The right to education is a universal entitlement duly recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as one of the most basic of human rights. However, that is not the case for Humaira Bachal, the 25-year-old activist from Pakistan who risks her life everyday just by reminding her fellow countrymen the importance of education regardless of gender. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia speaks with the resilient education activist to know more about her story and the trials she faced.
Young Humaira’s path in life was set in stone the moment she made a big decision at an early age. “Our society is surrounded by distinct problems such as violence, abuse, corruption, patriarchy and many other intolerable acts. When a mother gave her young child expired medicine which proved to be fatal and a pregnant lady in labour was administered painkillers not meant for humans, I saw the ugly face of illiteracy. When I was in 6th grade, I decided something has to be done to correct this.”
Since then, Humaira Bachal has never looked back. She put herself through secondary school against her father’s will by hiding it from him for many years. After succeeding through numerous other unimaginable obstacles, she has managed to become the woman that she is today – one of the foremost education activists in the world. “When I began to educate the girls of my community, many of my people were against it and tried to stop me. They vilified me, threw stones at me, insulted my parents and they even tried to banish me and my parents from Moach Goth, where I live. The path was difficult but we neither stopped nor lost our courage.”
Her patience and determination proved to be valuable as the hatred harboured by the people in her community did not last long. Soon after seeing the noble cause behind Humaira’s actions, they became one of her main supporters, a stark contrast from being the fiercest opponents of her ideas initially.
Understanding Humaira’s passion and fervour for literacy, it should come as no surprise learning that Humaira and her team have taught more than 300 students for almost 6 years without any external funding. This feat however could not have been achieved without the support of her strong team. “I believe that the power of a leader is her team because only a leader with a team can accomplish a mission, not just a single individual. He or she can take a stand but to accomplish things, assistance is needed,” admits the team player.
The future for Humaira’s cause may be ambivalent but one thing is certain – she won’t stop fighting, just like her role model. Her mother was the only one who took the stand to educate her daughter, chopping wood, sewing clothes and endure beatings just to send her child to school. And Humaira is her mother’s daughter after all.