Wednesday , 12 August 2020
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Pakistan toasts Malala’s win, activists plead for introspection

LAHORE / QUETTA / ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR: Fourteen-year-old Zeba wakes early in the morning with her younger siblings Saira and Hina. The girls get dressed, comb their hair and leave their home at 7.30 am; they are not headed to their school, but to help their mother who works as a maid at several houses in the capital.
“There is a girls’ school here in Bhara Kahu village, but our parents believe that girls should not be sent to school, but should be trained to do household chores,” Zeba said. “We work from 7.30 am until 6 pm, and we eat roti with leftover curry during this time.”
Their village is located on the northeastern outskirts of Islamabad, not too far from Parliament House and Prime Minster Secretariat. Zeba’s mother is the sole bread-winner in the family as her father is a daily wage labourer and it has been many days since his last job. “We want to go to school, we want to drink milk and eat an egg in the morning and we want to play with our friends,” Zeba says. Education, health and nutrition – the right to access these fundamentals is denied to millions of girls in Pakistan like Zeba, Saira and Hina, largely due to poverty and a lack of awareness.
“In a conservative society like Pakistan a girl usually has to face discrimination right from the moment her family learns that a mother-to-be is pregnant with a baby girl,” said Country Representative Rutgers World Population Foundation (WPF) Qadeer Baig as Pakistan marks the International Day of the Girl Child, commemorated annually by the United Nations on October 11. The theme for 2014 is focuses on empowering adolescent girls in order to end the gender-based violence.
“Violence against children remains culturally entrenched as children in Pakistan undergo physical violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and acid attacks,” reported Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) in 2013. “Girls in Pakistan aged 14 to 25 years are the most likely target of acid attacks and in 2013 a total of 150 acid attacks against women were reported around the country.” The report adds that there were 3,861 cases of child sexual abuse reported from different parts of the country in 2012.
While civil society activists and educationists came together on Saturday to commemorate International Day of the Girl Child, they paid tribute to Malala and also acknowledged that while Pakistan is honoured by her win, the country still has many hurdles to overcome in the education of its women.

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