Challenges in women's access to higher education in Pakistan
Aim: Women in Pakistan face many obstacles, challenges, and gender stereotypes in their educational journey. Therefore, the goal of this research is threefold: to examine the factors that female HE students identify as obstacles and hurdles they have had to overcome to establish themselves in HE; to examine what enables some women to overcome them and successfully establish themselves as HE students; and last to address what gender stereotypes female students in HE have encountered in their educational journey and how they have dealt with them. Theory: The analysis was based on Connell's framework of gender relations in four dimensions and Bronfenbrenner's theoretical framework of the ecological system. Method: The researcher used a qualitative research method with interviewing technique to collect data. Ten research participants were selected through purposive sampling and interviewed through Zoom. The research is limited due to the lack of time and resources and includes only the women who are already enrolled in higher education. Results: The study notes that the themes: Father as head of household, women are socially and culturally subordinate, gender division of labor, travel and security risks, urban-rural divide, the role of government and educational institutions, and enabling factors that also help Pakistani women at higher education level build a positive social circle. 3 Taken together, this points to the importance of the role of the father as the most important factor in the daughters’ access to higher education. The support a woman gets for higher education starts from home and the other factors affect her educational journey with some enabling factors and some obstacles. But a woman can overcome these hindrances to make her way to higher education if she gets support from her parents, especially her father. The findings of the study also show that patriarchy is present in Pakistani society and male members of Pakistani society as fathers support their daughters in terms of higher education. But other male members are not in favor of women's education and have been found to be a barrier to women's access to higher education in Pakistan.