In the past year Malala Yousafzai has become an icon for girls’ rights as a result of her crusade to make sure every girl has access to a quality education. In order to better understand the situation of schoolgirls in her native Pakistan, I interviewed Huma Naz and Sajda Khan, two Pakistani girls who are currently in eighth grade.
Both girls are attending DIL Mehran School, where there are 242 students and 12 teachers. DIL, which stands for Developments in Literacy, opens schools in Pakistan and concentrates on making sure girls get an education. DIL also partners with Girls Learn International, a group that pairs U.S. middle and high schools with schools in countries such asPakistan where girls might not get the same shake when it comes to their education. GLI lets U.S. students communicate directly with students from the other school to get a better idea of what’s going on and help them in their progress for women’s equality.
While help and support is always appreciated, real change comes from the inside, and Huma and Sajda are showing the great changes going on in Pakistan. In a country where only 38% of women can read, Sajda and Huma are calling for change and a bettering of women’s lives.
ACT: What is the typical life for a girl in Pakistan? How would you like your life to be different?
HUMA: Girls in Pakistan do not have permission to do anything by themselves, and most are denied the opportunity to pursue their education. I really want a different life from them. I want freedom, so I can do all the things I want to do by myself. I also want my family to support my dream to become an engineer.
SAJDA: Girls in Pakistan are not allowed to pursue an education due to cultural restraints. I want a different life from these girls. I hope that my parents allow me to pursue higher education and continue to support me with words of encouragement and prayers.
ACT: What is the typical school day life for you? How do you get to school? What classes are you taking? Do you get homework?
HUMA: I get to school very easily because my house is very close to my school. I am in class eight. I get some homework from my teacher, but it is not very difficult for me.
SAJDA: My parents believe that education is the key to success. They have enrolled me in school because they want me to be successful. It is very easy for me to go to school because of my family’s support and assistance. I am currently in grade eight, and I am very successful in school because my family supports me and gives me sufficient time to complete my homework.
ACT: Do you have a favorite subject?
HUMA: My favorite subject is science because I love to conduct experiments. I want to pursue higher education in the field of engineering, because I believe that engineers do hard work for the progress of our country.
SAJDA: I enjoy all subjects in school, but I am especially interested in chemistry and biology because I like to be creative and participate in experiments.
ACT: What do you think of Malala?
HUMA: I believe that education is the life of a person. I think Malala is a good girl because she is struggling for gender equality in education. I think she will succeed. I would love to salute her and help her in her struggle.
SAJDA: I think that Malala can change our Pakistan. She does a lot to promote education for Pakistani girls. She is a brilliant student and hard worker, too. If every Pakistani girl thinks like Malala and is as bold as her, no one can deny girls the opportunity to pursue their education.
ACT: Does your family support you to going school? What sort of reaction have you had from people about continuing your education?
HUMA: Some members of my family still have a problem with me going to school, but my mother supports me. Except for some of my family members, nobody seems to have a problem with me going to school.
SAJDA: Yes, my family supports my education. However, local people still resist the idea of girls receiving an education and sometimes pass a rude remark as I walk to school.
ACT: What can people do to help girls receive an education in Pakistan?
HUMA: Gender equality in education is so important — we need to fight for it. It is the best way.
SAJDA: People should promote gender equality in Pakistan so girls can also have the opportunity to pursue their education.
ACT: Do you know what you might like to do for a career?
HUMA: I want to become an engineer. I know that in order to have a bright future, I have to study hard.
SAJDA: I want to become a doctor because I like subjects like chemistry and biology, and also because I think it will be good for my future. I am scared for financial reasons. I hope I will be able to fund my education, and I hope God will help me.