Despite challenging financial times, 2016 was a very good year for our program in Pakistan. As you may recall, three years ago we set out to fund secondary education for 60 girls and young women in an area of remote villages in the Chakwal district. As a result of parent and community support, we were able to extend our original budget with our partner on the ground, Bedari, to support around 100 students, and we have continued at this level. Here are a few highlights from the year:
During the exam cycle earlier this year, 101 girls appeared for exams.
- 35 from grades 6 and 7, and 21 from grade 8. All passed.
- 25 girls appeared and passed the secondary exams. One girl got married, and did not appear for her exam. This year Aiman achieved the highest marks at the secondary level securing 884 out of 1050 marks. We are sure that she would receive the prize announced by the government of Punjab. The cash prize is Pak. Rs. 27,000 (US $ 270). Furthermore, this makes her eligible for fee waiver if she studies at any government college for her grades.
- Five of the six girls who appeared for the higher secondary level passed immediately, and the other will appear again to retry the failed papers.
- Two girls appeared for their BA (14th grade, or graduation) exams. One passed, and the other will return for the failed papers.
Self-Growth Training Sessions
Bedari conducted one day “self-growth” sessions for girls during this quarter. In 4 villages, five self-growth trainings were conducted separately. The topics of the sessions were:
- Communication Skills
- Our Needs and Our Rights
- Difference between Violence and Gender Based Violence
- Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights
Overall, 123 girls benefited from these trainings, among which 22 were part of our project and had graduated out of this project also joined us during these trainings.
Vocational training was also given to train girls on making hand-made jewelry for different functions. Girls really liked this activity and appreciated it.
On 25th September, the girls were taken to Taxila, the destination of their choice. In this informative visit 113 people participated including the girls and members of Child Protection Committee and everyone enjoyed it thoroughly.
Taxila is an ancient city that flourished between 6th century BC and 5th Century AD. It has lots of remains from that era with a good museum, and is some 32 kilometers to the north of Islamabad.
Case Study- Iqra
Iqra and her elder sister were able to continue their educations and delay marriage by two years.
Iqra lives in Maira Aemah – one of our target villages selected in 2014 at the commencement of the 2nd phase of our project. Bedari staff met Iqra who had 8 years of education, and was not able to continue her education as the secondary school was in another town, and it involved daily commute which meant more expenditure.
Iqra’s father was planning to marry both of his daughters – Iqra and her elder sister. Iqra was just 14 years old, while her elder sister was 16 at that time.
Bedari’s program officer tried to convince Iqra’s father for not marrying her off at such a very young age. These marriages could ruin their future. The program officer further told about the problems associated with early marriage and importance of education, in every possible way.
In the meanwhile, Bedari team talked to uncle Fida, a community member, regarding Iqra’s education and the issue of marriage. Mr. Fida discussed this matter with community elders, and some like-minded people jointly talked to Iqra’s father. This helped a lot, and he finally gave in. Luckily, he not only postponed Iqra’s marriage, but also her elder sister’s.
That was the happiest day for Iqra. She got admission in Kallar Kahar High School. She was a keen observer and a very good learner. She worked really hard and made the most out of the two years she got. She not only helped herself, but also helped her elder sister. Though only Iqra went to school, yet both the sisters prepared for secondary school exam, and both appeared – Iqra as a regular student from a secondary school, while her elder sister as a private student.
Both the sisters passed their secondary exam in 2016. It was a difficult time again. Iqra wanted to study further, but her father would not agree to it. Bedari staff along with the local volunteer (Mr. Fida) and his friends tried their best, but ultimately her father did not budge from his position.
Iqra got married on September 09, 2016 when she was 16 years and 5 months old. Her sister also got married and she was 18 years old. Bedari staff were very sad that they could not get her another two years of education, but are also happy that the elder sister had attained the age of 18 years, while Iqra was also 16 years old – the legal age of marriage in Punjab.
Tragically, the parents of two of the beneficiary girls were killed in early August. Bedari has stepped up and is covering all the costs of their education, paying their tuition fees and books in addition to the travel costs.
Farewell to 2016
We at Girls Education International wish you a very happy holiday season, and look forward to continuing our work together in 2017. As always, it is your funding that makes these programs possible, changing the lives and futures of these young women. We thank you tremendously for your support.