Girls’ education has always been a point of concern in many developing nations. Pakistan is one among them. The Economic Survey of Pakistan (2015 – 2016) highlights a 2 percent decline in the nation’s literacy rates from 60 percent to 58 percent. Also, while the urban areas mark a literacy rate of 74 percent, it is as low as 49 percent in the rural areas. But, with the increase in awareness, undiluted efforts and the focus on ‘Pakistan Vision 2025’, the future for girls’ education in Pakistan looks bright.
In 2018, fresh hope has emerged for Pakistan as it experiences a host of welcoming changes, all focused on enhancing girls’ access to education:
- Korea’s monetary support to UNESCO with the mission of ameliorating girls’ education
- Malala Yousafzai’s recent visit to Pakistan for the first time after the Taliban attack in 2012
- The launch of the book Knowledge is Bulletproof with a bulletproof cover page on World Book Day.
Korea Extends Support to Girls’ Education in Pakistan
On March 23, 2017, The UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and the Korean Ambassador to UNESCO Lee Byong-hyun signed an agreement to support national capacity building to make girls’ right to education a reality in Bahawalpur and Muzaffargarh districts in South Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan.
This $3.4 million project between UNESCO’s Girls’ Right to Education Programme in Pakistan and the Korean International Cooperation Agency aims to bring quality education in the remote regions of Pakistan.
Ambassador Lee expressed how foreign assistance and education hugely improved the post-war poverty-stricken condition of Korea. This clearly highlights the importance of foreign aid in abolishing poverty.
Malala Yousafzai’s Visit to Pakistan
The youngest Nobel laureate visited her hometown Swat Valley in Pakistan on March 31, 2018, not simply to relive the memories of growing up in her house but also to present her hometown with the gift of quality education.
She opened a state-of-the-art school using The Malala Fund and her Nobel Prize money. Malala writes in her blog, “Pakistan comes second after Nigeria in the ranking of out-of-school children, with 24 million girls and boys denied access to education today. My dream is to see all Pakistani children with access to 12 years of free, safe and quality education…In just a few years, Malala Fund has invested $6 million in our work for girls’ education in Pakistan, from opening the first secondary school for girls in Shangla to supporting Gulmakai Champions across the country.”
Malala’s recent visit births new promises for young girls and women who struggle for their rights on a daily basis. Though some parts of Pakistan still advocate the extremist mentality and hatred for Malala, change is slowly ushering in and Malala’s visit proves it. The visit is also a positive answer to all the doubts about government involvement in enhancing the lives of women in Pakistan.
Bulletproof Book for Girls’ Education in Pakistan
On this year’s World Book Day, resistance took a new form in Pakistan. Sanam Maher, a journalist based in Karachi, recently published a novella titled Knowledge is Bulletproof which tells the story of two girls who survived the Taliban attack along with Malala in 2012.
The world has not heard much about Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz who endured the terrifying incident and continue their fight for girls’ education in Pakistan. This book which was inaugurated by the award-winning Pakistani filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, provides these young activists more scope to voice their strength. Obaid-Chinoy claims that the profits will be donated to charities that work towards improving girls’ education in Pakistan.
The book is designed by advertising agency BBDO and has a Kevlar binding which makes it strong enough to repel a nine-millimeter bullet from as close as five meters. The book is symbolic of the strength and willpower of Pakistani girls and women who continue to attain education despite all the hurdles that come their way. It is also a source of motivation for many girls who refrain from going to school due to many stereotyped social and cultural taboos. “To show that knowledge is indeed bulletproof, it was…ideal to design an actual bulletproof cover for the book,” Maher told The Arab News.
While she is excited at the possibility of reaching out to millions of girls through this new venture, she also hopes that the need for such campaigns lessen with time and more and more people realize the importance of girls’ education.
Education is the backbone of a nation’s economy. If a section of the population is deprived of it, it not only affects the nation’s GDP but also its standard of living. Though poverty continues to affect millions in developing countries, these recent developments offer hope for a brighter and better tomorrow. They prove that transformation is slow but in process. Promoting girls’ education in Pakistan and elsewhere and encouraging women’s participation in the labor force are among the major ways in which poverty can be abolished.
– Shruthi Nair