1000 Pakistani girls at youth rally to demand their right to an education

UN special envoy Gordon Brown and other dignitaries attend the rally

One thousand girls and young women took part in a rally to demand that Pakistan takes action to deliver education for all.

The gathering took place across the street from a national education conference in Islamabad convened by Prime Minister Narwar Sharif and Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, and attended by all federal and provincial ministers of education.

The rally by girls and young women was held at the Jinnah Convention Centre. They demanded their right to an education in the presence of Mr Brown, the Governor of Punjab Muhammad Sarwar, the Federal Minister of Education Muhammad Baligh ur Rehman, Global Partnership for Education CEO Alice Albright and the UN Country team. 

Ruqyia, a young woman who is at college, gave a speech at the rally. She has been a longstanding champion of education – since grade nine, she has worked with a group of friends to put aside a tenth of their pocket money aside to pay the school fees for seven young girls.

Ruqyia told the gathering: “We believe that one day, in the hands of young girls, instead of soot from the oven we’ll find ink from a pen.

“We believe that one day, in the arms of an 18-year-old, instead of a wailing baby, we’ll find projects and maps for a better future.

The Jinnah Convention Centre was packed for the rally

“We believe that one day our mothers, our sisters and our daughters will walk tall and proud in the streets of a safe Pakistan where no man will dare look at them. They will be armed with books and pens!

“We believe that one day the women of my nation will rise.”

Mr Brown urged the girls to continue to march on for the right to education and announced that as part of the delegation to Pakistan, the global community will continue a $1billion-plus investment over the next several years as the government ramps up its domestic spending to four per cent of gross domestic product.

He said: “The aim is not just to get children into school but also to ensure learning opportunities for more than 55 million people over the age of 10 who are illiterate in Pakistan.

“The large expansion of learning through the government’s investment will help to support opportunity for the Pakistani people.”

Also in the crowd were 20 young people who are members of the new A World at School Youth Ambassadors Programme.

Recruited by Baela Jamil, these young women and men are the first members of a growing cohort of Pakistani campaigners joining more than 500 youth campaigners globally

Over the coming weeks, A World at School will profile the young women who made speeches at the rally, including audio and video clips.

You can learn more about the education challenges in Pakistan in our Explore channel.