My name is Sijil Abaid Ullah, and I often wonder whether a society in which basic human rights are enjoyed only by a lucky few has any right to call itself a community. I believe some fundamental rights are so important that access to them is a societal necessity. The question of how that can be achieved is what I’ve pondered throughout my life.
I was fortunate enough to belong to a supportive and encouraging family, and I had the privilege of enjoying every facility and every opportunity they could offer me. This included an education from Beacon House, one of the most prestigious private institutes in the country. Throughout my life, however, I kept myself aware of my privilege.
I would always think about the people around me who were unable to bring ease to their life, having to choose between an education and an empty stomach.
Seeing people starving and near to death makes me feel ashamed of having a cozy bed to sleep on, of my life of luxury and enjoyment. For a long time, a battle between my mind and my heart waged inside of me.
As much as I tried to convince myself I was not responsible for the suffering of the poor, I felt torn by seeing so much suffering all around me. This conflict disturbed my very soul, until at last my heart won. I pursued and received a position with the Dewar-e-Ehsas Foundation to play my part for these needy people.
I joined as the Vice Head of the Locations Team. Like most parents in our society, my mother feared for my safety and was not happy with my decision to work in impoverished communities. But whenever we distributed food in our ration drives, the smiles on the faces of those communities made it worth it. They encouraged me to stand for them in the face of my parents and the rest of society.
I wanted to show everyone that humanity hasn’t died yet.
I wanted to answer the children, whose eyes twinkled as they asked why they had less to live on than everyone else. I wanted to tell them that Allah has not left them on their own, as there are still some hearts who feel their pain all around them. That there are people whose nights are spent thinking about how to send them to school, how to place in their empty, outstretched hands books, and wisdom, and knowledge, and dreams. I, along with my team, have only one mission: we will not let humanity die. We will not let hope for good leave society.
We will not let the poor think that we have forgotten them.
To bring betterment to the lower classes, I know that providing them with food is not enough. We need to equip them to form their own identities, so that they can earn every facility in life and preserve their own rights. And for this, the only tunnel we can bring them to is that of an education.
Once children are educated, they know how to be participating members of society, earning their own keep and standing. Education can put them on their own two feet in this sprinting society of ours. Our ultimate goal is to level the playing field, so that no one has to look to others for their basic needs.
But this, of course, is a very lofty goal. The process of achieving it will be long and arduous, and there are harsh limitations based on gender that will need to be overcome. Sadly, educating a woman is a joke for many in the lower class.
I dream of making our people realize that educating one woman is educating a whole generation. But this will take time.
Patience and firmness will bear fruits of our efforts, and I am glad that I have at least stepped into the arena of social change. I hope to see many others joining hands with us in our efforts to help the people society has discarded. I want us, the youth, to fulfill our potential as the digital generation and use these new tools and platforms to reach out to the souls who need us most.
A happy life should be achievable for every single soul in the universe. It is our responsibility to help our communities become more equitable. This is what our religion has taught us, and insha’Allah we will be successful.
From Afsana: To be part of a community is to be aware of people’s needs. Sijil’s story is a call to action, reminding us of our responsibilities towards each other. It’s only together that we can bring about real change, and a society that treats every single one of our children equitably. Afsana hopes to be part of the tide that will sweep away the barriers facing women and girls in our society. We hope you will join us on our journey.
Written by Hafsa Mushtaq
Edited by Adil Rahim Hyder and Sarah Khan