A Journey to School: Determined to Learn
Faridah* is a 17-year-old girl living in Pakistan. At the age of 12, she was forced to drop out of school. By the age of 15, she was married to a much older man.
Despite these circumstances, Faridah has been determined to receive an education. As a student at one of Plan’s Non Formal Education (NFE) Centers, Faridah is attending class, despite the backlash that she has received from her family.
When Faridah was just 12 years old, older men would sexually harass her and her peers as they made their way to school. Faridah choose to keep the harassment a secret from her parents in fear that they would withdraw her from school.
One day, Faridah’s grandfather witnessed a boy harassing her, but his initial reaction was not to protect his granddaughter. It was to blame her.
“He took me home, and beat me, and banned my education,” recalls Faridah.
As the eldest of six siblings, she was responsible for staying at home, doing chores, and taking care of her siblings. “Whenever I remember that time, I feel a lot of pain and I feel alone,” she says, as tears roll down her face.
After Faridah’s father died, her situation worsened. When Faridah was just 15 years old, she was forced to get married to an older man. Despite everything that she had been through, her dreams of receiving an education still lingered.
A Learning Opportunity
When Faridah heard about Plan’s Non Formal Education (NFE) Centers, she was determined to join, but her husband’s reaction wasn’t what she expected. “My husband became angry; he beat me, argued with me, and refused to let me go. He said, ‘What’s the point in educating girls? There’s no point because it’s the boys who get the jobs'.”
When Faridah's teachers heard about the incident, they visited her home and spoke with her husband about the benefits of an education, while reassuring him that it would not bring negativity into their home.
For a while, he was happy to let her go. But, unfortunately, it was short-lived. "Off and on, he forbids me from going,” says Faridah. “I tell my husband that I will finish my chores first, but he always argues with me and beats me after I’ve been. Then he will become furious and forbid me from attending,” she says.
Determined to Learn
Two months ago, Faridah's plan was tested when her husband asked her to move out of their home. She is now living with her mother.
While her mother supports her desire to be educated, she is torn between her daughter’s right to go to school and her family’s honor.
The men in Faridah's family believe that Faridah’s husband could use her desire to receive an education as grounds for a divorce. As a result of their beliefs, arguments often arise and Faridah’s mother will cave under the pressure, as she is also afraid of the shame and dishonor that my follow her daughter's decision to continue her education.
“I want to see Faridah as an educated lady, but I don’t want to see her marriage end, so I’ll try and convince her husband to let her continue her education,” her mother says. She continues, “Faridah is crazy – she’s determined to get educated.”
Determined, yes, as Faridah explains: “Education is very important to me. It will train me and help me to improve our way of living. Without it, it would be hard to manage the home and bring up our children in a good way. It is very important for a married woman to complete our education.”
Plan Delivers Hope
Despite the setbacks that she has experienced, Faridah believes that the NFE center has given her the support that she needs to continue her education. In the past, Faridah would not have had an advocate.
“It’s a good environment and the NFE is providing a quality education. The teachers are good, so I am happy,” she says.
Even though Faridah's situation may seem uncertain, Faridah's teachers are optimistic that they will be able to convince Faridah’s husband to allow her to return home and continue her education once he returns from Karachi, where he is currently working.
Faridah shares their optimism. “It is possible to manage a home and respect your husband while going to school,” she says.
And with the help of Plan's NFE Center, Faridah is halfway towards her goal.
*Editor's Note: Faridah's name has been changed to protect her identity.
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