I founded the Lincoln School System to address gender inequity in Pakistan because I firmly believe that we cannot build a peaceful and prosperous future without giving girls access to affordable, high quality education.
Take Fatima. As the daughter of a divorced mother, she faced a difficult future in the city of Lahore. Her mother had no choice but to put her in a free religious madrassa. Fatima would have grown up without any employable skills and would have been among the 60 million young Pakistani women unable to write their own names.
Pakistan is the sixth-most populated country in the world and is consistently ranked among the least gender equitable nations. Women make up less than 25 percent its workforce and we consistently show the least progress in the region when it comes to educating low-income girls. Nearly 60 percent of Pakistani women are illiterate. We don’t have a mandatory number years of education for girls; there are no legal consequences for parents who don’t send their daughters to school.
Wealthy families in Pakistan have great choices when it comes to education, but 39 percent of households can barely make ends meet. If a father of six earns only $125 per month, he isn’t going to invest in the education of his daughters. Instead, he is much likelier to marry them off at an early age and focus on educating his sons.
At the school I started, tuition for boys is higher than for girls, which allows us to build a scholarship pool for young women. Thanks to this, Lincoln Schools System could offer Fatima—and other girls like her—a full academic scholarship, money for books, uniforms, and other school items, as well as a comprehensive English literacy curriculum, confidence-building programs, and career advice. With passion in her heart and the drive to succeed, Fatima achieved amazing academic success.
During the last career workshop we held at our school, Fatima expressed interest in becoming a doctor. Once employed, she will be able to provide for herself and is less likely to get married at a young age. For only $25 a month, she has gained agency over her life.
There are a lot of other Fatimas out there, and we hope to take our school to all parts of Pakistan to empower young women and further their educational, economic, and entrepreneurial potential.
As a Seed, I believe in the power that each of us has to change our societies from within. The Lincoln School System alone will not be able to solve all of our problems, but we can assure that more girls get a seat at the table and control over their lives.
“Conflict is the only byproduct when half of a country’s population is neglected and denied opportunities. A good education will give women skills through which they will transform Pakistan’s society in unimaginable ways.”