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Education Champions: women leading change in Pakistan

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Sabra is a mother of 11 children who lives in rural Sindh, Pakistan. Like most women in this community, her life has centered around her family. For many years she looked after her children, worked in the house, gathered cotton from fields and cut grass for the cattle. While she was grateful for what she had in life, it was her desire to have an education.

In Sabra's community, most women don’t get an opportunity to be educated. It used to be the case that they were not even allowed to leave their village, and the lack of a local school made it even harder to be educated. Sabra herself belonged to a landlord family so was in a slightly better position than many women, but due to her culture, still wasn’t able to be educated.

Sabra got married, and her husband, who was educated, became a teacher in one of the schools where Sabra sent her children to study. It was the very first school to be established in Sabra's community in 2007 and has around 100 children enrolled – 72 boys and 28 girls.

The school is part of the Primary Education Project (PEP) run by the Church of Pakistan, Diocese of Hyderabad, one of TEAR’s partners. The project currently has 77 community-established and managed schools, working to meet some of the needs of marginalised communities in rural Sindh. The project also engages with women in communities, who become champions for girls’ access to education. The team work with women to build an understanding of the importance of education, their own literacy skills, and participate in groups where they save and access loans that benefit their families.

Education Champions Women Leading Change In Pakistan 1
Sabra learning counting with her daughter.

With her husband's support, Sabra became involved in a PEP-supported women’s literacy group and began to have an opportunity to learn, grow and explore her potential. She learned how to read and write Sindhi Language, count in maths, and making words and sentences. As part of the group, Sabra was also able to learn more about important issues like early marriage, women's rights, disaster risk reduction, health and sanitation, and clean water.

When women come to the adult literacy training, they can feel quite overwhelmed. The first two days are very difficult for them as they can’t read or write correctly. But as soon as the women start getting hold of it, they get amazed at even the small achievements, such as writing their own name, being able to make write small words, and present in front of the whole class.

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Sabra in the field.

Sabra was trained in how to share her knowledge and teach other women in the village. She gained respect from all the villagers when she was selected as a female adult literacy teacher for her group. She loved it very much when everyone started calling her “teacher Sabra”. This little title to her name played a huge role in increasing Sabra's confidence and self-worth.

Sabra now works with women in her neighboring community who are farmers. Many women bring their daughters along with them to their literacy classes.

Slowly, things are changing. Now that women in this area have the opportunity to do adult literacy training, they have become role models for their own daughters, as well as their whole community.

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Hannah Valentine is the Public Relations Officer for our partner the Primary Education Project run by the Church of Pakistan, Diocese of Hyderabad.

Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).