Sharjah royal urges families to educate girls, not marry them off young

Sheikha Jawaher spoke as she toured Pakistan with her Big Heart Foundation

Sheikha Jawaher and her delegation meet firefighter Mohammad Ayub Khan, who since 1982 has taught poor children school lessons for free at a public park in Islamabad in his spare time. More than 20 million children aged 5-16 in Pakistan are out of school. Wam
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Parents in the developing world should educate their daughters instead of seeking to marry them off at a young age, a member of Sharjah’s royal family has said.

Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi spoke as she toured Pakistan on a six-day visit with her Big Heart Foundation, which supports children and families in desperate circumstances.

“Educating girls is one of the surest ways to overcome socioeconomic challenges, ensure continued prosperity of families and secure the future of the next generation,” said Sheikha Jawaher, who is an Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at the UN refugee agency and the wife of the Ruler of Sharjah.

Parents need to know that they must replace their aspirations to marry their young female children early with education. Knowledge is a source of strength

“Parents, therefore, need to know that they must replace their aspirations to marry their young female children early with education. Knowledge is a source of strength for women, and a pillar of society. By educating girls, we set them up for success – at home, in marriage, at work, in society.”

Sheikha Jawaher said many girls continue to be deprived of a basic education.

“We need to change the perception of girls in impoverished or low-income communities that their rights can be compromised,” she said.

“No, their rights or their needs do not come in second place. It is upon us to build their self-esteem; to empower them to demand for their right to be educated. Nations worldwide need educated, confident women who know that their talents, energy and capabilities are pivotal to growing and nurturing their communities.”

During the visit she met staff from educational and childcare institutions that work with low-income families in Islamabad and Lahore.

During her trip Sheikha Jawaher met Afghan refugees and low income families in some of Pakistan's poorest areas. Courtesy: Wam
During her trip Sheikha Jawaher met Afghan refugees and low income families in some of Pakistan's poorest areas. Courtesy: Wam

Sheikha Jawaher visited Master Ayub School, which offers open-air classes in a public park to some of Islamabad’s poorest children.

Firefighter Mohammad Ayub Khan has taught there since 1982, seeking to give young people a chance at a better future, in a country in which more than 20 million children aged 5 to 16 are out of school.

Sheikha Jawaher said initiatives such as these, led by “unsung heroes” like Ayub, make the biggest difference to society, state news agency Wam reported.

Her delegation also attended an event that recognised the 40 years in which Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees fleeing conflict and

concluded the trip with a tour of the Women Welfare Centre in Islamabad, which was established in 1973 to cope with the number of refugees fleeing conflict in Afghanistan.

The centre offers skills training to around 3,500 Afghani female refugees. The numbers are expected to reach 5,000 in the upcoming semesters as the centre targets over 25 different vocational fields.

Since 2013, the Big Heart Foundation has donated more than $23 million (Dh84m) to refugees, including those in the Middle East and the Rohingya in Asia, the UNHCR said.

Sheikha Jawaher thanked the Pakistani government for showing “exceptional generosity” to Afghan refugees.

She told the women at the refugee centre: “In Pakistan, you are in safe hands, and we hope everyone who wishes to go back to their homes are able to so, soon.”