What about a job??? “That is a distant dream”, she says wistfully.
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Asiya, 21, comes from a Qureshi family in the basti. A first generation learner, Asiya went to an Urdu medium school. After completing her 8th grade, she dropped out of school, not because she lacked the intelligence or the interest, but because her father and elder brother objected to her continuing her studies. In their words “now you have grown up, it is no longer safe, what will you do with so much studying …”. Also as she grew older she had to look after the home and her father whenever he fell ill.
But Asiya was determined to continue her education and in this she was supported by her mother who wanted her to have all the opportunities that she never had. Asiya first came to the Hope Project for “hobby courses” – embroidery, tailoring, computers, painting. These courses are often seen as safe for girls and are good entry points.
It took some coaxing to get parental permission for Asiya to enroll in the 10th grade and sit for the National Open school exam. Asiya finished with a first division. In the course of the year, she also participated in a theatre workshop and wrote a play that was published. Seeing his daughters play in print was in some ways a turning point for Asiya’s father who is now very proud of her success. Things have become easier at home and she even managed to get permission to go on a school trip to Kumaon in the Himalayas. Although she spends 2 – 3 hours every day on domestic chores, Asiya is hopeful of becoming the first person in her family to complete the 12th grade. And what then? Asiya has not dared to broach the topic with her father. “I will only speak to him after I have cleared the 12th grade”, she says. “Perhaps I will get engaged. Perhaps I can do a BA after getting married. My father has already obliged me so much by allowing me to study up to the 12th. The neighbors feel that I should be sitting at home and getting my dowry ready.” What about a job??? I ask. “That is a distant dream”, she says wistfully. But if dreams were to come true, Asiya would choose to specialize in fine arts and become a designer.
Many girls do not have such supportive families as Asiya’s. Salma, for instance, finished her 6th grade and then wasn’t allowed to continue her education even though she tried for two years to persuade her father. She finally got admission without her father’s knowledge at the Hope Project and remembers having to study in secret on the terrace. After finishing her 12th grade, she is now doing a BA through correspondence. Since the 10th grade she has financed her own education by doing odd jobs such as stitching and typing assignments.