Iqra Fund | A Girl's Life. A Community's Future

A Student’s Journey

March 23rd, 2015

“There are so many girls like me who spend their lives without worth, despite of the fact that they are talented and had a yearning to learn and change their lives. Poverty is another big hurdle for parents to send their daughters to the city for their education,” says Fatma Imran, a Class 10 student in USWA Girls School and College – Skardu. The daughter of Ghulam Hussain is from Beisil, a village in Basha Valley, Baltistan, and from a family of eight that depends on her father, a farmer.

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Fatma’s father strongly supported the continuation of his daughter’s education and sought different ways to overcome their financial barriers. The first time, he negotiated with a family in Skardu to pay for Fatma’s education in return for her work in domestic chores in the home. However, three months later, he found Fatma overwhelmed by her domestic chores to go to school and brought her back home.

The second time, two months after Fatma’s return home, a woman from Skardu visited Beisil and was so inspired by Fatma’s father’s motivation and enthusiasm for his children’s education that she invited Fatma to return to Skardu with her. In Skardu, Fatma finished her degree midway and was admitted to a well-reputed private school. Fatma could only pay for the first year of school fees out of her own pocket.

Around this time, she found Iqra Fund and became a scholarship student. Without her worries about finances, she has improved her grades in the ninth grade board exams and hopes to do her best in her final exams.

A Letter From a Student: Shanila

March 17th, 2015

Hello! I am Shanila Parveen, and belong to a very small village known as Ghulkin in Gojal Hunza. I have been passionate about my studies since childhood and have been working hard to achieve my goals in life. I always dreamed about making a difference in my society and knew it could be done through traveling on the path that’s less traveled. I did not want to pursue traditional professions for girls, like nursing and teaching, but something challenging. I decided to become an engineer.

BP03182015_1 I studied hard and was admitted to Aga Khan Higher Secondary School in Hunza. Despite studying in a renowned school in the area, I was not able to completely focus on my studies. My parents were supportive and encouraging of my own and my siblings’ studies, but educating all their children in good institutions in this demanding world is not a piece of cake. Being part of a family with only one earner and six dependents is not an easy task.

The realization that my expenses are causing financial troubles on my family made me sick inside. I knew that I could not help my family unless I left school, and my feeling of guilt became stronger and stronger. I could not share my feelings with anyone and always prayed. In my first year of college, I received an Iqra Fund scholarship. From then on, my one and only goal was to focus on my studies. Not only was I free from all my financial worries, but also happy.

Today, I am studying Electrical Engineering at Lahore University of Management Sciences – Lahore (LUMS), one of the most prestigious institutions in Pakistan. I am proud to be an Iqra Scholar who kept her promise of making the best use of the opportunity and their investment in my education. Iqra Fund not only help pay for my educational expenses, but also helped me overcome the challenges I was facing in my studies or social life. When I look back on my days as an Iqra Fund Scholar, I would love to see Iqra Fund continuing their work and making a difference in the people’s lives.

Teachers Reflect on Iqra Fund’s Potential

March 16th, 2015

Long before they were teachers in Basha Primary School, Zahra and Farida were once primary school students in their village school in Basha. They moved to the city of Skardu after completing their primary school and became scholarship secondary students of Iqra Fund. Recently, they passed their teachers’ exams and began teaching in the place they grew up in.

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Zahra and Farida want to make an impact on not only their students, but also the community overall. These two women are seen to be among the first girls to move to a city to pursue post-primary education and have inspired many other younger girls to do the same. They hope that as female teachers, they are able to relate better with their female students’ experiences and help their community break down cultural barriers regarding girls’ education. Zahra and Farida strongly believe that educated girls are a part of the future of any nation and can spread awareness about the significance of girls’ education.

The two women credit Iqra Fund for helping break down cultural barriers in Basha Valley. The scholarship program for secondary students has encourage a number of girls to continue their education. The scholarship program not only supports them financially, but also supports them with career counseling and workshop on motivation to build their confidence in their education and future. Iqra Fund’s frequent visits to their schools to discuss the students’ performance inspired the girls to become teachers and also establish good relationships with their students.

Zahra and Farida hope that they serve as examples of Iqra Fund’s commitment to sustainable education. As examples of girls who received quality education and pursue it as their career, they hope that more girls like them will go further in their studies, ultimately helping the village overall receive an education.

By Sabeen Zehra, Program Officer in Pakistan

Former Scholarship Students Return to Teach

March 12th, 2015

Zahra and Farida, daughters of Muhammad Anwar, were once Iqra Fund’s scholarship students from the village of Basha. Today, they are school teachers in the Basha Primary School.

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Zahra and Farida began their education in the village primary school. Since childhood, they aspired to study and wanted to make their family proud of them. Due to the the lack of a secondary school in their village, their father was motivated to get his daughters a quality education and made the decision to sell their property in Basha and move their family to Skardu. Despite various financial hardships and cultural barriers, Zahra and Farida finished their secondary education with scholarships from Iqra Fund. The two young women were among the new wave of girls moving to the city to continue their education.

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These girls ultimately returned to their home in Basha Valley not only to teach, but help their community grow. They hope that by returning to where they started their education, cultural barriers towards girls’ education will cease to exist and that attitudes towards girls’ futures will move away from their roles in domestic tasks to their potential roles in Pakistan’s future. They also believe that as female teachers, they can better relate with their female students who face similar cultural barriers and inspire them to continue their education.

As former scholarship students of Iqra Fund, they aspire that their skills and knowledge will deliver a quality education to their students. The two teachers reflected on their success and commented, “To achieve our goal, we had to face many obstacles. But now, we have achieved our goals, and it’s our advice to other girls that nothing is impossible in the world. To get an education, you should do each and every thing possible, even if you have to fight with the cultural norms.”

By Sabeen Zehra, Program Officer in Pakistan

Community Participation for Girls’ Latrines

March 12th, 2015

It has been proven time and time again that when a community shows its will and commitment to undertake a task, nothing can come in the way of success. Recently, the Village Education Committee (VEC) of Mashabrum Public School in Hushe Valley met a target goal from their 2014 School Development Plan: renovating the school latrine on a self-help basis.

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Hushe Valley is one of the most remote valleys of the Ganche region of Gilgit-Baltistan, and Mashabrum Public School is situated several kilometers away from the town of Skardu. Despite its remote location and lack of immediate access to resources, the community members of Hushe demonstrated zeal and collective effort in their project. Not only did all the VEC members offer their services, but the entire village came forward and gave their utmost contributions, regardless of level of skills.

BP03162015_2 Well-maintained latrines remain crucial to education, particularly for girls. According to UNICEF, girls are encouraged to continue their education if they have safe, clean facilities available and also will remain healthy to fully participate in school. With clean latrines, girls can also learn about healthy hygienic processes and general well being, knowledge that they can pass onto their families. This VEC project in Hushe Valley is another example of when community members are motivated to work hand-in-hand to bring a positive change in the lives and education of their children.

* UNICEF’s Report on “Raising Clean Hands” Report: http://www.unicef.org/media/files/raisingcleanhands_2010.pdf

By Bashir Ahmed, Program Director in Pakistan