Chapter 1: Change Came Knocking
Morning light filtered inside as Ayesha’s father pulled the door open to their visitor. A kind face beamed down at her. This was the first time Ayesha met Ms. Zeenat, a teacher at The Citizens Foundation (TCF) Campus. Her visit was to encourage Ayesha’s parents to enrol their children at TCF. The more Ms. Zeenat talked of the school; the more Ayesha knew this was where she was supposed to be. She had often walked past it – in awe of the red-brick school building and expansive playgrounds and wondered what it was like from the inside.
Ayesha grew up in a village called Bhai Pheru, deep in the heart of rural Punjab. Surrounded by rolling green plains, her village seemed like it was picked up and removed from the rest of the world. Even then, she knew she wanted to cross Bhai Pheru’s boundaries and go out into the wide world.
Her father would move about in a donkey-led cart, to and from one labouring job to another, while Ayesha’s mother, a stay-at-home wife, would pick up occasional house-cleaning jobs.
Ayesha knew she had to find a way to get into the TCF School. With limited resources at her disposal, Ayesha’s only hope was hard work. Through dedication to her studies she successfully passed the entrance exam and started the new school year as a Grade 3 student at TCF. Little did she know it, but Ayesha’s life was taking a new direction, one filled with learning and opportunity.
Chapter 2: The Call
The community in Bhai Pheru held strong notions about what a girl’s future should look like: early marriage, children, housework. These three things combined made for a respectable, acceptable woman in their community.
However, Ayesha had ideas of her own. Her mother would time and again tell her: “I don’t want your life to be like my life, I want you to go out in the world and stand on your own two feet.” Ayesha took her mother’s advice to heart and decided that come what may, she would be the captain of her own ship.
Her time as a TCF student flew by. Her teachers and principals helped Ayesha grow and learn. Believing in her potential, they encouraged her to apply to multiple universities once she graduated.
There was only one phone in the family. When the admissions for universities opened, Ayesha used that family phone to send in her applications.
Every time the phone rang (and it rang many times a day), Ayesha’s heart would skip a beat. So, when the call from LUMS came, Ayesha was sitting with her parents and siblings.
“I got accepted at one of the best universities in Pakistan,” she whispered.
Then her family suddenly burst into cries of joy!
“You have made us very proud today!” her father told her. Her mother hugged her and cried. She had expected resistance, but her family’s response warmed her heart as her loving parents were as overcome by joy as she was.
“But Chaudhary Sahab will never let her go” came her brother’s voice amidst the celebration.
Chapter 3: The Chaudhary Sahab
As the sun dipped in a cloudy sky, Ayesha stepped into Chaudhary Sahab’s house alongside her father and grandfather. They found him sitting on a charpoy (bed) in the midst of a great expanse of tiled flooring.
They approached and made their case.
If Chaudhary Sahab said no to her leaving their village for LUMS, Ayesha knew there was nothing else she could do. It had taken all her willpower to overcome the resistance from her extended family – Chaudhary Sahab’s rejection of her plea would break her spirit.
“No girl has ever stepped out of the boundary of this village. What makes you think she will?” Chaudhary Sahab asked her father.
Her father motioned Ayesha to show him the paper she was clutching to her chest. It was her admission offer from LUMS.
“What guarantee do I have that your daughter will remain respectful of our traditions away from home?” Chaudhary Sahab asked.
“Chaudhary Sahab, if my daughter does anything wrong, my life is yours.” Ayesha’s father replied.
Ayesha shuffled her feet in anticipation.
“She may go. This letter is proof of her intelligence, and she may go because I trust that intelligence will only ever bring honour to this village.” he finally said.
Ayesha could hardly believe what she just heard; it was finally happening! She was going to LUMS!
Embark on Ayesha’s journey of determination told through captivating illustrations. Each chapter depicts real-life events that unfolded in vibrant colours. Stay tuned as we unveil the true essence of her story.
Chapter 4: A Dream Fulfilled
Ayesha faces a hall teeming with people – her presentation went as planned. Smiling to herself, she makes her way back to her seat. After the initial challenging months, Ayesha was gradually finding a sense of belonging at LUMS.
Ayesha is clear-headed and empowered. She knows all her dreams are possible with hard work, determination, and, above all, a belief in herself and the power of education.
Ayesha talks passionately about running her own business once she graduates.
“A business of my own feels like the best way to go forward. I can make my own decisions, choose my own hours – all of this seems important to me. I love fashion, so I am going to design clothes for women.”
Ayesha was the first girl in her village to pursue a degree. Her resilience has encouraged other girls to pursue their own dreams of education.
“The doors to education were once shut to the girls in my village. It’s wonderful to see how that has changed, so many girls are now passing through those same doors. Because of education, positive change has truly begun in our small community.”
Ayesha is now in her final semester at LUMS. As Ayesha looks ahead, her life seems filled with possibilities and her story becomes a symbol of resilience, showcasing the enduring effect of empowerment through education.
On this International Day of Education, we invite you to join us in supporting girls like Ayesha who are dreaming of access to quality education, together, let’s make it possible.