Laiba, a young girl from Vehari, a remote area of Punjab province, dreams of girls getting access to education.
More than half (56%) of the adult population in Vehari are unable to read or write. Furthermore, the literacy figure for girls aged above 10 is half of that for boys of the same age.
Laiba was in primary school when she was chosen as a captain in the children's forum established by Plan International Pakistan and it's partners. She carried out sessions that helped her peers understand the importance of education.
Understanding the community and addressing concerns
Laiba started convincing the community elders first but she had to confront their objections and address their fears. Culture and tradition dictate that girls stay at home with their families before growing up to be responsible wives and mothers.
Even more so, the parents themselves were deprived of an education, so they did not see the value of educating their children.
"It’s more valuable for them when their children are engaged in income-generating activities rather than 'wasting their time' going to school," Laiba explained.
I knew something significant had shifted when those very parents who once opposed girls’ education started sending their daughters to my center.
With the help of Plan International Pakistan, Laiba set up an educational centre in her village so girls would not have to walk long distances to go to school. It also served as a safe and comfortable environment . She developed 2 courses; one being basic literacy and the other composing of Islamic studies and home economics.
"Teaching Islamic studies was an important breakthrough. I started teaching girls the meaning of the Arabic verses, and this impressed the parents because they do not know the meaning behind all the verses," shared Laiba.
Laiba was given the opportunity by Plan International Pakistan to represent Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly, where she discussed her country's issues. She is now enrolled in the second year of college and is still fueled by the motivation to educate each child in her community.
"I knew something significant had shifted when those very parents who once opposed girls’ education started sending their daughters to my centre."