This story is part of World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World digital action campaign
World Pulse believes that when girls and their champions are heard, they will transform the world. The Girls Transform the World campaign showcases solutions and unites grassroots voices speaking out for the rights of girls worldwide.
We have heard from hundreds of girls, women, and male allies around the world and collected their voices, ideas, passions, and cries. These incredible stories are now impacting policy and transforming the world, so that girls everywhere can aspire to the education of their dreams.
Women to Watch: 4 Girls’ Empowerment Champions
Meet four women who are changing the world, one girl at a time.
The Girls Transform the World campaign united the World Pulse community in raising our voices together to remove the barriers girls face to accessing education. Beyond the powerful messages delivered in this campaign, many members dedicate their whole lives to expanding opportunities for girls and young women. There are many ways to be a hero for girls, and our community is filled with shining examples. We interviewed four of these women to understand what they are up against and how they are making a difference for girls in their homelands and beyond.
Q&A With Sister Zeph
Sister Zeph: In Pakistan we have two different societies. In one society we see our women can do anything. They can be administrators, fighter pilots, and even prime minister of the country. Some people look at these women and feel we are changing, and our women are getting their rights. On the other side, women are still being killed for so-called honor; they are mentally tortured; they cannot even decide when to sleep and when to wake up; they do not have a right to education, to choose their career, to choose their life partner. They have to suffer their whole lives for love, care, and respect.
I believe that the solution to all of our problems is in education, and empowering the women of our world. I have taught free classes since I was 13 years old, and today I still offer free education to women and children. Since I first started teaching at age 13, I have given five hundred girls formal education. I have provided skills training to 50 women and taught 100 girls English, Internet, and computer. This month I am starting a beauty salon so that my students can earn some money in the future.
How did you know that this is what you wanted to do with your life?
One incident changed my life forever. In 7th grade, I was delivering a speech to my class, acting like a teacher. I was standing on the teacher’s chair. When she came, she started beating me for this in front of my classmates. She abused me and all the girls made fun of me. My heart felt so humiliated, I cried for many days. I felt like my heart was dying inside me.
At that moment I decided to leave school, although I never stopped studying. I started reading in my home privately. I decided to start teaching girls with respect and the love and care that I was not given in my school. In the beginning there was only one student. I started it in open air and there was no pen, no copy machine, and I only had a few books. But I kept going; I did not want any child to experience what had happened to me. I decided that I will never use a stick in my school, and that I would make education interesting for the children.
I started teaching all children, but as I met women and girls during my project, I came to know a lot of problems that were being faced by the women; I felt their misery, helplessness, their pain. In a previous office where I worked, a colleague of mine tried to harass me. When I took an action against him, I was strangely told that this would cause people to disrespect me. I took action anyway. At that time I decided that I will work for women to make them strong, educated, empowered, and aware of their rights.
What are successes you have witnessed?
My student Noor is the first girl in the history of her family to be employed. Sara is the first to become a nurse. Shazia has completed a Master’s in political science with my guidance. These women are the reason I do what I do.
What advice do you have for young future women leaders?
Young women leaders need to understand that we women have to educate and empower each other to get equal rights in society. Alone we cannot achieve our goal of equality.
Connect with Sister Zeph . . .