Pursuing equal access to education for girls and women


  • In Pakistan, 58.7 percent of women and girls over 15 are illiterate.
  • Educating girls is taboo in parts of Pakistan and many parts of the world.
  • World Vision is helping girls and women receive an education, so they can make a difference in their communities.


Last season, Ameer Mai, 40, picked cotton every day to earn income for her family. Her husband’s salary as a day-laborer did not cover the financial needs of their eight-member family.

At the end of the day, however, Ameer was shocked to receive very little pay for her hard work — significantly less than her male colleagues. When she asked the landowner about her wages, he showed a paper with some words and the calculation of her wages.

Ameer couldn’t read, so she was forced to settle on the given pay. Disappointed and frustrated, she shared her story with her cousin Shazia Manzoor and vowed to change her circumstances.

In Pakistan, educating girls is taboo

Shazia, 17, lives in Sharifwala village in Muzaffargarh district of eastern Pakistan. She is the only female in her village to earn a high school diploma.

Education of girls is taboo in Shazia’s village and many others, so most girls don’t go to school at all. Those who do usually drop out in fifth grade because their village has no secondary school. These and other hindering cultural practices contribute to the 58.7-percent illiteracy rate of Pakistani women and girls over 15.

Without education, their only option is to work in the fields, where women are often paid less than men. Although the practices are unfair, women feel pressure to help support their large families and have few alternatives.

Creating solutions to inequality at the community level

After analyzing the overwhelming needs in the Muzaffargarh district, World Vision introduced advocacy projects in 17 villages.

These projects provide assistance to vulnerable families, women, and especially girls in need of empowerment. The goal of the Communities for Improved Child Well-Being advocacy project is to raise awareness about and access to basic rights.

World Vision’s staff conducts training about how each person can contribute to the development of his or her village. One of those efforts is to form community-based organizations (CBOs) in all villages, which are registered with the government to ensure long-term sustainability.

In a similar way, children’s advocacy groups also operate in each village. Community members in Sharifwala village formed a CBO with World Vision’s support.

“We are trying to change the practices of communities, as there is a lack of hope and a culture of weak government accountability,” says Faisal Nadeem Gorchani, World Vision’s advocacy manager in Pakistan.

Bushra Bibi, an eighth-grade student, is an active member of the Sharifwala village children’s group. During the group’s first meeting, the children decided to start a campaign to address education, especially for girls.

Bushra contacted Shazia, the only girl in her village able teach others. Bushra shared their idea to start an adult literacy center in the village, focusing on mothers.

Shazia was excited to take part; only four of 93 women in her village can read — a literacy rate that is far lower than the national statistic.

‘Ensure that every woman has equal rights’

The adult literacy center for women was launched. Motivated by her desire to see change in her community, Shazia agreed to teach without financial compensation.

To date, 15 women are enrolled. Most of them are married, and many bring their babies and small children with them. They spend more than two hours a day learning English, Urdu, and math, as well as other subjects.

“We want to bring change to society,” says Shazia. “World Vision has provided us a platform to accomplish our goals and ensure that every woman has equal rights.”

Shehnaz, 22, is a regular student at the center. “I am very happy to be here,” she says. “It’s a matter of pride for me that I can now write my name instead of simply using a thumbprint for my identity.”

At the adult literacy center, Shazia maintains an attendance register. Most of her students are older than her, but she feels proud to teach them. Everyone in her village appreciates her effort and dedication to bring change.

“I can’t believe I can write my name, and I can also read the signs on the road while traveling,” says Sughra, 25, another woman who enrolled. “Prior to this…sometimes bus drivers dropped us off at the wrong locations.”

Even though Shazia says her work is far from finished, she is especially happy to teach her cousin. “Now, she will be able to read and write, and no one can snub her rights,” Shazia says. “That is an achievement for me.”

Learn more

How you can help

  • Sponsor a girl today. Child sponsorship is the most powerful way you can fight poverty. It provides girls and boys with access to education and other life-giving basics like nutritious food, clean water, healthcare, and more.
  • Make a one-time donation to help provide education for girls. Your gift will help a girl go to school, get an education, and overcome poverty.
  • Check out our prayer guide for girls in the World Vision magazine.

Sponsor a girl. Empower her for good.