Bedari has been running a program ‘Girls’ Post Primary Level Education’ since 2009 with financial support from Girls Education International in district Chakwal of Pakistan. It runs in phases of 5 years, and first was completed in March 2014, while second phase was started in April 2014, and would continue till 2019.
In the first phase, Bedari and Girls Education International sent 30 girls from two villages to secondary school, while in the 2nd phase we are supporting over 100 girls from 4 villages. As the quality of education is not very good at public schools, the two organizations decided to complement their education by adding self-growth sessions, and exposure visits for the girls. Bedari organized first ever exposure visit for the girls in December 2015.
Preparations started with consultations with the girls, their parents, and the members of Community Based Organizations also known as Child Protection Committees in the target communities. Many parents were reluctant to send their girls out. Most of the girls had never gone out of their own village, and they had serious reservations.
Bedari took various steps to allay their fears. Bedari assured them that they would be accompanied by Bedari female staff, and the Child Protection Committees (from each community) volunteered to send two members (one male, one female) from each committee on the trip as chaperons. This helped a lot in addressing parents’ reservations. As most of the parents agreed, we asked them to talk to the remaining parents, and convince them to allow their daughters to go on this trip, as we did not want to leave any girl out.
Finally, written permissions for all the girls were secured. The next question was where to take them. After long discussions, girls from three villages decided to go to Khewra Salt Mines, Katas Raj Temples, and Kallar Kahar (all three situated close to one another and could be visited in one day trip), while the girls from 4th village agreed on visiting Rohtas Fort. Hence, Bedari arranged two trips. The second trip was held on December 26, 2015. There were 30 girls, 2 members of Child Protection Committee, and 2 volunteers, and 2 members of Bedari staff in this trip. All the girls belonged to village Dharyala Kahoon.
It was a whole new experience for the girls as well as the chaperons, volunteers, and even the Bedari staff. Though Bedari staff had already seen these places, but it was a new experience to take out so many girls to such places. For others, it was a first of its kind experience, as they had never ventured out of their villages. Their feedback and impressions are shared below.
It was a liberating experience for them. They learnt how to arrange such visits, and what measures to take to ensure safety, as they were part of the planning, and they were given minor responsibilities during the trips.
It was for the first time that most of the girls had no male relative (brother, father, uncle) to supervise them. It was for the first time that they could jump, play, and scream aloud with no one to admonish them for such acts. It enhanced their confidence, and of course increased their knowledge about their history, their district, and the places around them. They all enjoyed it, loved it, and wanted us to promise to arrange more trips in future.
At the end of the trips, all the participants would gather at a pre-decided place, and share their feelings, comments, and feedback. Following are quotes from some of the participants.
Impressions of the Girls
Iqra Tasawar said:
It was nearly impossible to get permission from my parents. My mother was so worried. She said if anything untoward happens, they would not be able to face the community. Anyhow, when they found that Uncle Tanveer, and Aunt Riffat would be going with us, they agreed.
Jabeen Afsar said:
At the entrance of the Salt Mines, I saw people purchasing tickets. I had no money in my pocket. I was afraid that I would not be able to go inside, but then you people (Bedari staff) bought tickets for us all. I can never thank you enough. It would not have been possible for us to continue our education without your support.
Rida Noor said:
I have enjoyed the most today. It was the best day of my life. I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to go out again. Thank you Bedari!
Masooma Arshad said:
My brother had gone on a trip to Islamabad, and he told me so many stories when he came back. I wished I could go too. Today I am so happy; I would go back and tell him so many stories. The best part of the trip was the travel. We sang so many songs, we sang so loud. It was such a liberating experience.
Uzma Khatoon said:
At home, we are not allowed to speak loud let alone laugh out loud. There are too many restrictions. Today, there were no such restrictions. We screamed out loud, and then as if we could not believe we could scream, we would scream out loud again. It gave us strength. We can do anything.
Sonia Perveen said:
I am both sad and happy at the same time. I am happy because I could come out so far from my home. I could see such wonderful places. I am sad for my mother who never had such opportunity. I wish Bedari would arrange such a trip for our mothers as well. (Tears swelled in her eyes).
Impressions of the CPC Members
The members of Child Protection Committees also shared their feelings. Following are their views:
Riffat Bibi (Village Thirchak)
I have never been so happy in my entire life (42 years). I am Lady Health Worker, and have gone out of my home so many times due to my work. But I have spent my entire life in burqa (Veil). Girls from my village are all wearing scarfs or veils, but today they could breathe on their own. They had a chance to speak loud, play around, and sing. When I saw them jumping around, playing around, I felt so good; it rejuvenated me. I felt young again. Women and girls in our village can’t speak loud, they can’t laugh out loud.
Impressions of Bedari Officer
Hameeda Nasir (In Charge of the Exposure Visits)
I personally had visited these places before, but taking these young girls out was a very different experience. I saw how they changed during the day. They were quiet in the morning, and a little anxious. However, with the passage of time they started talking, and then shouting, and then singing songs. As they roamed about at different places, they gained more confidence.