The lives of four young women from Punjab, Pakistan are about to change drastically, for a grand total of $60 a month.
Barakat has officially chosen the recipients of the Girls Scholarship Program for Continuing Education in Pakistan: Mujdah, a fifteen-year-old girl attending Ali Public School, and Surayya, Mahnoor, and Haleema, three sixteen-year-olds girls attending the Government Girls’ High School. Each of the selected young women is an Afghan refugee and a Barakat graduate.
The scholarship pays for the girls to continue their education through the end of twelfth grade. It covers monthly tuition fees, transportation, supplies and other expenses.
Mujdah wishes to become a doctor one day. Her father is a driver, and her mother, a housewife caring for six children. After attending Barakat’s Ersari Elementary School until the eighth grade, Mujdah was admitted to nursing and science classes at the Ali Public School.
“I want to be a doctor in the future, so I can help poor people. I have seen the miserable conditions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and do not want myself to be a part of those. I dream of a world of peace and prosperity, and want to play a role in this,” says Mujdah.
Surayya is a Turkmen girl in a family of seven. Both of her parents work; her father as a carpet weaver, her mother as a tailor.
“Education is not necessary for males only. It is equally important for women to get an education,” says Surayya.
Surayya does not yet have career plans, but rather, desires an education to improve her quality of life.
“I do not want to be a doctor or engineer but a well-aware Afghan girl who is able to understand her rights,” she explains.
Mahnoor whose father works in Afghanistan and whose mother is a teacher at Barakat Elementary School, is fascinated by mathematics and computers, and dreams of one day being a banker. Accounting will be her main course of study. “Getting an education is my passion. This program is a blessing for Afghan girls. I want to take advantage of it,” she says.
Both of Haleema’s parents are illiterate, and so she wants to use her education to spread knowledge.
“I know the difficulties faced by the children of non-educated people, so I decided from my childhood that I want to be a professor in the future, to distribute my knowledge to others. My parents are supportive of me… I feel lucky myself,” explains Haleema, whose older sister is currently a medical student.
A shared thread seems to run through each interview: gratitude for attending one of the Barakat elementary schools in their youth.
“I will never forget Barakat’s role in my life. The school has provided me with a platform for my bright future,” says Mujdah. “All of my knowledge and confidence stems back to [Barakat’s] Ersari School. It was a turning point in my life to gain admission,” adds Haleema.
For these intelligent and promising young women, education is also deeply tied with women’s rights.
“I know that Afghan ladies are in trouble,” says Surayya. “I want to wake up all of my ladies from their deep sleep of ignorance and negligence.”
“Only education is a medium through which I can do what I wish for myself and my female community,” she adds.
Mujdan’s education will cost $25 a month. Surayya, Mahnoor, and Haleema, $12 each.
Perhaps the cost of a dream is more affordable than you’d think.
By: Lisa DeBenedictis