Marriam Sikkander is a woman who did not receive an education but nevertheless bears a universe of responsibility on her shoulders. She has two children, a son and a daughter. Following her marriage, her husband bore household expenses for only two months, after which he proceeded to sell household items to feed his drug addiction. Although Marriam moved back into her parents’ home for a while, the interference of the locals soon pressurized her into rejoining her husband. The patriarchal society often considers it necessary for women to adhere to the norm of being married, even if that comes at the cost of her wellbeing.
When the adult literacy classes started in Marriam’s remote village, she was invited by the teachers. She was met with great resistance from her husband, in-laws, along with the wider society. Most people frowned upon her enrolling in these classes because they believed it was simply a waste of time, that basic literacy would not result in her securing any employment. However, Marriam persevered, and showed keen interest in the literacy course. She was also interested in learning the vocational skills she could use to better her life and the lives of her children. Marriam said with pride, “Now I am able to read Urdu, and I feel proud to be able to read and understand the Holy Quran’s translation to my national language. My children are also going to schools, and I will pay special care and attention to their education at any cost.
“Things have changed now that I have enrolled in the literacy and vocational classes. Not only have literacy skills helped me in completing the basic literacy course, but they have further enhanced my life skills insofar as my ability to negotiate with others in a better way. I can also travel to other places more confidently,” she said.
Through the education she acquired on basic skills which she received on her mobile phone, she was able to access information which gave her beneficial directions as far as the well-being of her children and husband were concerned. Even more impressive, she managed to convince her husband to begin working on recovering from his addiction!
Marriam gained the vocational skills from the Community Learning Centre, and now stitches clothes from the comfort of her own home. She is earning about Pak Rs. 8000 (78 US $) per month, and has a plan to expand her small-scale business to the point where she will earn more than 15000 (144 US $) per month. Her example demonstrates the multitude of merits that can enrich an individual’s life if they acquire an education. Although education is considered a fundamental right, it remains one that is uncommon amongst the Pakistani masses. Through initiatives like the ones being taken by Bunyad and the Community Learning Centre, a ripple effect is created which can slowly but surely begin to generate positive change.
Furthermore, when women are given an education, they no longer have to be dependent on anyone else for support. Through the education Marriam has secured, she is becoming increasingly financially independent. This economic independence translates into a much greater liberation. When a woman is provided the opportunity to earn for herself and secure her own livelihood, she does not need to depend on others and at times even subject herself to uncomfortable and unhappy situations because of her economic necessities. Give your women a choice by educating them. Give them a chance to be the writers of their own stories, the builders of their own universe.