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This is interview with an illiterate girl by Hassan, with my questions. I was so moved by it we started a literacy program. Currently 5 girls and 2 boys–illiterate, are learning to read, write, and count in Peshawar. Their teacher is an 18-year old college student who teaches them in his home (I met him via email through my book research on global youth). This is in line with “Three Cups of Tea“–if you know Greg Mortenson‘s work–that the best way to have peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan is to teach the kids. I love that it’s a co-ed school and the project has no administrative costs. Hassan teaches them in his home. Our expenses are the books, his salary of $10 for 2 hours 6 days a week, and rickshaw costs to bring the villagers into town. There is no school in the village because of the flood and even before it there was no school for girls. Here is a photo (keep scrolling down) and Hassan’s interview with a village girl. It’s a good thing to read to kids if they complain about school work. If you’d like you would like to sponsor a child, it’s a tax write off, check to North Valley Community Foundation. in the subject, Open Doors Literacy Project, and mail to NVCF, 3120 Cohasset Rd, Suite 8, Chico, CA 95973.
My name is Mashal. I am 18 years old and I belong to Tehkal [village]. I have 8 siblings including 7 sisters and 1 brother. 2 of my sisters are married. We are very poor. My parents had no education. They didn’t go to school or anything which they regret. My father earns Rs.50 a day which is 0.60$ a day and that is when he works from day to night. This is very less for us. In my whole day, I am so busy in the household chores and activities that I don’t even get a single moment for me to spend free. Still, by chance, if I get any, I sit with my sisters and talk. Lay down in bed and do nothing.

Q2: How is your generation different from your parents’?

Ans: Actually our thoughts don’t match. They always stop me and tell me to do a specific thing in a specific way but I get annoyed and I try to make them understand that I know my work better and I can do it. My uncles(mother’s brothers) are very strict and they try to rule us. They don’t let us go out and try to make sure we stay at home. It’s a small village so for girls to go out very often is not appropriate. Small issues can lead to disasters.

Q3: What are the major problem facing humans today?

Ans: For me, the biggest problem that humans are facing today is poverty. Poor people have no money, no food, no happiness. They can do crimes for money. I’d like to give an example from my life here. Like my very own cousin also was involved in a house robbery that lead him to jail because he would look at his master’s kids who had everything! Cars, cellphones, money, new clothes, everything! This made my cousin do robbery despite the fact that he knew it’s wrong but he couldn’t control his personal desires and went on doing it. He’s in jail today as well and it’s been 3 years now. He’s young and strong and was the sole earner of the family. His family is having a very hard time living these days. It shouldn’t be this way. I think despite of chasing the money, Government should do enough things for the poor on yearly basis so that we don’t lead to do such crimes.

Q4: What would you do to solve this problem if you had power?

Ans: If I had power, in the other words, if I had money, I will buy food, clothes, shoes and everything for my fellow poor. I will make sure the kids go to school and get good education. I wish Allah gives me enough money so that I help the poor in the whole world. There are very poor people in the world. I have seen very difficult times.

How would your life be different if you were born a boy and how you would like your future to be the same or different from her mother’s?

Ans: If I was a boy, that could have settled everything for me. I would have done everything. I would go out with friends, stay outside, spend time with my buddies, play cricket, have fun, make long distance travels, make phone calls with friends. It would have been awesome. I wouldn’t just stay home, do the household chores everyday, listen to my parents complain about food, work, money, etc. I would get the most attention in the house and people would love. Being a boy is very cool.

I want my future to be exactly like my mother’s. I love her and respect her so much. She gave me good manners. Today, no one can say that I am a bad girl. It’s because of my mother. She brought me up well and that’s why I adore her. So I’d grow up to be like her and take care of our family and live happily.

Q5: What kind of media do you use (radio, TV, Internet, cell phone?)

Ans: We don’t have a TV or computer in the house. We don’t have internet. We just have one cell phone in the whole house. I don’t even know how to use it. I just know how to pick up a call by pressing the green button and turn the cell off my pressing and holding the red button. I cannot even send a message. We are not too much into media. We can’t afford too much electricity and that’s why we can’t use it.

Q6: How do you think life would be different if you grew up in a city like Peshawar?

Ans: If I ended up growing in Peshawar, I’d have all the facilities in the world. Life would have been much better. I could easily go out, go to school, have friends and enjoy with them. Won’t worry about doing too much work and listen to my parents complain about food and work. It really annoys me.

Q7: Tell us about the quality of your schooling.

Ans: I never went to school. I don’t know how to read or write. I didn’t even study Quran. Life is meaningless to me.

Q8: What would you like in a marriage partner? Will your parents arrange your marriage?

Ans: I would like my marriage partner to keep me happy, don’t scold me, agree with what I say, respect my thoughts, my mother-in-law to love me and take care of me. I just want both families to get along well and spend a happy life. I want to take some rest and don’t want more miseries in the world. I want him to be understanding and understand me, my emotions. That’s all !

Yes, my marriage is arranged. My engagement wad done last year after Ramadan and Eid. I get married in the next 6 months. The name of my fiancé is Yousaf. I don’t even know how old he is. I just saw him once and that was when his family came to ask for me. I talked to him thrice on phone but never in person. That’s all the interaction I had with him. But my parents did ask me before saying yes and I had no other option than saying yes so I am happy the way life is. Yousaf’s family wants gold and expensive clothes in the marriage. My parents make Rs.50 a day. We are living off so difficultly. How can we even think of gold? Let’s hope Yousaf understands the situation and make his parents understand and compromise.

And the book questions:

1. If you could ask a question of the wisest person in the world, what would you ask her or him about life?

Ans: (after taking a long time) How do you live your life in home and what do you do?

2. What bothers you in your daily life? What practice best helps you stay calm?

Ans: I get bothered with the extra work that I do in my daily life and don’t even get appreciated for it. I do the household chores from day to night and when my little siblings spread the mess again, I get annoyed and I have to do the work all over again. It bothers me.

I just console myself with the fact that I am doing it for my own family. I am stressed so much at times that I sit back and cry but I don’t tell anyone and keep on doing the work for them (at this moment, she has tears in her eyes).

3. If there were one thing you could change about adults, what would it be?

Ans: I will like the adults not to say inappropriate stuff and appreciate the work I do. Understand me.

4. What would you like to change about yourself?

Ans: I wish I could have studied so that’s the only thing I would change about myself.

5. What do you like to do for fun?

Ans: We don’t do anything for fun. We don’t have extra time for extra activities. I just sit back at times in my home and talk to my sisters about life. That’s all my life is.

6. When have you felt most loved by someone else?

Ans: Never. As I said, my parents have not studied much so they don’t show their emotions. In fact, they don’t understand. I have never felt loved by anyone. Everyone orders me to do work for them.

7. Why do you think you’re here on earth; what’s your purpose? How are you influenced by global media (TV, Internet, advertisements, etc?)

Ans: I don’t really understand the reason. I have not studied Quran, the religion, or the school so I don’t know why I am here. I don’t like this pattern of life. I wish my life was better.

8. On a scale of 1 to 100, how highly would you grade your school? Why?

Ans: There is no school in my whole village for girls. There is only one Government school which is for boys. There is none for girls.

9. What work would you like to do when you’re an adult?

Ans: I would like to be a MISS(teacher) or a Nurse.

10. If you were the leader of your country, what changes would you make?

Ans: (good question, she says) I would like to finish the poverty. Provide homes for them, have the kids go to school, finish inflation, provide jobs and facilities to poors.

11. Imagine you get to write on a T-shirt going on a trip around the world. What do you want your T-mail to say to people?


12. What is your daily routine?

Ans: I woke up at 7 am daily. Pick up the dirty utensils, wash them, clean rooms, the outside, make beds, wash bathrooms, make the home look clean, make breakfast for all the family members. After this, prepares to cook for lunch, make bread. After they eat, wash dishes. Then I take some rest and after that, I prepare to cook for the evening. That’s all I do daily.

13. Is your home all well-furnished?

Ans: No, we have a mud house and that is badly affected lately due to floods. Our walls fell down so it was very hard for us to cover our house. Me and my sisters dared and set up the walls ourselves. It was very tiring. Still we have 2 walls to make. May Allah help us!

14. What would you like for your younger siblings to have that you didn’t get?

Ans: I would want my little 6 year old sister to have all the necessities in the world. I would like her to have good education, good manners and grow up so well so that she get married in a good place.

15. Are you happy with your life?

Ans: Yes, I am happy with the fact that I have my family members around me and at least have a roof to be under it.


Comments on: "What’s it like to be an illiterate village girl?" (3)

  1. Hassan Saeed said:

    Thank you so much Gayle for providing me with this opportunity to promote Education and Peace. Together, we can make even more difference in future and I am absolutely looking forward to that. Peace!

  2. Hassan Saeed said:

    Sure! Currently we have 2 boys and 5 girls in the class named Adnan, Omar, Sumbel, Aimen, Rawasiya, Sadia and Tajalla respectively. They have joined this course on 23rd September and it’ll be finished in less than 4 months period of time. We have got the books which are designed perfectly in a way which helps the students learn. By the end of the course, they’ll be able to do 100% of writing and 70% of the reading.
    The students are very excited to a part of the class. It’s like an opportunity for them to create a perfect base for themselves on which they can build further in schools. You’ll ask there is no school in the village? Yes, there is none. But there is a boys school in the nearby village. Boys are supposed to go there. But Adnan and Omar won’t go because they would find school hard. This course will help them learn the basics and build on it further.

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