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Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Man with a Vision Educates a Village

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you. ~Mother Teresa

This quote underlies the actions of Mr. Ghulam Murtaza of Pakistan, who decided to reach out and make a difference for his village. Mr. Murtaza lived in Lahore for 20 years, working in the health care sector. When he returned to his village after retirement, he was struck by the challenges his people faced. He decided to continue working at a grassroots level to improve the lives of those in his immediate community.

Initially, Mr. Murtaza set out to alleviate the workload of the women in his village who had to walk for miles to retrieve water on a daily basis. Given the distance and terrain of this journey, this essential task would only come to wear the women down. Mr. Murtaza envisioned a solution and ultimately realized his goal with the completion of the community’s first well. Can you imagine the relief – physical, mental and emotional – for the women of this village!

After this project, Mr. Murtaza pioneered for girls’ education. He was aware of the positive impact of education on families and the community at large. He sought assistance from GEI’s local NGO partner, Bedari who contacted us about initiating a scholarship program for girls in this region. Once the funding was secured, Bedari relied upon Mr. Murtaza to identify the girls that could benefit from this opportunity. Initially, the idea of the girls going to school wasn’t received well. Girls at home are a valuable asset to the families – they work in the fields and help their mothers around the house. However, when Mr. Murtaza presented the educational opportunities as scholarships for only the brightest and most successful primary school children, the villagers saw this as an honor and a privilege. They soon had 21 girls enrolled in the program.

Mr. Murtaza believed in the long term impact of educating these girls, even at the expense of losing the girls’ help around the house for a few years. Many girls who don’t get the chance at secondary school education marry by the age of 13 or 14 and have their own families to support at a very early age. In addition, they will be less likely to support educational opportunities for their own daughters. With this education, these girls will be more likely to marry later, have smaller families, support their children in school and possibly explore other financial opportunities for themselves, such as further education or running a small business.

A nearby village heard about the program and requested consideration for their daughters. Nine girls from this village were awarded scholarships, bringing the total of girls supported by Bedari and Girls Education International in this region to 30.

Another obstacle to girls’ education in this region is the inadequacy of the schools for girls in these villages as compared to those for boys. For this reason, part of the funding for this program covers transportation costs to offer pick-up and drop-off service for the girls. This allows them to travel by van from the villages to Buchal Kalan, a government-run High School. The program also includes uniforms, shoes, books and other school supplies the girls need to be successful in their education.

Thanks to a combination of Mr. Murtaza’s vision, the partnership between Bedari and Girls Education International and the continued support of individuals around the world who contribute to support our programs, these two villages will have 30 additional educated families.

If you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).
-Ghanaian scholar Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey (1875-1927)

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