The youngest of four sisters, 22-year-old Mehvish lives with her father in a rural area near Layyahin Punjab province.Her mother, who sadly passed away in 2017, ensured that all her daughters had a good education. Yet, Mehvish, who has a degree in Commerce, explains that this is no guarantee of work: “Women are teased by men and face accusations if we go out of the house. People question the need for girls’ education and believe women should stay at home. They restrict girls from going to places where they might come into contact with men.”Influenced by these norms, Mehvish’s father refused to allow her to work–even though this meant they lived in poverty.
Leading by example
Everything changed when Mehvish’s cousin introduced her to the EYW project–which ultimately gave her the confidence to take a stand. “I attended trainings on life skills, communication, women’s rights and more. Eventually, I persuaded my father to let me teach at a local school.” This was a huge breakthrough.
And when the Covid-19 lockdown meant she was suddenly jobless again, Mehvish set up a home-based tuck shop, using her own savings and support from EYW. She also started home tuition for schoolchildren, enabling her to provide for herself and her father throughout the pandemic.
“I have learned how to deal with people who spread rumours,” she reflects. “I want to become the best version of myself and set an example for others. I want to inspire my community to let young women pursue their dreams, and eliminate the stigma that limits women’s potential.” This approach is working. Mehvish mentions a friend who wanted to teach but faced opposition at home. “I told her, ‘If my father can trust me to teach at a school, so can yours. You need to use my example to convince your family.’” Her friend did so, and finally got permission to apply. Mehvish has even convinced her uncle –who once tried to stop her attending the EWY training –to let his daughters start a home-based tailoring business. Her message to all parents is to “Trust your daughters. Only then will they be able to make you proud.”