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Why Sister Zeph Should be a CNN Hero of the Year 2014

By Ayesh Arif

Rifat Arif who is known as Sister Zeph , She is my elder sister, She was just 13 years old when she had to leave the school forever , because her teacher humiliated her so much . one day when her teacher was not in the class, she was acting like a teacher by sitting on her teacher‘s chair, she did not know when the teacher came in the class, so teacher beat her so much and used very dirty language for her, she was punching her, she was slapping on her face, my sister was crying, I was there to see all that, the teacher was shouting so much and my heart was breaking inside, she did nothing wrong, she was just playing. But I did not know that God had a plan for her.
My sister was unable to breath for some time, she cried for days, she did not talk to anyone, and one day when my parents asked her to go back to school, she denied and said she will never go to any school again, but she will change our education system, in which there is no respect and love for the pupils and that, in her academy girls will get free education.
It was 1 -8-1997, when she declared her plan, everybody in family was in a shock that how she will do it, she was student of grade 7 at that time. Our Parents allowed her to do it, because they thought she will be alright in a few days. It like a joke for everyone in the family
So I was her first student, then she started visiting in the village and asking the parents to send their girls to her, and of course no one trusted her, for a long time she had only one student, who was me, along with this she kept studying by herself, without any teacher or an institution. And in 2013 she got her second Master’s Degree and became the most educated lady in the history of our family.
She never stopped visiting in the village to collect more students; she made pamphlets to tell the people about her academy, which was in our courtyard, in open air. As her education increased girls started to join the academy
So in the year 2005 she was having 65 students, in the years 2008 she was having 100 and in the year 2011 she made a center to teach stitching, where she hired a paying teacher, in 2013 she opened a beauty salon to teach, hairdressing and bridal and party make up for free . She started teaching English to the girls, and now she is teaching them computer too. The ager range of her students in from 3 years to 60 years, many girls who left their education without completing it at any time , due to any reasons she convince them to start studies again, she provides them stationery and books and teaching.
So from the year 1997 till now she had taught to 500 girls and empowered around 100 women by teaching them skills.
Her students are the Nurses, teachers, and educated moms and skilled women.
In 2012 she started writing blogs on women’s issues for the and safeworldforwomen
Until 2012 there was no one to give her a financial support, so in 1999 she started teaching in a school for the salary of $06 a month, in 2000 at the age of 16 she started working in a telecom franchise as a Receptionist, and in 2008 she joined a Telecom Company as an Assistant Manager. To fulfill the expenditures of her Centers
However since 2012 she is getting a little help from her Facebook friends from the overseas, but it is not on regular bases,
She is still doing a job on the same place, from 9: AM to 4: PM seven days a week, She teaches in the Academy from 4: 20 PM to 5: PM( she has 8 volunteers who are her students too, so they teach in the academy because she can give only 40 minutes a day) , then from 5: PM to 6:30: PM she teaches English to the girls, from 6:30 PM to 7:20PM she teaches computer to her girls,
And after eating her Dinner from 8: PM till 11: PM she works on her Facebook page, Zephaniah free education at Face book, she admin the page at Facebook. World Wide Women and she write blogs, and then she study as well because she has to prepare lessons for her students.
She arranges Theatrical dramas for the community to give them awareness on our social issues.
During last 16 years I never saw her taking an off from work, she never attend any family function, she never went on vacation, she is just working like a machine, It is not easy to work on girls education and empowerment in Pakistan. She also has threats, but she never stops.
She says only education will change our world, she says, she is educating girls to safe the future of our world.
She is known as Sister Zeph, not only from our own village the ‘’Aroop Mod’’ But from the other villages girls are coming to join Zephaniah free Education.
We are worried for her security but she is not scared of anything, because in her point of view, if we have to be scared of anything, that is illiteracy and ignorance.
I think she is the most deserving person on the earth to be a CNN hero of year 2014, I am not saying this ,because she is my sister, But I am saying this because she is a hidden Malala Yousaf Zai of Pakistan, and world must know about her, World must know that , how great people we have in our surrounding.



Lea's picture

Thank you, Ayesh, for writing

Thank you, Ayesh, for writing such a wonderful piece that truly captures who Rifat is and the aboslutely incredible and inspiring work that she does. I completely agree with you that she is entirely deserving of the CNN Hero of the Year. She is the most hardworking, dedicated, driven, passionate, caring person that I have ever met.
Thank you, Ayesh for reminding us about all the important and amazing work that she does and for showing such love and respect to your sister. You, too, are doing an amazing thing in spreading her story to the world!

Anne Marie Seery's picture

This is such a wonderful

This is such a wonderful account of the fabulous determination of dear Zeph. Her compassion for her students will always be strong and Zeph will succeed in her support of her village. I have been very proud of Zeph's courage and commitment to the work she does, and her love never waivers. Thankyou for writing such a fantastic and touching blog in honour of your magnificent and empowered sister ♥

trucker1's picture

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