rules and practices of institutions need to be scrutinized in order to know their values and assumptions. She further states that rules, resources, people, activities and power are the dimensions that are significant in the analysis of social inequality.

Social relations approach uses the term ‘social relations’ as “a structural relationship that creates and reproduces systematic differences in the positioning of different groups of people” Naila Kabeer (as cited in Leach, 2003, p. 87). Such relations determine our identity, our roles and responsibilities and the claims that we can make. My research finding is also comparable to this Social Relation Approach. There I found that parents/family used to assign different roles, responsibilities, and authority for their sons and daughters were given the household jobs. For instance, girls had to involve in household chores even if they were enrolled in school. These girls were responsible for many possessions such as taking care of sibling, helping to the family (especially mother), taking care of animals, cleaning house, taking part in different social ceremony etc. Furthermore, girls had inherent characteristic such as honest, caring nature (care taker), and responsible, taken discrimination as a natural process. In this way girls were always connected with the family and society whereas boys are discrete (Connected vs. Discrete). Because of this boys were not found that much responsible for their family and societies as the girls were. Even during the interview, I found that girls were trying to understand their parent's poor socio-economic condition and they did some nominal jobs (e.g. knitting and weaving, tailoring) together with study. But, boys simply blamed their poor without any adjustment or coping mechanism to continue their study.

Kabeer outlines the significance of institutional analysis in identifying inequalities produced by such discriminatory social relations. She identified state, market, community and family/kinship as the key institutional locations (March et. al, 2000, p. 104). According to her, institutions produce, reinforce and reproduce social relations, thereby creating and perpetuating social difference and inequality. In this context household and family are forms of institution that produce and reinforce gender -based inequalities through the resource allocation for their education, assigning roles within and outside the household.

Now, analyzing girl’s responsibilities from the dimensions of GRF and SRF (Leach, 2003, p.106): rules (that is, how things get done, how it is done, by whom it will be done and who will benefit) and activities (that is, what is done, who does what, who gets what and who can claim what) I found that the responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, washing, looking after siblings, caring for the sick were traditionally and culturally meant to be done by girls/women. So as I mentioned above girls were always kept connected. The above case of Bhawani in chapter V where she told that as a girl, she couldn't be free from household work even she is educated, implying that girls have to learn all household work together with their study. Similar experience can be understood from the case of Ramita's experience as she told, her and her brother were studying together in the same level but she had to be involved in all household works while her brother was never asked to do so . Her parents used to encourage Ramita for doing all household work but not for her brother by saying that as boy children hesitate to do household work. This means distinguishing each of the roles and responsibilities are unofficial but is expressed through norms, values, laws, traditions and customs (Leach, 2003). The roles and responsibilities are entrenched to such an extent that they become natural or unchangeable as in the case of Ramita's.

Social norms play a significant role in explaining the cause for gender divide like those stated above, how division of labor becomes legitimized in house and wider society and how this division of labor result influence to girls' education. Simultaneously differential attitudes and behaviors towards sons and daughters by their parents reflect broader inequalities in society. The parents' attitudes and behaviors are guided by social norms and customs and this determine the roles of girls/women and boys/men can have in the family and community (UNESCO, 2005, p.117).

Though parents are guided by social norms, most of parents of this study had a claim that they had treated their boys and girls equally. To some extent this parents saying seemed true. For instance, they were sending their sons and daughter to school but they (parents) had not paid attention to their daughters' learning needs at home. Like mentioned in chapter five in the case of Namita and Sarita where, they enrolled at college but they got neither appropriate learning environment at home, nor they got sufficient time for study. It means Parents’ attitude towards girls’ education is limited to their (girls’) schooling only. In other words the attitude of the society was still patriarchal and they were bonded to household responsibilities.

As I understand from the above situation, parents need to give special priority for the girls' education. Their saying, "we are giving equal treatment to sons and daughter" is not enough for girls' empowerment. The reason is that Girls have special needs to attain education. Here I wanted to relate a principle of special vs. equal. According to this principal, equal treatment to son and daughter in unequal situation again produces inequality. Therefore, special treatments or needs are required to ensure gender equality. Those needs are of two types, namely practical (immediate or short term) and strategic needs (long terms). Relating to the above cases, girls require incentive (material like scholarship) to continue their study in a short term basis and affirmative action is required to address the aforesaid gender inequality in education. Once such special treatment (e.g. affirmative action) are in place, it can address those needs and accordingly shape family (as an institution) for further correcting parents' behavior and gender relation within households.


Though, gender relations are changing along positive line, particularly in relation to education. There are several instances of gender discrimination in providing education to girls. Knowingly and unknowingly they are discriminating between their son and daughter. This way of discriminatory behaviors, attitudes and practices of parents the reflections of socially and culturally detained patriarchal norms. Although such norms are not officially declared, their roots had surrounded in the society as customs and become a matter of everyday act. Accordingly, those social norms, values and practice make girls always connected with their family or in the society. They also feel this institutionalized discrimination as natural and inevitable; and accept and comply with norms and value happily. In contrast, boys do not show such, exhibiting differently without understanding household situation.

Discrimination is expressed by parents in the form of biased behavior, assignment of household chores only to daughters, supporting sons by giving more emphasis in their studies and neglecting studies of their daughters at the same time. Parents also have different expectation from their sons and daughters. They expect overall development of sons. Daughters are expected to go to school then come back home and help in household chores.

Such practices result constraints in regard to access and continued participation of girls in education. In this regard girls' educational performance and status was not growing in positive line. Similarly, appears girls' dropout from school and overall educational status of people in study site is also seemed low. Consequently, special priority should be given to empower girls' education. In another way, equal treatment to both son and daughter is not sufficient to bring gender equality in education because girls' special needs are practical and strategic as well. And both of them should be addressed simultaneously. Moreover, the behaviors and attitudes of parents are influenced and guided by the social norms, customs and opportunity in which they are located. This contextual understanding of the parents requires to be changed to lessen girls’ major responsibility at home and help them to be free for going to school.

The aforesaid conclusion provides gender relations within the household and reflects wider society’s norms, values and practices that restrict girls' education in one or in other ways. I have presented the above findings and conclusions of this study in table below:-

Table E. Findings and Conclusions of the study

Research Themes



Educational Status

The overall education status of people in study site is low

People were highly involved in their own traditional caste based occupation; they were less motivated to education and hence gave less priority to girls’ education.

Forms of discrimination at home

Gendered division of labor (connected vs. discrete); differential expectation, treatment and behavior towards sons and daughters.

Discrimination is expressed by parents in the form of biased behavior. Such practices result constraints in regard to access and continued participation of girls in education

Rationale behind discrimination

Parents discriminate against daughter and sons though they claim of equality (specialization vs. generalization)

Wider societal norms and patriarchal beliefs embedded in culture and religion influence gender relations, roles and attitudes within family and school.

Perceptions regarding gender discrimination

Normal and taken-for-granted for by girls as well as parents.

Growing up in hierarchal structure of society and internalizing the patriarchal values, domination and gendered division of work becomes practical and normal.


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1 The concept of Dalit, in general, is used to identify vulnerable and poor groups who are put in the lowest rung of the status hierarchy (caste system of Muluki Ain 1854). In most writings, the term is also used to identify a group of people who are“oppressed”, “suppressed” and “exploited”. According to this Muluki Ain, they are considered as impure and untouchable, and then they are still facing caste based discrimination though it was abolished in 1963. It was also considered as illegal.

2 Ropani is locally adopted land measurement unit and it is widely practiced in Kathmandu valley and hilly area of Nepal. One ropani is equivalent to 0.05 hectare or 500 square meters.

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