Curriculum Leaders In Higher Education Education Essay

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1998 Census reported high percentage of women population and literacy rate (48 and 27 %) (Population Census Organization, 2009and MOE, 2009). Similarly Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (2009) reports increased number of female students in higher education, but they are generally invisible leadership positions especially higher education. This could be result of patriarchy (Haeri , 2002) or man chauvinism (Haq, 2000). We are losing great human capital because of this. Leadership concept being gendered has shown its ramifications in all walks of life. We need reconceptualizeation of leadership concepts and factors which affect women to ascend leadership positions. Although Memon (2003) reported increase in women district educational officers, I am looking at leadership position like university vice chancellor. According to HEC statics less than five-percent of HEI are headed by woman. Female educational institutes are fewer than of male (Warwick& Reimers, 1995) hence they form minority educational leaders group (Rarieya, 2006).

Different section of this paper will discuses leadership concepts, curriculum leadership, leadership and gender, factors affecting leadership development, research methodology, followed by discussion and conclusion.


The concept of leadership would provide a framework for this research study.

There is no one agreed upon definition of leadership. It is elusive and contested concept (Allix & Gronn, 2005) due to its complexity in nature, contextually in practice and subjectivity in understanding (Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 1999). There is a growing agreement on the assumption that leadership is a social influence of one person or group applied on other person or group. And this influence is used to achieve a goal (Hughes, Ginnett & Curphy, 1995; Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 1999, and Yulk, 1994). This achievement of goal or desired purpose involves inspiring and supporting others towards achieving visionary goal that is based on personal and professional values (Earley and Weindling, 2004). The concept of having values, to me influence the way leaders think and act.

In educational panorama, current days are challenging, leaders are required to cope with challenging demands of reforms (Harris, 2003). The leader's role is made complex and demanding by the social and demographic conditions of postmodern society (Elkind, 1993). This is true in medical education. The leaders in medical field need to poses skills and attitudes to become effective leaders. One of the most important criteria for judging the effective future leader would be their skills to manage feelings of self and others (Fullan 2001), but they need to have political orientation, professional entrepreneurship, mediation skills and capability of bringing change. Therefore, the basis of leadership power rests upon knowledge of organizational function, interpersonal relationship, group dynamics, personal management and people's value sets (Harris 2003). Observably leadership orientation is shifting from influencing to managing change and feelings of people. The initial orientation is rooted in personal and positional power, while the later demands for sensitivity and value-laden leadership. It is the later orientation is favorable for women leadership.


'Curriculum leadership' has emerged as a new concept in leadership literature. The notion of 'curriculum' broadly highlights a dynamic definition of a thought process which is conceptualized and developed for purposes of implementation of teaching and learning effectively in the schools. The quality of curriculum process is enhanced when cycles of reflections, evaluations and modifications for improvement are added upon the actual processes of the curriculum development and implementation. Through curriculum leadership influence one makes educational organization more cohesive and coherent to achieve goals. The human community has capacity to shape its future. Leadership is the process which grows from this capacity, influencing others with the power and authority dynamics.

Curriculum leadership means doing a number of tasks related to the teaching and leaning processes inside the schools. In other words, it requires plans, leadership actions and management involvement that can support and shape what is taught, learned, and tested based on the school curricula. This demands the curriculum leader to have a deeper understanding and broader knowledge base of school curriculum. It requires understanding of theories of curriculum development and implementation (Glatthorn, 2000). Lee and Dimmock (1999) add the tasks of a curricular leader further by stating that,

"Curriculum leadership and management encompasses the following goal setting and planning; monitoring, reviewing and developing the educational programme of the school; monitoring, reviewing and developing the educational of the school; monitoring, reviewing and developing the staff of the school; culture building; and allocating resources" (p.456).

Krug (1992) divided the role of curriculum leadership in five components: defining mission, managing curriculum and instruction, supervising teaching, monitoring student progress and promoting the instructional climate.

The logical question, who should be curriculum leader. Is it principal or vice principal? Fullan (1991) responded "principals" as curriculum leaders and drew from literature that the strong curriculum leaders act as resource providers, instructional resources, communicators and are visibly presence.

Kleine-Kracht (1993) uses the term 'indirect leadership' to describe principals' roles in facilitating 'teacher leadership' as opposed to working directly on curriculum tasks or projects. Glickman (1989) argues about principal should be the leader of the teachers as curriculum leader rather than as the sole curriculum leader. Teachers become more committed and self-managing when schools become true communities, freeing principals from the burden of trying to control people (Sergiovanni, 1992).

Many researches advocate principals to be important in curriculum leadership role however, Leithwood et al. (1999) assert that, "original beliefs concerning the principal as the primary or most important instructional leader required rethinking" (p.8). Morrison (1995) argues that a vice-principal or a deputy head teacher in primary schools is desirable to exercise curriculum leadership partly because of his/her position to communicate and maintain liaison between the principal and the staff. To answer the question, O'Neill (2003) emphasized the role of departments or subject co-coordinators.

Thus, curriculum leadership implies a set of roles and functions that relate to a number of major areas of curriculum leadership and management. It is about the school systems that facilitate the effective teaching and learning processes inside and out side of the classrooms. Also it includes development of school culture that maximizes student learning by providing dynamic curriculum enactment in a creative school culture that encourages creativity, innovation, building teams where learning is for all and continued. Efforts are directed to the cutting edge educational excellence, with a critical and humanitarian perspectives. Within the complex working of today's schools, as principals share the lead and the load, the success of their performance will be determined by their ability to inspire a culture of empowerment by acting as 'hero-makers' rather than heroes (Slater, 2008).


During my course work for PhD, I learnt that the relationship between leadership and gender has recently gained attention in literature. Leadership as a social process affects gender both in organizations or society, and is exceedingly becoming gendered (Acker, 1994; Adler, et al 1993; Blackmore, 1999; Ozga, 1993). Theoretical approaches of leadership are silent about gender and do not consider gender as a variable of leadership construct. These approaches try to prove their neutrality, but fail.

Leadership as gendered concept can be analyzed from three perspectives (Yulk, 2002): I) conceptual construction of leadership, II) the organizational culture where the leadership is practiced; and III) the process of being socialized into leadership.

Conceptual construction of leadership:

The leader is/as a "MAN" is unwritten, widely accepted and practiced concept, ignores female (Alder, et al, 1993). Most literature is founded in manly experiences (Shakeshaft, 2006) assuming that the experiences of male and female are same; hence leader is a man.

Adjectives like good, visionary , multi-skilled, goal orientated, facilitative, self regulatory and service oriented, are all affiliated with man (Senge, 1994). Traits like decisiveness, assertiveness and confidence are traditionally been related to man (Yulk, 2002). These adjectives and traits give birth to man as a leader. Literature qualifies female leaders as flexible, supportive, nurturing, collaborative, collegial and socially just (Fitzgerald, 2003). But when woman is portrayed in leadership as subordinate, kills all the value (Mavin & Brayans, 2002). Regarding possession of power, women are comfortable with power through or with others, believing in sharing (Blackmore), which makes them more acceptable as a leader ( Brunner, 2005).

Organizational culture and structure.

I have yet to see any organization which is gender neutral. It is predominantly male who are in control. Organizations have gendered values which affect you as male or female (Ozga). The way the male and female are trusted in carrying out bigger urgent and important tasks, crates sense of uncertainties in women's mind about effective women leadership (Fitzgerald, 2003). They are the insiders in organization but outsiders for leadership (Blackmore). Organizations are mostly dominated by man (Coleman, 2003) and their dynamics are more man friendly than women, helping man to achieve higher ranking easily. The organizational practices like demand of extra time, work and policy issues are all oblivious of gender sensitivities (Blackmore)

Socialization into leadership.

The way men and women are socialized creates stereo-typicality. The different stereo-typicality form the basis of socialization. The differences of socialization could be inherent like biological differences. Gendered social roles like home chores and child care are related with women, while men perform in wider work environment (Ashraf, 2007). The men's work takes pride than that of women. I was amazed to learn about women saying " He" and "His" when describing a leader. When women socialize this concept of man leadership, they accept feminty being submissive and dependent. It would strengthen the prevailing stereotype of man as leader and woman as follower. These stereotypes give rise to behaviors for man and women. Woman are measured against masculine models of behaviors. Interestingly, if they adopt those behaviors, they are assumed to be unfit for the role and if they do not, they are termed as being too feminine (Blackmore). It is catch 22 situation for them, which could result in shattering their confidence.


I recognize that the following account may not provide a comprehensive coverage of all of the experiences conducive to leadership development. However, these experiences represent two broad domains of life: work and family. The events occurring across these two domains are shown to contribute to one's leadership emergence and development.


A: Experiences: Educational, job and as leader: Educational experiences are considered as key to future success. Wakabayashi and Graen (1984) reported educational experiences as most frequently cited events in one's life that contributed to leadership development. But for Yukl (2003) skills for leadership are mostly learned from [job] experience. Especially prior jobs challenges are helpful in leadership development. McCauly, Ruderman, Ohlott, and Morrow (1994) illustrate that job demands such as creating change, job overload, and facing adverse business conditions represented dimensions that could impact leadership development. A prior success as leader is reported by Avolio (1994) as one of the positive leadership development factor.

B: Opportunity: opportunities whether achieved or grabbed are important determinant of leadership. This relates to the organizational climate created to support unexpected growth opportunities (London & Smither, 2002)

C: Peer influence, mentorship and role model: Peer through different strategies influence leadership development (Richard, 2007). The peer relationship is a valuable component of curriculum leadership development. In addition to peers, the mentorship stories are typically heard in the interviews of curriculum leaders. Their interviews reveal that they come into contact with mentors in their earlier life. Their mentors served as guides, role models, skill builders, liaisons, clarifiers, and even constructive criticizers. Acquiring mentors is an important development experience for individuals moving into leadership roles (Kram, 1983). Restine (1997) study identified mentoring as contributing factor in women leadership development.


A. Parents and siblings and/or other family members: Leaders are seen to have role of family members in helping them form their values and goals associated with leadership. For instance in Bhuto family of Pakistan, parents and family members influence their children to leadership roles, styles and values of leadership. Keller and Cacioppe (2001) found parent-children attachment style effects leader-follower attachment style. The parental influence to leadership styles is seen later in life. Parents provide the role models for children to identify with in the same way that transformational leaders do with their followers. Such parents help children to develop their self-efficacy for leading others, promote a conviction to a higher set of beliefs and values, and provide the challenges and support for children to build toward success (Popper and Mayseless, 2003). Cubillo and Brown (2003) explained early history and familial support shaping the thinking of women leaders. Women are supported by their fathers in particular.

B: Religious experiences: Religion is one form of experience that provides individuals with a mechanism for making sense of life. Wasylyshyn (2001) emphasized that all human beings are sense making entities and therefore are looking for ways to figure out life and the direction they should take in the future. There are many examples of leaders who derive their values and objectives on the basis of spiritual and religious foundations (Martin Luther, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, etc.). Bloom and Erlandson (2003) highlighted the communal and religious practices in shaping leadership identity of women.

C. Experience of loss: Zaleznik (1977) described the twice-born charismatic leader as someone who has experienced a dramatic life event that changed him or her so dramatically that the individual has become a different person with a radically different life focus. Personal traumas could be one type of experience affecting leadership development. In fact, it is quite common for leaders to describe such losses as turning points in their lives that led them to a deeper understanding of what they were and who they wanted to become. Bennis (2002) suggested that harsh and traumatic experiences revealed a hidden part of one's inner self that, if successfully transcended, can result in greater understanding and compassion for others.


While a number of writers have attempted to identify and categorize internal and external barriers to the progress of women's careers in educational leadership, little discourse has occurred in Pakistan concerning how women experience leadership (Rarieya, 2006). The following account of barriers is based on Cubillo & Brown (2003), Ashraf (2007), Carnes (1996), Coleman(2003), , Hill and Ragland (1995) Blackmore, and Ozaga. Women often have a difficult time in stepping forward and becoming leaders. There has been much research regarding the barriers facing women and attitudes that inhibit women from stepping into leadership roles. Evidence suggests that women face a 'glass ceiling' when they attempt to move into leadership positions. The barriers to women's participation in leadership can be considered under these three headings:


A: Constraints of traditional gender roles: Women's traditional identities and roles have been associated with parenting and caring/nurturing, while men's traditional identities are associated with paid employment and the public sphere. Traditional views do not take into account the variety of real skills and expertise that each person has and their potential to contribute in business, farming and community work. It is important to fully recognize the potential for participation by everyone.

B: Manifestations of sexism: Social attitudes regarding appropriate gender roles can influence women's decisions regarding leadership and participation. Preconceptions about women can be so deeply ingrained that many who hold them are not even aware of them. Beliefs can be that women leaders are less capable, less competitive or less productive than men, not task-oriented enough, too dependent on feedback and evaluations of others or lack independence.


A: Balance of work, family and lifestyle: Both men and women have family responsibilities. However, women continue to assume greater responsibility for caring for children, as well as for their partners, parents, and other family members. This is reflected in women's lower levels of leadership participation. Anyone with family responsibilities opting for leadership roles face challenges having the potential personal and family impact. The complexities and tensions of the role, the size of the additional workload and the need to attend additional meetings increase the complexity of balancing family life commitments. The decisions women are making in relation to work and family are influencing how and when they participate in leadership roles. Organizations that support family obligations and provide flexible arrangements can improve their attraction and retention of top male and female leaders with valuable skills. Adopting a leadership role and taking responsibility for making decisions requires a considerable commitment of time and energy. This means that women must strike an effective balance between work, family, lifestyle, community and leadership commitments. Today, with the changing nature of employment and caring responsibilities, women are under increasing pressure to participate in leadership activities but have less time to do so.

B: Male and female leadership styles: Women leaders face different expectations about leadership styles and approaches. Women leaders are expected to display greater inter-personal skills and adopt more participatory, democratic styles, while men are expected to adopt more directive approaches. An individual leadership style is developed through social, historical, and cultural contexts. Organizations may tend to hold stereotypical views of leadership involving characteristics which are stereotypically masculine behaviors. Some women are reluctant to take on leadership roles in these organizations as the behavioral expectations are incompatible with their world views and life experiences. More rigid views of leadership styles can constrict women, who prefer to exercise a different form of leadership. Leadership skills are not gender specific. It is important for organizations to recognize and validate a variety of leadership styles.

C: Cultural barriers: Culture plays a significant role in defining leadership. Different cultures can value different leadership roles and styles and the process of leadership can take many different forms. Many cultural community leaders face the additional challenge of trying to balance decision making across two cultures.


A: Policies: Glass ceiling, glass walls, sticky grounds are few metaphors which are used to depict unseen barriers for woman to ascend for leadership position. These glass or laxan are policies which are man-friendly. Women are in organization but out of leadership culture. Lack of role model, mentors and critical friends are other important factors. Collegialities are over ridden by competition.

B: Skills recognition : many women wish for a greater role in decision making and leadership. Leadership skills are often defined in relation to people's professional experience in paid employment. It can be difficult to translate skills derived from voluntary community work into a formal employment application. Most women have decision-making and leadership skills, and these skills are valuable. Unfortunately, it is often the case that women and their work are not valued and this impacts negatively on their self-confidence.



Based on above conceptual understanding of curriculum leadership, leadership and gender, and factors affecting women in leadership ascendency, the following research question would be the focused the study:

'How curriculum leadership is enacted by a woman in higher education context of Pakistan?'


The study was conducted in Medical College of Aga Khan University (MC AKU). The rationale for selecting this particular context is because it has revised and renewed it conventional medical curriculum to new Problem Based Curriculum in 2002. This is appreciated by other medical colleges who are seeking curriculum advises from MC AKU. Hence, I consider MC AKU playing a leadership role in medical education in Pakistan. The curricular activities of MCAKU are lead by curriculum committee. This committee comprises of five year committee heads representing years I - V curriculum sub-committee, members representing longitudinal teaching themes, clinical skills committee, examination and promotion committee, few individual faculty members, and representation of students. It does curriculum development, organization, and implementation. Every curricular change or modification is discussed and approved by it.


My research participant heads the curriculum committee. She by training is a histopathologist and acquired a higher degree in health profession education. She is been at MC AKLU for more than fifteen years. She was a member of curriculum renewal task force and performed active role in renewal process. This is one of reason to select her as my research participant. She has a through understanding of curriculum practices in medial college and in medical education. She appeared to be in her late forties, married with two children, a native Pakistani born belonging to Ismaili sect of Islam. A woman found of wearing starched cotton suites with boy-cut hair style having no interest in jewelry. A robust looking friendly person.


I chose case-study method to understand broader picture of women leadership phenomenon in one typical unit. The analysis of unit makes it a case for me according to features highlighted by Creswell (1998). Case study resonate with me as a researcher is because behind the theory, method, analysis, ontology, epistemology, and methodology of research "stands the personal biography of the researcher, who speaks from a particular class, gender, racial, cultural, and ethnic community perspective" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, p. 18). Stake (1995) describes it as investigations of "bounded systems" with the focus being either the case or an issue illustrated by the case(s). It provides an in-depth study of this "system," based on a diverse array of data collection materials. The researcher situates this system within its larger "context" or setting. Lodico, Spaulding and Voegtle (2006) write, "case study research is a form of qualitative research that endeavors to discover meaning, to investigate processes, and to gain insight into and in-depth understanding of an individual, group, or situation" (p.269).


Bassey (1999), Bogdan and Biklen (1998), Merriam (1998) and Johnson and Christensen (2008) favor the use of multiple methods and multiple data sources. I would use interview as my main tool, which is recognized, valuable and relevant tool to capture qualitative experiences, opinions, perceptions, feelings, understanding and knowledge about how and why.


The current situation of women leadership is not proportionate to the number of women in higher education as student or as teacher. This could be because of patriarchal society of Pakistan. The effect of this societal phenomenon needs more investigation for women in higher education leadership positions. There is growing prominence of women (Hill, and Ragland,1995) in leadership position, but more conducive environment is be created to attract more women.

Leadership concept:

The concept of leadership is and probably will remain contested and elusive. However, leadership being a phenomenon of social influence is accepted widely. "The leader is to be influential" and this influence is to be at national level to be effective. The influence is gagged by achieving goals and vision. Hence, the leader has to be goal oriented and visionary. The vision is based on values; personal or professional. "This is my institutes and I want to serve more patients through this role". The current days are challenging to achieve that. There are many environmental factors which influence the leader specially women leaders to attain the visionary goals.

Leadership concept in educational realm gives rise to curriculum leadership concept. This emergent concept is related to doing many more things then teaching in the school. "it is lot, lot more than teaching". Lee and Dimmock (1999) has described the role of curriculum leader in school setting, but those roles are almost similar to higher education settings well. " I ensure the given mandate of curriculum committee (CC) is enacted, it includes development of policies and procedures, implantation of policies, approve programs which come to it from Sub cc, monitors curriculum, faculty development for teaching and learning, assessment."

Who should be curriculum leader?

Principal, vice-principal or teacher or a dual role would be better preference. If we equate school principal with dean of a university, then vice-principal would be appropriate person to lead the curriculum because of being intermediary between staff and principal (dean). I propose the similarity of my research participants as vice-principal. She is a liaison between dean and faculty member, raises curriculum concerns and related issues with dean on a regular basis as part of her monitoring activity. "I am faculty members' voice, not dean's voice" Being a teacher and curriculum leader is dual advantages. It gives a wider gamut of curriculum inside and out side of class room. Lofthouse et al. (1995) and Caldwell (2006) cites Weber's (1996) views such leadership as to be "shared, co-operative, collaborative or facilitative." Hence teacher as curriculum leaders should be recruited to take up more curricular responsibilities.

Nature and Nurture or nature of nurture:

Irrespective of leadership type and responsibilities, the debate of "born' versus "made" leadership will continue. This debate drew attention to genetic and environmental factors which help or hinder leadership including women leadership. The genetic and environmental factors are widely debated. "It is in my genes" is a strong sense of inner commitment proven scientifically in women as well (Arvey, Zhang, Avolio, and Krueger, 2007). Amongst environmental factors discussed earlier, in higher educational scenario, it is more of work related factors which affect women leadership. Wall street journal's metaphor of glass ceiling and glass wall (Cubillo, 2003) describe invisible barriers.

"I have to sacrifice a lot in terms of finances and promotions" is big concern. This could be regarded as "sticky floors"(Tesch and Nattinger, 1997) which does not let women ascendency to the ceiling. Dickstein (1996) cited in Carnes, Morrissey, and Geller, (2008) criticized the glass and called it Lexan, a material stronger and more difficult to shatter than glass. If woman reaches to ceiling then there is no role model seen through the ceiling (Carnes (1996). But values especially religious makes these women to have faith in them and commitment to continue. "It is our institute; if I have to work then I will work at AKU only". This came from religious belief and attachment to institute.

Role of peers and mentors

Positive experienced and supportive environment provided by peers is one of the important leadership developmental factors. Peer relationships offer unique value for development because of the degree of mutual obligation and the duration of the relationship. "I used to share an office with a colleague. I learnt a lot from her about medical education. That developed my interest to get a formal degree in heath profession education.". Peers not only help to conceptualize curriculum leadership concepts but also help practice those. Mentors pay a major role in carrier decision making. However, current organizational setup lacks that. It results in many inspiring women lose their desire to leadership role. But the current economy and service driven education has created an environment of competition than collegiality. Organizations should consider peer and mentorship relationships as a potentially valuable component of an overall leadership development

Decision making

This is very rooted in values and women style of leadership. As mentioned earlier that women like having more power through or with others. They are more democratic in decision making and show flexibility than men. "I take every body on borad." "I do not believe in individualism, team work is my strength". These are typical of women leadership styles. However, both men and women feel that it shows women's lack of decisiveness and confidence to make individual decision. It is there fore taken a weakness rather than strength. Organizations are more attuned to man decision making style and want "He woman" than "she woman" in decision making. He women to behave the same way as man. Hence, "you know how much I have changed. I am more flexible now than before". It appears as for making a niche in leadership position women might need a manly ghetto in her style and appearance, "Her boy cut hair style and business suite."

Organizational factors:

"I have to sacrifice a lot, I paid a big prize to be in this potion". This reflects organizational policies which do not reward women's curriculum leadership role. Women do most of educational work but when it comes to promotions; it is about research-output. Women's curriculum leadership roles are evaluated as acceptable in performance appraisal, but research as outstanding. Currently at MC AKU, in terms of importance, curriculum activities are struggling to come at par with profits generating avenues. "This organizational attitude is de-motivating for all faculty interested in teaching and learning". Women who likes teaching and have family responsibilities would be more affected by this organizational attitude.

Past experience:

Experience of successful in leadership role seems to be a turning point. "My teaching was evaluated as good one. My module coordination was highly appreciated and was regarded as best. I then though that this is the line that I must choose.". it is human nature that reward will encourage. But having a systematic appreciation and feedback practices would certainly encourage inspiring leaders. I can relate this phenomenon to myself. The way I was appreciated changed my carrier path. This past job experience takes precedence over education or training experiences. It is in-service experience which generates the curiosity to seek more education " I later decide to take a formal degree in education". It is informal in-service experience which gives more insight of real life practices. Once one is familiar with what it is like then you opt for it.

Personal factors:

"I can make a difference", "I do what I believe in" "My patience and endurance. I have become very patient. Which I really do not want be at times but I have to be. Naturally, I am a temperamental person [but] over the course of time I have been hammered enough, that has helped [me] to develop patience and endurance, working hard, listening to everybody. I involve faculty in decision making. I do not believe individual decision making, I seek input, have consensus, team sprit.". This shows the importance of personal values translated in action and how demands of actions change ones behavior. It emphasizes personal characteristics and flexible nature of woman leadership. This is in line with contemporary role of curriculum leader, who needs to learn how to mange his/her and others feelings.


My research participant represented a woman curriculum leader achieving vision based on beliefs and values. Experiences of woman leadership are generic irrespective of education institute level. Her ascendency to leadership has faced similar glass or laxan wall or ceiling. Experiences at work are perhaps more important in women's entry into leadership roles. Organization's nature of "nurture" makes a difference. To attract more women into leadership, all stakeholders must acknowledge existence of glass ceiling and walls, and agree that allowing those in place erodes our nation's considerable human capital.

Acknowledgement and dedication:

I seize this opportunity to thank my course facilitator and myself for having this opportunity to write some thing about women. As a PhD student I promised with myself that I would write some thing about women issues before finishing course work. Sessions on Leadership and gender issues in leadership was a great learning opportunity provided by my facilitator Dr Khaki. He generously shared his views, resources, books and article with all students. I greatly appreciate his valuable contribution.

I dedicate all my efforts in writing this assignment to all the women of the world who are capable but disadvantaged because of man made rules of society.


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