London, 12 March, 2017
Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told a packed hall of overseas Pakistanis in London that education was a great challenge in Pakistan but it was also an opportunity of our time.
Speaking at the Annual Gala Dinner celebrating the ten year anniversary of the UK chapter of DIL (Developments in Literacy) a non-profit that is educating thousands of underprivileged children, Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN said that the right to education is enshrined in the country's Constitution but that provision awaits to be fully implemented. Girls, she said, still did not have equal access to education, which is a Constitutional obligation and equally an obligation of our faith and our spiritual traditions.
The event titled, “Unlocking the Future of Our Stars” was organized by The Trustees and Benefit Committee of DIL at the prestigious venue of Madame Tussauds museum.
Ambassador Lodhi said that the role of women was stressed in the clearest of terms by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He famously said, that "No nation can rise to the height of glory unless its women are side by side with men."
This, she said, was reason enough to fight for girls' education. “To campaign for education for every girl was to fight for the country's future”, she said and added that the country cannot move forward if half its population is held back.
She said there is no shortage of hunger for knowledge and education for girls by their parents. “Parents and daughters, all across the country, are desperate to empower themselves, their families and their communities by the light of education. Parents and their girls walk for miles to get to a school. They brave poor teachers. They brave the extreme cold and the extreme heat. They will go to any lengths to get access to a school”, she added.
As for the least privileged parents and girls, Ambassador Lodhi said, they have shown over and over again that they walk the talk and that they have taken bullets for their right to be educated.
Ambassador Lodhi told the audience that this was epitomized by Pakistan's Nobel Peace Laureate, Malala Yusufzai, who exposed the moral crisis of girls’ education.
“She took a bullet as a symbol of the non-negotiable right to education and sent the most powerful signal that this is an urgent need for every girl and for all times”.
The Pakistani envoy praised the Government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for making progress in this regard as the latest statistics showed that the number of out of school children had fallen by three million in the past three years.
Another step taken by the government that inspired hope was that in January this year the Prime Minister took a pledge to give math and science education the attention it clearly merits. “The case of educating girls due to the returns received was also emphasized”, she added.
Ambassador Lodhi said the challenge was a big one and of course much more needs to be done especially as 22 million children of school going age still did not have access to a school.
She paid rich tributes to the pioneers and supporters of DIL whom she described as “being ahead of the game” by taking education to the most marginalized children and youth and training local teachers to build community resilience.
DIL and similar non-profits should pat themselves on the back, she said, for inspiring conversations around education, including in the media, conversations that have helped to keep the issue high on the public agenda.