Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Egyptian Women Pursue Higher Education, but Few Enter Workforce

05 Oct 2011 01:30
Source: Content Partner // Dina Sadek//Global Press Institute

Muslim women hold the Koran as they perform the night prayer at a mosque during the holy month of Ramadan in Cairo, August 8, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih
By Dina Sadek 
CAIRO, EGYPT – Saadia Mohamed, 36, is married with three kids. As she shops for fruits and vegetables at a local market, she says she loves being a mother. But she says she also enjoys having a career as a high school Arabic teacher.
“If I didn’t have my job, I probably would have [gone] crazy,” Mohamed says as she continues to pick out vegetables. “My kids and my husband are my life, but sometimes it is nice to have a life of my own, even for only a few hours in the day.”
She says her education prepared her for a career.
“After all, I didn’t go to college to end up only changing diapers,” she says.
But she says many of her students disagree. She says she feels disgusted when she hears female high school students talk more about boys and their future husbands than their education.
“College should be the next thing on a 16-year-old’s mind, not marriage,” she says.
These days, most women attend college in Egypt. Grateful for gender equality when it comes to education, some say women should pursue careers after attaining their degrees. But others disagree, with many men and even many women saying that women belong in the home and not in the workplace. Those involved with government and nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, say they are working to make sure women are aware of their rights.
Although women make up half of the Egyptian general population and half of all university students, they constitute less than 25 percent of the labor force, according to the Egypt State Information Service, the government’s information, awareness and public relations agency. The agency attributes this to many women’s preference to take care of their families instead of work outside the home.
For decades, many Egyptian women were denied the right to attain an education. Mohamed says women were expected to learn household chores in order to find a husband, get married, have kids and dedicate the rest of their lives to serving that family.

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