“Here, many girls are not allowed to leave the house and continue their education. We are told that it is not a safe or appropriate environment for girls to be walking around in. People mistrust others and say there are bad people around so we can’t go outside for an education.”Forging ahead despite such cultural barriers, Samreen isn’t just completing her A-Levels this year; she has been attending leadership training sessions with Oxfam’s She Can Lead program in Pakistan. “At the She Can Lead sessions, I learnt about the concept of leadership and that women need to take the next step to move forward. The stereotypical thinking here is that people want their sons to be educated so they can save money,” says Samreen. “They don’t prioritise education for women because they are made to stay at home and take care of the house.” Now, as soon as she turns 18, Samreen wants to submit a councillor’s form and stand for election at the next council elections.“ There are no facilities in our neighbourhood, there is no education here. That is what motivated me to take it into my own hands and do something about it.”
Many 17-year-olds look forward to the moment when they can legally vote but not many plan to stand for election the same year. Samreen Babukha has been fortunate that throughout her adolescence her parents have supported her desire to continue her education. But she has watched in frustration as girls in her community are denied the same. “We are allowed to go to primary school and after that, we are told to stay home,” she explains.