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Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old activist recently shot in Pakistan, is recovering from her injuries and reportedly making good progress. Back in Pakistan, however, the struggle for education continues.
Inequality has led to two parallel societies in Pakistan. There is the rich Pakistan – home to 36,000 millionaires – and there is the real Pakistan – home to almost 40 million people living below the poverty line.
For millions of young people in Pakistan, education remains an aspiration.
Children play at the Child Friendly Space funded by Trócaire on the outskirts of Hyderabad, southern Pakistan. The Child Friendly Space offers a place for children left homeless by last year’s floods to play and learn. Photo: Luca Tommasini / Trócaire.
Pakistan has one of the highest child illiteracy rates in the world. Driving through villages in Pakistan, the absence of schools is noticeable.
Many young people never see the inside of a classroom at all, while those who do find themselves in hugely over-crowded classes. Trócaire funds Learning Resource Centres (LRC) that allow young people to secure an education.
The centres are especially aimed at young girls, who often have to drop out of school due to pressure from their families.
“In my community, women are not allowed to study or to go outside on their own,” says Ousha Kumari (19). “It is a very strict community. I finished my education at 17 because of pressure from the community. I was not happy because I want to learn.
“When I heard about Trocaire and the LRC I knew that I wanted to get involved. Thanks to Trócaire, it is now possible for me to learn new skills and to continue with my education. My parents are very supportive of me but not everybody in the community is. People in my village laugh at my parents for allowing me to come to the LRC.
“The attitudes are changing slowly though. There are more girls staying in school and many of the girls want to come to the LRC. Women in my community need more rights.”
In an LRC in the southern city of Hyderabad, Bukhtawar Khoso says that the LRC has changed her outlook on life.
“When I heard about the LRC I knew I wanted to come along,” she says. “Coming here has given me so much confidence. It has allowed me to talk to other girls and to share our experiences.
“The girls here are all very simple girls. Before coming here, we did not know our rights. Now I know my rights. I am really thankful to Trócaire for everything they have done.”
Trócaire works with incredible women throughout Pakistan. One such woman is Syeda Fatima, who campaigns for fair conditions and workers’ rights for brick kiln workers.
Across Pakistan, millions of people are caught in bonded labour, a modern form of slavery.