A fortunate few amongst us are born with kind fates. Thanks to my parents, I was one of those few. Quetta, a city of fruit gardens, grows just as many populations as it does crops. This is a city with a huge variety of people, and with that comes many belief systems. In the society I happened to be born in, early marriages are the norm for girls.
Most of the people in my community preferred marriage over education, but, fortunately for me, my parents sided with the latter.
Five of my elder sisters have earned Master's degrees and are already independent, and my parents are educating me to follow their example. My name is Aytal Fatima, and I am an A-Level student and Team Lead Ambassador in the Dewar-e-Ehsas foundation.
Miss Aytal Fatima of Dewar-e-Ehsas
I intend to pursue a BS Psychology degree at the university level, but this has formed yet another hurdle since society wants me to carry babies in lieu of books and pens. But I am steadfast and thankfully my parents are here to back me in all the decisions I make for myself. Throughout my life, I have always tried to reach out to the depressed souls around me and console them as adeptly as I can. This pushes me to opt for a degree in psychology, yet there is another challenge for me to meet. There is a stigma around having a psychologist for one’s mental health in Pakistan, and I want to change that.
I want to normalize visits to psychologists and promote mental health awareness for people from all walks of life.
Something I consider a major personal achievement has been my relationship with Islam, which I’ve developed over the last few years. From abandoning all forms of glamour in my life to donning a Hijab, my life has changed completely, and I love how it has. The changes I’ve made to my life have attracted only good things, and my transformation has inspired a lot of the people around me to improve their own lifestyles. I believe we were all born with love for our Creator in our hearts, that spirituality is a part of the essence of all human beings. As I grow older, I am confronted by this love more and more frequently.
In these later years of my life, I have developed another kind of love. This comprises a devotion to helping the underprivileged. Driven by this, I joined Dewar-e-Ehsas and began serving humanity. Sadly, an education is a privilege in our country, and I try my best to utilize this privilege of mine and spread it to those who do not have it. However, I firmly believe education is a fundamental right, compulsory for all.
As a Team Lead Ambassador in Dewar-e-Ehsas, I see myself as an aid to underprivileged communities deprived of their basic human rights.
Of course, we’ve had to face a lot of challenges, and a lot of change is necessary. If I were part of the national government, I would work to challenge existing norms in our country. Our society is always pointing fingers towards women, as Khalid Hosseini has said. Instead of condemning, or even educating the men who commit crimes, we often find fault with the women who are themselves the victims. Here, women are kept under unbreakable ceilings, pressure and scrutiny often ensuring that their innocence is never proved and they are never served justice, even after their deaths.
In a year or two, I’ll be a certified professional, and I’ll be able to take a stand for all these women deprived of peace of mind.
We have to bring the change ourselves. We, Generation-Z, are responsible for providing a safe and literate future to our next generation. That’s a lot of responsibility upon our shoulders, and I’ve certainly felt it. I have worked hard to counter the arguments posed by my society and to make my parents proud of me, but in the struggle I often find myself faced with depression. It is that devouring hopelessness, that enveloping despair, that I want to stop from reaching those that will follow me. I want the girls of my country to hope again.
From Afsana: Aytal's story reminds us of the reality that education is a privilege for many in Pakistan society. From Aytal, we learn of the need to guarantee this privilege for many, the importance of hope, and the long process of change. In the same spirit, Afsana will continue to strive for a level playing field for the educational rights of Pakistani women. If you have a story to share, please contact us and become a beacon of hope for countless girls looking for a way out of the dark.
Written By Arooj Saghir
Edited By Adil Rahim Hyder