By Aasma Qamer
In her heart, Gulmeena knows she has the same capabilities as boys, that she deserves to go to school and that she should be allowed to play sports. All things her younger brothers and the boys at her school have always been allowed to do.
Last year, Gulmeena's parents told her she had to drop out of school. A bright and popular student, Gulmeena was devastated. Graduating was her dream. Like so many other girls in her community, Gulmeena's parents struggled with allowing their daughter to matriculate. In Peshawar, Pakistan where Gulmeena lives, girls typically uphold traditional family roles, rarely complete their education and are forbidden to interact with boys. Boys on the other hand, including Gulmeena's two younger brothers, are allowed to attend class regularly and to participate in extracurricular activities.
Gulmeena was determined to change this tradition. She studying hard in class and joining Right To Play's in-school clubs. Her participation taught her conflict-resolution and cooperation skills, along with the ability to problem-solve for other girls, propelling Gulmeena forward as a Junior Leader for the past three years. "I learnt how to help others solve their problems," says Gulmeena.
So when her father told her she had to leave school, Gulmeena stood up for herself. She turned to her Right To Play coach Sana* to find a solution to her problem.
Determined to keep Gulmeena in school, Sana consulted Gulmeena's teachers who confirmed that she was a gifted and brilliant student in all subjects. She was also a confident and impressive public speaker, won school debates, performed speeches in front of her peers and hosted in-school events. Armed with this information, Sana approached the school's head teacher and together they connected with Gulmeena's mother. Hearing about her daughter's accomplishments, Gulmeena's mother agreed her daughter should continue her education. But the decision wasn't hers to make. Sana needed to speak with Gulmeena's father.
For over a month, Sana and the teachers routinely met and spoke with Gulmeena's father. "He was uneducated about the process, so it took me a while to explain the importance of what their daughter was doing in school and in the Right To Play programs," explains Sana. Through sharing stories about his daughter's successes in the classroom and as a Junior Leader, Sana was then able to connect and highlight Gulmeena's potential, while explaining the importance of her education and how it would increase her capacity to contribute to their family and to society.
Gulmeena made her voice heard as well. She would beg her father for permission to go to school. "When he would allow her to attend, she would meet with her teachers to inquire about the lessons she missed during her absence. She felt miserable about missing so much, but she would quickly overcome her self-pity and focus on her studies and play activities," adds Sana.
Their perseverance paid off. By taking the time to repeatedly engage Gulmeena's father in his daughter's potential, Sana was able to explain the value of girls' education and to create a plan with him that he could apply to his daughter's education and future.
"The games [we learn in the club] at school teach us how to work together, discuss our problems and how to come up with a solution," affirms Gulmeena. "With the help of my coach, my parents are now consistently involved in discussions about school, they are interested and they are very proud of me."
Recently, Gulmeena passed Grade 11 with the highest marks in her high school. Now, she has renewed hope in herself and her future. Gulmeena wants to become a teacher when she graduates. She will inspire the next generation of girls to follow their dreams, too.
Girls like Gulmeena are changing the world for the better. With your support, we can help more #GirlsLead!
In 2015, Right To Play launched the Play for the Advancement of Quality Education (PAQE) program with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in eight countries, PAQE uses Right To Play's experiential learning methodology to build teacher capacity and remove barriers to education to improve learning outcomes.