“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” ― Brigham Young
Education is the most effective tool to empower girls. It opens up the whole world to them. It is not only the girls who benefit from their education, but also the families and the whole nation benefit from it. It is the best way to ensure that poverty does not transfer to the next generation.
Unfortunately, it has been a thoroughly neglected issue in Pakistan. UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFAGMR) reveals that Pakistan is in the bottom 10 countries as far as the proportion of poor girls who have never been in school is concerned. Furthermore, 62% girls in Pakistan, aged between 7 and 15, have never spent time in a classroom. Literacy rate for male population stands at 69% while the same for female population stands at 44%.
Why Secondary Education:
Primary education is usually easily accessible. Almost every village has a primary school. At primary school age (5 to 10 years) girls are too young to help in household chores, and education costs nothing because tuition fee is nominal and books are provided free of cost by the Punjab government. Therefore, girls do go to primary school.
Though books are free at secondary level as well, but secondary school is not established in every village. The girls have to travel to the nearby town, which means additional cost of around Rs 2000 per month (US $ 20).
The age bracket for secondary education is 11 and 16. This is the age when a girl can help her mother in household chores as well. This is corroborated by the fact that girls’ enrollment at primary level in district Chakwal stands at 84% but it drops to just 22 % at secondary level (District Ranking by Alif Ailan).
How It Began!
Bedari started with a pilot project in 2006 by sending around 20 girls from Village Ransial (Tehsil Kallar Kahar of District Chakwal) to nearby secondary school. Bedari provided for their uniform, shoes, books and traveling. It was started with support from Athens Network for Collaborating Experts (ANCE) – an organization based in Greece.
1st Phase – Laphi and Sarkalan
Based on the learning from pilot phase, Bedari designed a more elaborate 5 years long project in two villages. The number of girls grew from 20 to 30. The villages were Laphi and Sarkalan – even more remote villages in the same area. The financial support was received from Girls Education International, USA.
As per our volunteer Mr. Murtaza, Laphi has got a batch of girls with secondary education after a gap of 30 years. Now there are 20 girls with secondary education and another 9 are waiting for their result, while 20 more girls are going to secondary school without any support from any NGO. “I believe nobody can stop our girls from going to school now”, says Murtaza.
2nd Phase – 4 villages, 101 girls
Upon the success of the first phase, Bedari and GEI discussed the project and decided to take it forward. As families in Sarkalan and Laphi realized the significance of girls education and started sending their girls to secondary school without any support from NGOs, it became necessary for Bedari to move on to next villages instead of continuing at the same villages.
The 2nd round of the program was started in April 2014. We are sending 101 girls to secondary schools from four remote villages – Thirchak, Natto Wala, Maira Aemah, and Hattar.
The Value Addition
As these girls study in public sector schools, which are not very good as far as quality of education and personal growth of the students is concerned, Bedari has added Self-Growth Sessions to the program.
Self-Growth is a specially designed program for girls. It consists of 10 to 12 sessions held on weekly basis with a group of around 20 girls. Participants are taught various skills including leadership, communication, and negotiation skills. They learn about gender and sex, stereotypes, effective listening, aggressive and assertive behavior, and challenging patriarchy.
Additionally, we have started exposure visits for the girls recently. These visits provide them opportunities to go out and explore the world. In the first such visit, the girls were taken to important historical places near their own villages in December 2015. The link to the visit report is shared below.