By: Sidrah Roghay
Karachi: While Anum Fatima was spending the summer at Harvard, the girls in Ismail Goth who she taught were left without a teacher.
“There is no college near our house and parents don’t want to send their girls too far off. They have no option, but to enrol them privately. I teach them,” said Fatima.
Fatima is the perfect example of how education can become an equaliser in the society. Born in a family of seven, she was never well-to-do, but when she entered a school run by The Citizen Foundation (TCF), she realised that the sky truly is the limit.
After finishing school, she received a scholarship to attend the Institute of Business Management (IoBM), first for her Bachelor’s and then her Master’s. And when she applied for a US State Department programme for women, she was selected for spending three months at the Harvard University.
“It was an advanced learning programme for English. There were 15 students from all over the world. I topped my class and received a certificate, and a book signed by the Dean,” she said.
The three-month long trip to the US opened new avenues for her. She met a classmate of Benazir Bhutto, she spoke at the state department and interned at a US-based think tank.
“People in the West think that girls in Pakistan are not allowed to study. In all of the presentations I made and all the people I talked to, I told them that parents wanted their girls to study, but it was the lack of resources and awareness that held them back.”
They were also interested about knowing the state of education in Pakistan. Fatima patiently explained to them the public-private divide, and how the civil society was sometimes able to bridge the gap. She attended a fundraiser for the TCF. “I met a lot of Pakistani Americans. They were very interested in where I come from. What problems my community faces. With one of them I am currently working on a micro-finance project for Ismail Goth.”
Museums particularly interested her, and when she came to Boston she visited many. In Washington while she interned, she stayed with a host family. “Sakiba aunty had three daughters, and she treated me like her fourth.”
When Fatima returned home, her parents threw her a party. Relatives flocked her house. So did the neighbours. And one of them came up to her, and said: “I wish my daughter grows up to become like you.”
Back at the IoBM, she is famous. Most people remember her as the “girl who made it to Harvard”. But the modest girl has only one advice for all of them: “Work hard and be sincere to what you do. Because then, Allah opens avenues for you.”