“Should a girl be out at this hour? Shouldn’t she be home helping?”
Bibi, a KEF Scholar in Pakistan, was often the subject of gossip in secondary school. However, going against the norm has never kept Bibi from pursuing her goals. Many regions of Pakistan follow traditional cultural norms and struggle to see the value in women’s education. These expectations, rather than hold her back, have motivated Bibi to continue her education and inspire other women to do the same.
Today, Bibi is working towards a Master’s degree in Archeology while partnering with the British Council to create awareness around brutality towards women and children. Bibi, along with two other women, uses Whatsapp groups and seminars to teach women how to speak up and exercise their rights. Despite her educational and professional success, Bibi recognizes that not every woman in Pakistan has the opportunity to pursue a path like hers. As of 2018, 32% of primary school age girls were not in school in Pakistan, and by 9th grade, only 13% of girls were still in school. There are many reasons as to why this is the case, and Bibi has shed light on a few of the cultural factors.
Gender equality in Pakistan is largely dependent on the developmental status of the region. Women from Bibi’s community have become doctors, while others are stay-at-home mothers. However, the choice between becoming a homemaker or having a paying job can be very conflicting for women. They can feel guilty or judged for abandoning their previous role in society to follow a more metropolitan way of living. Societal constraints can also make it very difficult for women to pursue anything but homemaking. Fathers can refuse to let their daughters attend school, and if a woman raises her voice in protest, she is considered extremely disrespectful. These factors, and many others, are part of the reason that 40% of Pakistani women work outside the home, as opposed to 81% of men.
These barriers fuel Bibi’s passion to ensure that all women can receive the same educational opportunities that she has. In five years, she hopes to sponsor/mentor KEF students herself and to host more empowering seminars through her partnership with the British Council. Bibi’s advice to women in the process of pursuing an education is that they must work hard, but they do not have to give up their values in order to achieve their goals.
“You don’t have to choose or give up a role, as we can do both. A man’s education is for himself but education of a woman is for her entire family and community, and that is why it is so powerful.” --Bibi
Bibi is a wonderful example of someone who pursues her dreams, despite adversity. Not to mention, those who used to gossip about her are now the same people who ask her for advice. Helping these people motivates Bibi to continue her educational journey, as she empowers others to do the same.