PAKISTAN: I Fought for My Education

Growing up in Pakistan, Aysh Khan had to fight for her right to go to school. Today, she has a message for young girls who want to follow in her footsteps.

I am empowered and I am strong because I now have authority over my life.

I belong to a small town in Gujranwala, Pakistan. I was born to a very poor family. Having food and shelter was all we could think about, and meeting our basic expenses was a feat. My father was a fruit seller, and education was not seen as a requirement—especially for girls.

Girls were meant to learn household skills, to get married, to take care of a husband, her in laws, and her children. For a girl, doing anything for her own well being was out of the question.

Even in this conservative environment, I had a dream of getting an education. I fell in love with books at a very early age, and I was a bright student in primary school. I had trouble getting copies of books and supplies, but I saved the little pocket money I had, and gave all my energy to my studies. I always performed well despite not having guidance from my family.

I remember when I was 10 years old my father tried to explain to me that girls are respected for being experts at household tasks—not for having degrees. After all, what good is a degree when your husband and in laws are hungry? I cried when I heard this.

When I completed primary education, my father told me that because I could now read and write I had had enough education for a girl. He told me he couldn’t afford the expense of sending me to a private secondary school, and that I should learn to cook and manage the home. He wanted me to be a successful wife, daughter-in-law, and mother.

I asked my mother to convince my father of the value of education at any cost. Eventually, he agreed and I was admitted to a government school that did not cause my family financial burden. I was happy because I was going to become educated.

Then, after a year, my father lost his job. We went days without food and we could not pay our electricity bill. It was a very hard time for us, but I was not discouraged and continued to focus on my studies. I went to school without ironing my uniform for a whole year, which was a psychological pain. My mother washed our clothes via hand pump. I had to study for exams by the light of the moon, as we had no torchlights at home and the electricity had been shut off.

Still, when the term finished and results were declared, I had achieved first position in my class. I was proud of my accomplishment, and I learned that hard work always pays off.

But then my family suffered a huge loss. My father passed away from liver cancer. I was 13 years old.

Many advised my mother to end my studies as my father’s death meant we had no income. My mother, however, declared that my education was free and it was not a burden to her. I continued in school and excelled.

I studied computer science because I love information technologies, and have found so many benefits from connecting online. IT has changed my life and my views on many things. With access to information, I found strength and felt empowered. I was able to connect to people online who encouraged and understood me.

Relatives tried to convince my mother that she should focus on finding me a spouse, but she instead continued to support me in my quest for further education. I was determined to pave the way for other girls to continue their education by becoming a strong role model for them.

I got good grades in school, but I soon ran into another hurdle. There was no way to continue my education in my town for free. I asked for help, and God sent an angel to me. One of my cousins took responsibility for funding my education. Society advised him against it, but my cousin is well educated himself, and believes that educating a girl is equivalent to educating a generation.

He said, “She is so young to get married now, and she is fond of study. A shortage of money should not be a barrier for her study.” He knew that if I were to be educated and independent, I could then support my family. He helped me to obtain a degree in business.

While at university, I faced my relatives’ jealousy. My cousins did not have the opportunity to be educated and taunted me. I kept silent, but they called me proud. They tried to malign my character. They followed me to university and claimed I was having an affair. They wanted to catch me with some boy to put an end to my education. But when I graduated from university, my cousins had not found a single thing they could use against me.

After university, I started a job as an accountant in my town. I supported my family and my sister’s education. Both my brothers also started working and our family’s condition became easier.

But then, our family saw more tragedy. My younger brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and after two months of pain, he died. We were all shocked, and the loss broke us. I was completely lost.

But I knew I had a responsibility to my family. I started a Masters in Political Science because I wanted to know how governments can do better for the world. While going to school, I worked as a tutor for children in the evening and then got a job in the telecom sector of Pakistan.

It was during this time that I met a strong woman named Sister Zeph who runs a school for girls in my country. She told me stories of the women and girls she teaches. They have lives more difficult than mine, and their stories gave me hope for what I could achieve. Even today Sister Zeph tells me, “You are young and educated, you can do anything.”

I have now completed my degrees, and today I am the HR manager for the biggest rental and car company of Pakistan.

I share my story to say that while I faced cultural, financial, and personal difficulties in achieving my goals, I did not allow the hardships to discourage me. Instead, the suffering worked as motivation for me. Poverty, psychological and societal pressures, gender norms, and the loss of two family members made me stronger.

Some of the relatives who ridiculed me, now tell my story to their own daughters and advise them to be strong like me. The same people who called my mother a fool for allowing her daughter to be educated, now call her lucky because she has a daughter like me. And they now ask me for suggestions for their own children’s studies. I always advise a degree in IT, as I believe technology is the future of the world.

In my life now, I am doing all the things boys do. I live on my own. I support my family, and I lead. I am empowered and I am strong because I now have authority over my life. There is no need to tell me what I should or should not do, because my choices are my own.

To those who tried to discourage me and to those who underestimated me because I am female, I want to say, “You have no idea how strong God has made me and every woman.”

And to the girls who are facing barriers and struggling to live their own lives, I say, “Keep your chin up, pursue an education, consider IT as a field of study, and use your laptop or computer to empower you. There is an awesome world out there to be discovered. Never, ever compromise your passions. If you do what you love, the rest will fall into place.”


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Story Awards: #YouthLogOn 9Send Me Love

Comments

Dear Ayesha 

I know your stories since many years but still it made me cry and it touched my heart when I read it again, I always feel proud to share your story whenever I have to share about girls' power, thanks to World Pulse for sharing it so that girls from around the world can take inspiration from you, you have proved that girls are unstoppable and most powerful creature on this earth, this is just a beginning of your success you have to go so far yet. Much love and Respect  

Sister Zeph Founder & Chairperson ZWEEF

Winner of World Pulse Lynn Syms Global Prize 2014

Awwww.

Thank you soooo much Sister Zeph. Your words have a lot of power that It can change perspective about many things of many people. You found the writer in me. You tell me that "you can"

Love you a lot

Featured Story Teller, Encourager, Vocal Contributor at World Pulse

Aysh

Dear Ayesha, 

A real inspiring story 

I can imagine the pain through which you went

Keep shining 

Shabana 

Encorager, Vocal contributor at World Pulse 

Shabana

Dear Mannat,

Yes you are one of those people who know the struggle and who stand by me. I also encourage you to keep writing because sometimes we have no idea that our words can heal someone's pain. Writing itself is a social work.

Thank you for your support. 

Featured StoryTeller, Encourager and Vocal Contributor at World Pulse

Aysh

Omg! This melts my heart.u are a super woman.chai!!! Am in tears.all this just for u?u jumped and passed it and today its history.As u let ur light shine,u unconsciously give others the permission to do same.keep shinning. Hugs hugs hugs.

Dear Gisele Beer,

I am feeling your emotions just by reading the comment. Yes You have read it with heart and understood my journey. I admit its all tough and still many hurdles are on my way. Many of my wishes regarding education are still in my heart and I can't find ways to complete them because I have to spend my salary to support my family. But I believe that God will arrange sources for me.

Thanks for Encouragement and reading.

Love from Pakistan

Featured Story Teller, Vocal Contributor and Encourager at World Pulse

Aysh

Dear Aysh,

What a wonderful story you told us. You are a strong women and you have been supported by another strong woman: your mother.

Education si the road out of poverty, and your parents understood it. Jealousy of people who are afraid to leave their comfort zone will always happen. Today you are a role model and that is all that counts.

Congratulations and I am sorry for losses.

Kadidia Doumbia

Dear Kadidia,

Your comment made me feel that you have received what I wanted to convey to the world "The importance of education". I am happy that my voice is being appreciated. I am still in love with books and still want to do MS but as you have read that I have to support my family so can't manage further education expenses but I believe that God will help me as HE did always.

Featured Story Teller, Vocal Contributor and Encourager at World Pulse

Aysh

Dear Aysh - 

I am stunned and amazed by your courage and determination.  How difficult the road, yet you are now an inspiration to so many girls - and their parents - who can see the true benefit of girls education through your story.   I admire you greatly, and feel honored that you shared your story here in World Pulse.  You are hope for the world, keep going!  

Love,

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

Dear Jensine,

I can't explain my feelings in words after reading your comment. You have made my day by reading my story and appreciating it.

Yes It was tough sometimes impossible to stay string but the option of leaving my education always made me feel like I will die without it and I have no purpose of living on this earth without education.

Though I have done many things but I am still hungry for more education as I want to do MS but now my salary goes to my family's expenses and sister's education so can not manage now.

Still I am not disappointed as I know God will help me as HE did every time before.

Thanks again for providing this platform to many women of the world . You people are best.

Love from Pakistan

Featured Story Teller, Vocal Contributor and Encourager at World Pulse

Aysh

Dear Sister Jensine 

Your words are more then words,being admired by you personally is itself a reward and Ayesha deserves to have such a precious gift in her life as she has gone through so much difficulties in her life, just a few months before she went through a really tough time and I told her that when you feel helpless, believe that transformation is going to happen because I believe in her courage and wisdom now she does not only have a very good job but she is changing so many lives through World Pulse by sharing her story,Thank you for reading her amazing story you are inspiration us all 

Sister Zeph Founder & Chairperson ZWEEF

Winner of World Pulse Lynn Syms Global Prize 2014

Thank you for reading. Share it with other women. Would be appreciated. :)

Best Regards,

Featured Story Teller, Vocal Contributor and Encourager at World Pulse

Aysh

Hi Aysh,

Knowledge is Power.  We really need to be educated and pursuing this dream is a big step for every woman who was not given such opportunity.  Such an inspiration!!!

Connect with a heart.  Live a life of empowerment. Influence to accomplished.

 

Dear Maenn,

Yes, I believe that knowledge is biggest power in the world. It can change anything,

Thank you for your kind words. Keep sharing my words so that more girls may get benefit from my journey and they stay strong when life becomes tough.. <3

Featured Story Teller, Vocal Contributor and Encourager at World Pulse

Aysh

Dear Aysh,

Your story touched my heart so deeply also. All you went through, such barriers of poverty, and social attitudes, and the tragic loss at such a young age of your father and then your brother. I love that with such determination you leapt over each barrier, and I love that you described how, and what the result has been. Your story can show young women the path to their own dreams, and how to make it happen. Your story also is such beautiful proof that each one of us has the power within us to create real change for ourselves and for our communities. Too often I hear that "change takes time", or even that "things will never change" with assumptions that it is impossible for change to happen for women in some areas. Your story shines a beautiful light on how wrong those ideas are. It was such a sweet and empowering treat to read in the middle that you and Sister Zeph know each other and are such close sisters. I hope your story sails far and wide so that many can know the power of one woman, and the power of the connections that form between World Pulse Sisters.

With love in sisterhood,

Tam

OMG....

Tam you have read my words not with your eyes but with your heart. You have written every word so beautifully and understood my journey completely. Yes I went through a lot and still something breaks in me when I think of my father and brother. It was very hard but my mother was on my back to encourage me all the time. And God also sent some special persons on my way who did not let me to be hopeless. My Cousin brother and Sister Zeph is one of them. He helped me financially and she helped me emotionally.

You know what I still want to MS or a fellow ship from some prestigious institute. So that my powers may increase more but as I have to spend all my income to support my family and sister's education so can not do that now. But I believe God will arrange something to make it happen. I am hopeful.

I would be thankful if you share this story with more girls so that it may help other girls who are may be suffering from any pressure.

With Love from Pakistan,

Featured Story Teller, Vocal Contributor and Encourager at World Pulse 

 

Aysh

Hi Aysh. I can certainly see why you received featured storyteller status from this story... truly inspiring. You're a great role for all those girls, relatives or otherwise, who will now follow in your footsteps. I'm eager to see what vision/mission you have for girls and women as you are certainly inspired and determined. Thanks so much for sharing your story and being the voice of the future.

Dear Jill,

Thank you again. You are a great encourager. Right now I am working with Sister Zeph and teaching girls at her school about IT education and also counsel them when they encounter family problems regarding their education as I have faced all of this before. I want to see all those girls independent and self sufficient.

Rest I want to do MS and travel the world to explore myself, to  meet new people and to have more experience. I want to be remembered as a healer and lover. :)

 

Aysh

You're very welcome, hon:-) Thank you! That's awesome what you're doing. I'm sure you're making a big difference in their lives. Love "healer and lover." Best wishes to you on your journey. I hope you keep us posted on your journey.