Taliban are not against education of girls, activist says
Deep in the tribal areas of Pakistan, women are typically deprived of education and families don’t value girls’ education as they do that of boys.
This is what pushed activist Raina Gul to launch an organisation that promotes education and healthcare for girls in Bajur Agency, a hilly district near the border with Afghanistan.
Inspired by her parents, who both work as doctors in Bajur Agency, her ambition is to work for the upliftment of people in her home area. She loves to serve the community where she grew up.
The 26-year-old is committed to her cause to provide education for girls in Bajur Agency. Her dream is to see every girl in her tribal area attending school.
“Many people in the tribal areas are still stuck in the old way of thinking due to traditions and customs prevailing in the society for hundred of years, in which females are always discouraged from education,” says Raina.
“But I received an education as my mother and father were educated and have an understanding that to educate girls is as important as it is to teach boys.” Compared to the other parts of Pakistan, people here still do not value a formal education but she hopes to change that soon.
Raina says, “In Pakistan women play a major role in all areas of the economy including the military, police, engineering and other government departments so we cannot deny the role of women in the progress and prosperity of the country.”
As part of her work, she travels from Bajur to Peshawar and Islamabad to talk to government officials, politicians and other relevant people about Rising Women of Pakistan — the organisation she launched after completing her education.
One student, Fatima, who is 14 years old but has just enrolled as there was no school in this area earlier said, “ I had a dream to go to school but there was no school in this whole area in 30km, but now Miss Raina has taken this initiative for us.”
Raina speaks to Gulf News.
How did you get the idea to start an organisation working for girls’ education in an area which is a volatile part of Pakistan?
I come from a well-off family in Bajur; my mother and father gave us education. However most parents in the area don’t send their daughters to school, which is a very horrible thing to me. So, when I was a student I had a thought in my mind to open my schools in my home area to provide free education for girls. I am also a girl; if I had been deprived of an education then I would have been living there in miserable conditions.
Have you ever been threatened for your work? The Taliban are said to be against girls’ education?
Actually the Taliban are not against the education of girls and the facts have been presented wrongly by the media in tribal areas of Pakistan. There are anti-state actors and elements that are creating confusion by propagating such kind of incidents in which the image of Pakistan is ruined internationally. There is no awareness among parents of the value of sending girls to school and we are doing the job of convincing them to educate their daughters.
How many schools have you opened so far in the Bajur Agency?
I have launched two schools. One in the Inayat Kalay and the second in the Shaikh Meno Kalay, both schools are working well and more than 200 girls have enrolled so far.
How much are the fees at your schools?
We are providing free education and free books and stationery to our students because the people are poor and they have no resources to educate them.
How has been the feedback and response from the parents and community?
Initially I faced a little resistance but now the parents are very pleased and they are sending more and more girls to school, which is the most appreciable and fulfilling thing for me.
Where you are getting the donations and funds to run this project?
The basic funds I am bearing on my own with help from my parents and other family members because they are cooperating with me in this cause. My elder and younger brothers help me in many ways to execute this project.
How do you feel when you see the dream which you had a couple of years ago coming true?
I feel a lot of satisfaction when I see these girls and kids coming to school and they have bags on their shoulders, it is really a great source of satisfaction for me that the mission for which I have fought is now an organisation.
What are the other areas in which you want to focus in the near future?
Initially we are concentrating on girls’ education but in future we will focus on health issues as it is hard for us to bear the expenses in the both sectors on our own.
Have you approached the authorities or other organisations for funds to help you in this project?
Yes I have a couple of meetings with various authorities but still failed to get anything, but I am sure that soon we will get some donations and our education programme will continue.
How does it feel to serve your people, your areas and the girls’ community?
I am proud to serve my people and my areas where the majority of the people don’t do this as they prefer to shift to the major cities and don’t like to come back towards their hometowns but I want an exit for my own people and area.
If anyone wants to contact the Rising Women of Pakistan they can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Raina Gul was born on 11th May 1987 in an educated family of Bajur Agency in the tribal area of Pakistan.
Gul had her initial education from a government school Bajur Agency.
She did her Masters in Computer Sciences from Ghandara University Peshawar in 2011.
Raina registered an organisation under the name ‘Rising Women of Pakistan’ in December 2013. The aim was to serve the girls of her locality in Bajur, rather than to find a job after completing her education.
Initially Gul established two girls’ schools in the most backward areas of Bajur. More than 200 girls have been enrolled in the schools so far. She is providing free education and books to the students.