Ayesha’s Journey of Change

Chapter 1: Change Came Knocking

There was a knock on their door.

Morning light filtered inside as Ayesha’s father pulled the door open for a kind-faced visitor. This was the first time Ayesha met Ms. Zeenat, a teacher at the nearby The Citizens Foundation (TCF) Campus; her visit was to encourage Ayesha’s parents to enroll their children at TCF. The more she talked of the school, the more Ayesha knew this was where she was supposed to be.

Ayesha grew up in a village called Bhai Pheru, deep in the heart of rural Punjab. Set against the backdrop of rolling green plains, her piece of land, even through her little-girl eyes, seemed like it was isolated from the rest of the world. Even then, she knew she wanted to cross Bhai Pheru’s boundaries and go out into the wide world beyond.

Ayesha’s parents both had to work hard to support their family but with limited opportunities, they struggled in this effort. Her father would take his donkey-cart out of the home and try to find work as a laborer. Ayesha’s mother – in addition to taking care of the home and family – would pick up occasional house-cleaning jobs.

Ayesha knew she had to find a way to get into that TCF School. With few resources at her disposal, Ayesha’s only ally was hard work. She eventually passed the admissions test and would begin the new school year at TCF as a student in Grade 3. This set in motion Ayesha’s longstanding and richly rewarding relationship with TCF.

Embark on Ayesha’s journey of determination through captivating illustrations. Each chapter unfolds real-life scenarios depicted in vibrant colors. Stay tuned as we unveil the true essence of her story.

Chapter 2: The Call

The community in Bhai Pheru held strong notions about what a girl’s future should look like: early marriage, children, and housework. These three things combined made a respectable woman in their community.

Ayesha, however, had ideas of her own. Her mother would time and again tell her “I don’t want your life to be like my life, I want you to go out in the world and stand on your own two feet.” Ayesha took her mother’s advice to heart and decided that come what may, she would be the captain of her own ship.

Her years at TCF flew past. Her teachers and principals helped Ayesha grow and learn; believing in her potential, they encouraged her to apply to multiple universities once she left.

There was only one phone in her family. When the admissions for universities opened Ayesha used that family phone to send in her applications.

Every time the phone rang, and it rang many times during the day, Ayesha’s heart would skip a beat. So, when the call from LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) came, Ayesha was sitting with her parents and siblings.

“I got accepted at one of the best universities in Pakistan” she whispered.

Her family suddenly burst into cries of joy!

“You have made us very proud today!” her father told her. Her mother hugged her and cried. Her family’s response gave her heart, she had expected resistance, even from her loving parents but they were as overcome by joy as she was.

“But Chaudhary Sahab will never let her go,” came her brother’s voice amidst the celebration.

Chapter 3: The Chaudhary Sahab

As the sun dipped in a cloudy sky, Ayesha, accompanied by her father and grandfather, entered Chaudhary Sahab’s house. They found him sitting on a charpoy (bed), in the midst of a great expanse of tiled flooring.

They approached and made their case.

If Chaudhary Sahab said no to her leaving their village for LUMS, Ayesha knew there was nothing else she could do. It had taken all her willpower to overcome her extended family’s resistance, Chaudhary Sahab’s rejection of her plea would break her spirit.

“No girl has ever stepped out of the boundary of this village. What makes you think she will?” Chaudhary Sahab asked her father.

Her father motioned Ayesha to show him the paper she was clutching to her chest. It was her admission offer from LUMS.

“What guarantee do I have that your girl will remain respectful of our traditions away from home?”

“Chaudhary Sahab, if my daughter does anything wrong, my life is yours.”, Ayesha’s father replied.

Ayesha shuffled her feet in anticipation.

“She may go, this letter here is proof of her intelligence, she may go because I trust that intelligence will only ever bring honor to this village.” he finally said.

Ayesha could hardly believe what she just heard; it was finally happening! She was going to LUMS!

Chapter 4: A Dream Fulfilled

Ayesha faces a hall teeming with people, her presentation went as planned. Smiling to herself she makes her way back to her seat. After the initial challenging months, Ayesha is gradually finding a sense of belonging at LUMS.

Ayesha is clear-headed and empowered. She knows all her dreams are possible with hard work, determination, and, above all, a belief in herself and the power of education.

Ayesha talks passionately about running her own business once she graduates.

“A business of my own feels like the best way to go forward. I can take my own decisions, choose my own hours – all of this seems important to me. I love fashion, so I am going to design clothes for women.”

Ayesha was the first girl in her village to pursue a degree outside its walls. Her resilience has encouraged other girls to pursue their own dreams of education.

“The doors to education were once shut to the girls in my village. It’s wonderful to see how that has changed, so many girls are now passing through those doors. Because of education, positive change has truly begun in our small community.”

Ayesha is now in her final semester at LUMS. As she looks ahead, her life seems filled with possibilities, and her story becomes a symbol of resilience; showcasing the enduring effect of empowerment through education.

On this International Day of Education, we invite you to join us in supporting girls like Ayesha who are dreaming of access to quality education. Together, let’s make it possible for them to attend school.