Home > Raising the pen: Social activist battles for women’s education

Raising the pen: Social activist battles for women’s education



GILGIT: Social activist Khan Muhammad Qureshi from Diamer Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan has launched a campaign to educate girls in his area.

Qureshi belongs to a valley where only 1% of the 0.1 million women are literate.

According to Alif Ailaan’s 2015 Pakistan District Education Rankings report, Diamer is ranked 95 out of 144 districts with a 46 score for gender parity.

“Girls education is my dream, but I understand the overall situation is quite challenging,” Qureshi told The Express Tribune on Thursday. “I hold the government more responsible than clerics or politicians,” he added.

Qureshi is running his campaign through the Himalayan Conservation and Welfare Movement; a registered body.

Women in Diamer

Diamer is known for its strong tribal customs, made all the more evident when women were barred from voting in the G-B legislative elections in Tangir and Darel. The main objection was that women should not come in contact with outsiders. They believed voting in front of unfamiliar men was against local customs.

Qureshi said he met various clerics in Diamer’s Thore, Niat and Babusar areas recently and found them to be cooperative. “However, I don’t find the government to be very forthcoming,”
he said.

Girls schools for boys

Qureshi shared the two primary schools meant for girls in these areas were being used to educate boys. “I learnt this when I checked records,” he said. “It was shocking – at least for me.” He added 70 homeschools were recorded in the documents, but only 20 functioned throughout the district.

“I plan to reach out to 20,000 people to get their support; I appeal to them to respond,” he said. Part of the plan is a meeting with G-B Chief Minister Hafizur Rehman and the chief secretary of the region.

A report titled ‘State of Children in Pakistan’ released by UNICEF stated that distance, culture and a bias against girls’ education had a serious impact. The issue was particularly pronounced in Diamer.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2015.

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