ISLAMABAD: While Diamer district faces a number of issues, lack of female education is deeply felt in the region. With a population of about 0.2 million, number of educated women is almost close to none owing to strong opposition from powerful local clergy, chieftains and other factors including the inability of the government to reach out to the masses.
With opposition from all quarters, Khan Muhammad Qureshi, has taken up the daunting task of challenging the status-quo, by initiating a drive to mobilise people to send their girls to schools.
An environmentalist and social activist by profession Qureshi has in the past been at the centre of another campaign against the timber mafia active in the Diamer’s forest, 77 per cent of the total forest-cover in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The environmentalist plans to launch a campaign to convince parents to send their girls to schools. Despite being familiar with the taboo attached with the subject, Qureshi is determined to go ahead with the plan, which needs strong financial support of the government, NGOs and donor agencies.
“I have taken upon the task to carry out the project by involving locals including the clergy to promote girls’ education, which is lowest in G-B,” said Qureshi while talking to The Express Tribune.
He blames the government and the unawareness of the locals for the low literacy rate, which has contributed to perpetual ignorance and abysmal state of affairs in the valley. “There is widespread misconception among the locals that sending girls to schools is haraam (forbidden),” he says.
Qureshi says that he and a few members of his team, who work with him under the banner of his NGO, have so far managed to persuade a sizeable number of locals to give their girls education. “They are ready but separate infrastructure is the main hurdle, which the parents demand from the government,” he says elaborating that the area people consider mixed-gender education completely out of bounds.
“I strongly believe that no society can progress without giving women their due rights and I am optimistic that one day I will be successful in creating awareness about female education in my area,” says Qureshi.
According to Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015, Diamer is ranked 95 out of 148 districts in terms of education and 127 in terms of infrastructure and facilities. The literacy rate among women is close to zero, while hardly 15 per cent of the men are educated.
Qureshi says that after his matriculation, he moved to Karachi to continue his studies, where he interacted with people, educated him about the importance of girl education.
“I realised that our women are living a miserable life deprived of their fundamental rights,” he said adding that a number of men in GB prefer marrying educated women of Gilgit city and Ghizer district but often decline their daughters the right to education.
He resolves to end illiteracy and the menace of feudal system in his area. -- The Express Tribune