Aliya20 Khalid20 20 EPHF20lectures20 20thumbnail
Apr 4, 2022

Pakistan: Mother’s Capabilities and Agency in Girl’s Education with Dr. Aliya Khalid (video)

Drawing on interviews with mothers in rural Pakistan, this research highlights how ‘negative capability’—or pursuance of future well-being despite adversity—brings about agency, empowerment, and transformation.

By Templeton Staff

This recording is the second in a series of public seminars given by Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) grantees, lecturing at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. These lectures are part of Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times (EPHF), a TWCF-supported three-year project that explores new understandings of education, purpose and human flourishing through annual convenes and publications.

In the above video, Dr. Aliya Khalid, Lecturer of Comparative and International Education, Department of Education, University of Oxford, discusses how mothers living in continued gendered disadvantage gain agency to influence their daughters' education.

This discussion is around a framework of ‘negative capability’ which can be used for exploring the agency of people who live in structures of historic constraint (Unterhalter, 2017). Negative capability, understood as the ability of a person to remain unaffected by adversity in their lives, enabling them to progress and adapt their lives to achieve future well-being.

  • Drawing on qualitative interviews with 30 mothers in rural Pakistan, this research illustrates how negative capability emerges in most unlikely places. Women who demonstrate this capability may not be educated, but they understand the wider social advantages of education and work hard to achieve futures for their daughters in which they reap these benefits by gaining the ability to ‘choose’. Therefore, education is conceived as a space that enables mothers to pursue their goals regardless of the difficulties that lie in their path. This pursuance is their own realization of agency, in which they bring about a change in their lives and the lives of their daughters.
  • As part of her presentation for this seminar, Dr. Khalid shares details from a case study featuring research participants Bushra and Basma, two sisters who married two brothers, and are mothers to a total of seven children, who live together in one household in Pakistan. All of their children, including their daughters, attended school. Play the video to learn how Bushra's and Basma's story illustrates the potential for flourishing under adversity. 
  • By highlighting these processes, this paper contributes to current debates on the complexities in the expressions of empowerment, especially through silence and persistence in the changing politics of gender inequality (Parpart & Parashar, 2019).

Stay tuned for the next video from this important exploratory series. We'll be posting them here at TWCF's Future of Flourishing blog each week.

Dr. Aliya Khalid's research focuses on how women in the South navigate their agency in highly constrained circumstances. Her specialized areas of interest are the capability approach, negative capability, epistemic paradoxicality and justice, and the promotion of knowledges (plural) and Southern epistemologies. She actively engages in issues around the politics of representation and knowledge production in the academe.

Dr. David Johnson, Junior Proctor, University of Oxford, Reader in Comparative and International Education, and Fiona Gatty, DPhil., Research Project Coordinator and TWCF Fellow in Comparative Education, are Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator of the EPHF Project.