CNN CNNBack to CNN content
Sponsor Content from More from Telenor

Educating Pakistan's Women of Tomorrow

Facebook Twitter Email

Updated 15:46 UTC August 11, 2016

To get even a minimal education, Pakistani girls, particularly those from undeveloped, rural areas, face many challenges. In the country’s poorest households, less than half of the girls are enrolled in primary school, and only 18 percent attend lower secondary school, according to UNESCO. That adds up to more than 4.5 million girls.

Part of the problem is social and cultural. In some rural and northern tribal areas the education of girls is strictly prohibited on cultural grounds. Poverty is also a major hurdle; many of those in rural areas can only afford to educate their children through primary school, after that, many girls must leave school to help support their families.

And while the Pakistan government has legislated schooling for all, education remains drastically under-funded. Progress in getting its poorest girls into school has been exceptionally slow - the country has the worst record in the region for educating low-income girls. According to a 2012 UNESCO report, the poorest girls in Pakistan are about three times as likely to be out of school as the poorest girls in Nepal and around six times as likely as the poorest girls in Bangladesh. Indeed, nearly 62 percent of girls who currently do not attend school in Pakistan will never attend school; this is twice as many as their male counterparts.

Women who join the workforce don’t fare much better. Although Pakistan is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of working women, the number remains low and women earn half of that of men. Women who assert their right, whether that be to education, a job, or an opinion in a key decision of their life, often encounter dire consequences. . This issue was brought to the attention of the international community through Pakistani teenage schoolgirl and Nobel Prize Laureate, Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban because she lobbied for girl's education on her blog.

Sixteen-year-old Zainab Muskan is hoping to make a change in this space too, and has ambitions to continue her education and become a doctor. Now in 10th grade, she was inspired by a local nurse who befriended her. “I was very impressed by how much she helped people, and this sparked in me the desire to help others also,” Zainab said. “I wanted to be like her.” Zainab, together with other neighborhood children, visit the nurse’s home after school for extra study help. (Educated women in Pakistan commonly run private after-school programs for community children.) Although the traditional mindset in Zainab’s area is that girls should stay at home and help the family, both her father, who owns a small tuck shop, and her mother, who makes woolen garment accessories, are supportive of her ambition to become a doctor.

Zainab’s aspirations are only being been realized, however, with the help of a stipend she has been receiving from the Sindh Education Reform Program (SERP), a government program designed to address gender disparity in education for poor girls. The Sindh government distributes the stipends through Telenor and Tameer Bank’s Easypaisa mobile finance system directly into mobile accounts. In addition each family also has an ATM card to access the money from banks too. These stipends allow more than 430,000 girls like Zainab to continue their education. “This money has made a big difference in my life,” Zainab said. “My parents cannot afford the expenses for my studies, including tuition, books and uniform.” Zainab’s five siblings are also currently in school, and she hopes that they, too, will be able to continue their education.

After graduating college, Zainab plans to go to a premedical program to then qualify for medical school. “My dream is to help those in need, and to help my family. When I become a doctor, my mother can stop working and spend her days peacefully.”

Partnering to Educate Girls

Easypaisa has improved lives across Pakistan, providing millions of unbanked Pakistanis convenient financial access and control. With funds always at their fingertips, they've begun to enjoy peace of mind and a more secure future.

In 2014, Easypaisa facilitates the disbursements of educational stipends to girls across 23 remote districts of Pakistan’s Sindh province, serving 430,000 female students across grades 6-10.

Thanks to the Easypaisa partnership, many marginalized families who were once unable to afford education have found their way back to the classroom.

Find out more here.