“What is there to learn in a classroom? Most girls your age are married already. Instead of burying your head in books, you should be learning household chores.”
Throughout her childhood, Ms. Shaheen witnessed hurtful comments from her family and community. When she was just 10 years old, her parents arranged her Nikkah (marriage) ceremony. But this is not uncommon for young girls in Jhangesar – a small fishing village on the Indus Delta, where child marriage is the norm.
Soon after, people in her community began pressurizing her father, a fisherman, to arrange the wedding ceremony so that she can move into her in-laws’ house. Each time her school began a new academic year, Shaheen was told it would be her last. And that would have been true if it wasn’t for her stubborn refusal to give up her right to learn, and support from Ms. Farzana, the principal at the TCF school who convinced Shaheen’s parents each time to let her stay a little longer.
“Deep-rooted cultural factors discourage parents from letting their daughters continue their education; they give in to societal pressure, worrying about what the community will say,” shares Ms. Farzana, who has been serving as a principal in the school since 2004.
Amidst the pressure, it was Ms. Farzana’s constant support that gave Shaheen the strength to stay determined. When she aced her board exams, she began preparation for college and appeared as a private candidate since there is no college in their village.
Today, Shaheen is teaching at the same TCF school where she first started – helping other girls learn and stay in school, just like her principal once did for her. She is also preparing for university entrance exams.
Shaheen’s marriage was formalized along the way and she now lives with her husband – who is also a TCF graduate and stands firmly by her side to support her dreams.
“My struggle is not just for myself, but for all the girls in my community who have the right to learn and fulfill their dreams,” she says.
To our teachers; they deserve to be celebrated!
Happy Teachers’ Day!