Faiza, 18 is teaching the Sindhi (language subject) to the girls of her Village in Sindh.
Faiza, 18, is from a small village in Sindh Province, in south east Pakistan. She belongs to a village where education for girls is almost impossible. Although there is no school for girls in her community, she is among those who constantly struggled to change the minds of her family. It was not easy, but she got permission and was enrolled in her village’s primary school and completed her education up to eighth grade.
Knowing that Faiza belongs to a small village in Sindh, one might assume that she couldn’t get an education due to poverty or lack of financial resources, but, this is not the case for Faiza. She is the daughter of the tribal head of the village who has the hundreds of acres cultivable land. Knowing that resources are not the problem, one might assume that there must be no school, college or university in in her area, but this was not the case either. Faiza lives in a village that is located only 25 to 30 kilometres from the district headquarter, where she could have received higher education.
The only reason for not getting the higher education is that she is a girl. “If I would have been a boy, I could have gone on to attain the education, even from abroad,” says Faiza.
Her words shocked me and my pen stopped when I heard that. Faiza’s Father and Mother are well both educated and yet they still are not allowing their seven daughters to study.
The status of women’s education in Sindh is dreadful. According to the National Economic Survey published by the Ministry of Finance, only 50 per cent of children enrol in school in the Sindh province, lower than nearby Punjab and Khyber Pakhtun Khwan provinces where 64 and 53 per cent of children enrol, respectively. The majority of feudal landlords see few – if any—benefits from having educated people. If anything they fear that education will only lead to the downfall of their social system, as educated men and women will not tolerate treated . For this reason, the landlord class has opposed education from the very beginning of Sindh’s history. To this day, their efforts have succeeded. Rural Sindh, which is the heart of the feudal system, has an almost non-existent education system, especially for girls.
Girls and women are being kept from proper education because feudal lords, landlords and chieftains thought education would transform the entire system and harm their interests, fearing that the empowerment of women posed a threat to their control.
“Education is a basic need and a fundamental right for every human being, I want to change the way my community looks at education,”
Despite their attempts to restrain prohibit it for girls, younger generations, like that of Faiza are more and more aware of the importance of education and are willing to challenge the status quo. “Education is a basic need and a fundamental right for every human being, I want to change the way my community looks at education,” says Faiza.
As Faiza was struggling to challenge the ideas around education in her community, World Vision started its education project in her village. “I still remember the meeting in which World Vision’s staff visited our village and gathered males, females and children of our village and told us ‘we are here to support you to improve the education system and our goal is to enrol each and every child of this village to school’,” recalls Faiza.
“I felt more powerful and started thinking, ‘now I’ll be achieving my dream of education for every child’,”
It was one of the happiest days of her life. “I smiled and looked into sky. I felt like the sun was shining on me,” remembers Faiza. “I felt more powerful and started thinking, ‘now I’ll be achieving my dream of education for every child’,” she continued.
“I was happy to see World Vision talking about education and I felt sure I would now be able to achieve my dream because have a school and resources to teach every child. All we needed was the changing the mind-sets of people and the ending the people’s misconceptions about the education of girls,” she says.
"World Vision’s staff became the ray of hope for me because I needed someone who could let people know that education is a basic right and if a girl gets education she won’t be a force against you, rather she can be your companion to manage the house and other things in a better way and she can up-bring a child in a very good way,” expressed Faiza.
When World Vision offered to train volunteers to work as substitute teachers, Faiza was one of the first to sign up. “This is the platform to fulfil my dream,” she says.
But, Faiza’s work in the school not only helps her reach her dreams, it helps the other, less fortunate girls in her community. As The daughter of a feudal landlord, her involvement in teaching restores the confidence of other girls of her community to come to school.
“It was not easy to convince my father and mother to allow me to teach,” remembers Faiza. “But, when my mother was approached by World Vision staff, they convinced her saying, ‘the school is in your village. She doesn’t have to go outside of the village and through this, you can give Faiza some happiness,’ and my mother agreed,” said Faiza.
It will be a slow process, but Faiza knows that educating girls will, eventually, change the mind sets of the people in her community because the girls who are studying today will soon become the women who run their houses and bring up their own children.
“It was hard for us to work in this village as people were less bothered about the girls’ education,” said Gul Muneer, World Vision’s Education Project Coordinator. But, we took it as a challenge. And, after a persistent struggle, we have mainstreamed this school and now people are inclined to send their girls to attend school,” he said.
Being passionate towards the mission is the first step in becoming a change-maker. This stands true for Faiza, whose determination has changed the status quo in her community and inspired the people to think differently about education for girls. Since Faiza joined the school as a teacher, less than three months ago, 20 girls have been enrolled. While this is encouraging, Faiza says that this is just the beginning and assures that she will keep fighting until all girls have access to education, at least in her village.
The story of Faiza was selected for International Women’s Day because women like Faiza are the unsung heroes of Pakistan who are contributions to tangible changes in society and are working for the rights of girls and women. Stories like Faiza’s should be told to masses not only so that their efforts can be acknowledged, but also to encourage women, like Faiza, who are making their contributions despite what can often feel like an uphill battle.