Education and Literacy Rates in Pakistan

Education is a right, not a privilege, yet in many places some cannot afford to get an education. In Pakistan today there is a 58% illiteracy rate and it has been consistent for the past two years. One of the main issues concerning Pakistan’s high illiteracy rates is its small budged for education coupled with education not being as high of a priority. While the government schools tend to be better quality, public schools in Pakistan tend to be lacking in basic resources such as electricity, water, and sanitation.   In addition there are even several unofficial ghost schools have formed. Many who dislike the conditions of public schools in Pakistan have nowhere to turn because private schools have steeper prices, which many people in Pakistan cannot afford. There is a significant disparity in areas with private schooling and in areas with public. Private schools are pretty much only in urban areas where a lot of the more wealthy people are located, whole public schools are located in rural areas where there are more impoverished people. Madrasas are also prominent. These are schools that provide a more Islamic, religious-based education and they are free, so they are more easily accessible for people who cannot afford to send their children to private school.

Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.
Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.

One issue that is a common trend in many countries is the high gender disparity in literacy with a significantly smaller literacy rate for females. In fact, in Pakistan the female literacy rate has even declined by 2% from 2012-13 while the male literacy rate has stayed the same. In some more rural, tribal areas in Pakistan women are strictly prohibited from getting an education on religious grounds. With social and cultural restrictions and a patriarchal society, women cannot receive the educations that they deserve. In addition, in poorer areas of Pakistan, often women cannot afford to buy sanitary pads if they have their periods, and therefore end up missing school because of it and sacrificing their educations.

Often people are scared to educate women, because along with education comes power. It gives people the power to question social structures and power dynamics. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani woman dedicated to promoting education in Pakistan and ending the gender disparity in education once said, “Let us picks up our books and pencils. They are our most powerful weapons.” Education is a type of power that Pakistani people need in order to enact change.


Works Cited

Ahsan, S. (n.d.). Related Articles. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Haq, R. (2015, June 05). Education woes: Pakistan misses UN target with 58% literacy rate – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from

Illiteracy in Pakistan. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Mussadaq, M. (2011, July 20). Female illiteracy: 41% of Pakistani girls fail to complete primary school – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Saleem, M. (n.d.). The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from – Pacific/Pakistan.pdf


Being Transgender in Pakistan

Most transgender people in Pakistan live in poverty and can often be found begging on the streets. When they do find work, the transgender women often can be found performing at weddings or at baby showers because they are believed to be good luck. However, many transgender women do sex work.

In Pakistan, transgender women are often called Hijras. Hijira is an umbrella term, which includes intersex people, transgender, homosexuals, people who cross dress, and bisexuals (Is social exclusion pushing the Pakistani Hijras towards commercial sex work, 2012). Many Hijras, specifically transgender women, engage in sex work. This work is very dangerous, as they don’t use protection in almost all cases and HIV and many STDs are very popular amongst sex workers. Many of these transgender people have lost contact from their original families and then turn to sex work because they have no alternatives.

Three transgender women in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Even for transgender people who are from more privileged backgrounds, public restrooms still remain a concern. Transgender people will often face criticism for using the bathrooms of their identified genders. A transgender Pakistani man, Daanish recalls a similar experience that he had at an airport bathroom. He had said he had used the men’s room and when he got back out the janitor started shouting at him and arguing about his gender identity (Officially Recognized But Publicly Shamed. 2015).   Events like this are typical and often transgender people will avoid public restrooms because of this.

There has been some work done to help transgender people achieve further recognition, policy wise. In 2009 Pakistan’s Supreme Court recognized a “third gender” for their identification cards. Pakistan has one of the most secure identification systems in the world. In addition, 2013 was the first election in which transgender people were allowed to vote (Officially Recognized But Publicly Shamed: Transgender Life in Pakistan. 2015). However transgender people are not recognized as Pakistani citizens otherwise and out transgender people cannot have their own passport. While transgender women are gaining recognition, transgender men go unnoticed.

While a third gender has been created for both, no transgender men have registered under it. They are nearly invisible in Pakistan. While there has been some beneficial changes policy wise, there is still prejudice against transgender people in Pakistan.


Works Cited

Baral, S. D., Poteat, T., Strömdahl, S., Wirtz, A. L., Guadamuz, T. E., & Beyrer, C. (2013). Worldwide burden of HIV in transgender women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet infectious diseases13(3), 214-222.

Is social exclusion pushing the Pakistani Hijras (Transgenders) towards commercial sex work? a qualitative study. (n.d.). Retrieved April 07, 2016, from

Transgenders_towards_commercial_sex_work_a_qualitative_study Pakistan’s Transgenders In A Category Of Their Own. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from]

Transgender and proud – The Express Tribune. (2015). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from




Bonded Labor in Pakistan

My idea for this blog post was sparked by a series of Facebook posts by a photography page called Humans of New York.  Their posts typically consist of photos of people in New York with a quote from them that usually involves their life story or a funny comment that they made.  In this photo series, Brendan Stanton, the photographer went to Pakistan and documented several women and their stories involving bonded labor.

post pic
This is a Humans of New York photograph depicting Syeda Ghulam Fatima, an activist who has dedicated her life to eradicating bonded labor. She is standing by several brick kilns, a popular site for bonded labor.

According to Article 11 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, slavery is non-existent and forbidden, and the laboring and trafficking of human beings is prohibited as well.  According to the law, if one is caught with extorting people with bonded labor they will be imprisoned for 2 to 5 years, or a fine of at least 50,000 Pakistani Rupees.  While bonded labor is illegal in Pakistan, there are still countless cases of it today.  In 2014, the Walk Free Foundation (an organization dedicated to ending modern day slavery and human trafficking) ranked Pakistan as 6th in their Global Slavery Index for accounts of slavery.  They also reported that there were over 2.1 million people enslaved in Pakistan today.  The most common form of slavery is bonded labor.  This is a type of labor in which a person will undertake labor or services as a form security for the repayment for a loan.  In Pakistan, bonded labor often occurs in rural provinces of Punjab and Sindh.  Common locations where bonded labor usually occurs are small-scale low wage industries, or larger primitive industries that are owned by groups of families from a higher income bracket.  It is commonly found in the agricultural, brick making, and the carpet weaving industries (Walk Free Foundation, Global Slavery Index).

Bonded labor is a practice that enables the rich to exploit the needs poor for their own benefit.  With Pakistan’s prominent wealth disparity, bonded labor practices are common. Those who are affected by bonded labor are deprived all of their fundamental rights to freedom.  They are unable to leave their place of work, they lose their right to create their own business, lose their identity documents to their employer, and are forced to work unreasonable hours.  Often times bonded labor in Pakistan occurs when illiterate people who are desperate for work are tricked into taking small loans in exchange for their labor for a small period of time.  These documents that they sign have terms that cause this debt grow larger as time passes, therefore making it so that these workers have to work until their deaths, and afterward their debt is passed onto their children.

There has, however been some work to abolish bonded labor practices in Pakistan.  The government has created a Bonded Labor System Fund in order to finance projects to train released bonded laborers.  In addition it provides legal and financial assistance for released bonded laborers and their families so that they can get back on their feet.  In addition, the Pakistani government has established Legal Aid Service Units to legally assist bonded laborers who have been released.

Works Cited

Abbasi, S., U. (n.d.). Policy Review & Analysis of Brick Kiln Workers and Bonded Labourers in Pakista. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from

Ali, S. (n.d.). Bonded labour in Pakistan: A humanitarian crisis. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from

Bonded labor and serfdom: A paradox of voluntary choice. (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2016, from

Bonded Labour in Pakistan. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Pakistan – Walk Free Foundation – Global Slavery Index 2014. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2016, from

Girls at Dhabas

In Pakistan, women are often discouraged from loitering while men have no issue with taking up public places.  In Pakistan women are expected to have a man with them when they are in many public, urban places, so occupying these spaces as a woman alone, or with other women is condemned.  Part of the reason why this social policy is perpetuated is because it can be less safe being a woman on the streets of Pakistan alone, however women do deserve the right to decide weather or not take that risk despite the social environments that they live in.

For this post I would like to focus on a specific movement addressing this idea of women having the right to loiter. Girls at Dhabas is movement that started up in Karachi, Pakistan. Dhabas are essentially roadside tea and food stalls that are located on highways and can also serve as truck stops. These stalls, just like other public areas in Pakistan are traditionally male-occupied spaces in which women are not encouraged to go alone or with other women. It is only permitted for women to go there if they have a man to escort them.

Girls at Dhabas is a movement going on through the internet in which women are taking selfies of themselves drinking tea at dhabas with the hashtag #girlsatdhabas.  These women are trying to reclaim these public tea stalls so that women can drink there alongside men.  In fact, many men have been joining along with the movement by showing their support and posing with these women at dhabas.

Above is a photo of two women eating and drinking tea at a Dhaba.

The two women who started this movement are Sadia Khatri and Natasha Ansari.  Girls at Dhabas began with a Tumblr blog account in which people could submit photos of themselves drinking tea at Dhabas.  They wanted to make sure that women could feel safe and welcome in these public places just as much as men were.

The #girlsatdhabas movement eventually, has spread throughout other areas of South Asia.  Also many women have submitted pictures of themselves reclaiming other activities that they are discouraged to do, such as playing street cricket, or riding bicycles.  I stumbled onto a post on their Facebook page about an event going on in Lahore and Karachi in which women are going to bicycle together down the street in protest.  These women are protesting for their right to reclaim the streets, and other public activities as their own in which they can partake in without criticism.

If you would like to check out the Tumblr blog with all of the pictures you can click on this link:

In addition, they have a Facebook page:


Works Cited

Agha, E. (2016, January 2). India, Pakistan women unite for their right to loiter – Times of India. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from

Desk, W. (2015). #GirlsAtDhabas aims to make dhabas run by women a reality – The Express Tribune. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from

How drinking tea became an act of female rebellion – BBC News. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2016, from

Iqbal, A. (2015). Girls at Dhabas: A much-needed campaign – TNS – The News on Sunday. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from

Kahn, W. S. (n.d.). #GirlsatDhabas: Why This Photo of Eating in Public Is No Mere Selfie. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from

Sengupta, A. (2016, April 15). No LoC for loitering women. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from




Feminization of Poverty in Pakistan

The feminization of poverty is shown in how women represent higher percentages of the world’s poverty. It is essentially an intersection between gender and socioeconomic class. In fact, 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women. While feminized poverty exists all over the world, for this post I would like to focus on Pakistan, where it is quite prevalent.

In Pakistan, the feminization of poverty is perpetuated by a number of factors. One, very prevalent factor being education. In fact, a 2011 Human Development Report from the Development Project stated that in Pakistan, approximately twice as many males than females receive secondary education. With less educated women unable to receive high paying jobs along with some prominent patriarchal values, it can be very difficult for Pakistani women to find higher paying work.

Often many of the women in poverty are widows. Additionally, in many of these cases these women have children that they will struggle to provide for. Another cause of feminized poverty in Pakistan is something called Bonded Labor. Bonded labor is a form of slavery. Many women in Pakistan are bonded laborers because they are so far in debt that it is their only option. These people are forced life on very little and work long, laborious hours.

There are several groups and organizations in Pakistan working to help get these women out of poverty and on their feet. For example, I found an organization called the Kashf Foundation. It is a Pakistani microfinance organization that lends small amounts of money to poor women to start their own businesses. The Kashf Foundation lends money to women in groups of 25. These women then guarantee each other’s debts and then will meet every two weeks where they will make payments and discuss social issues, typically surrounding women’s rights. This foundation was created in order to empower women.

While there are many forces working against Pakistani women, there are more and more organizations and groups working towards helping these women make livable wages.


Works Cited

Beijing 5 – Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century Twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, 5-9 June 2000. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2016, from

Brick kiln workers: The endless battle. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2016, from

Feminization of Poverty. (2012, May 22). Retrieved March 18, 2016, from

McMichael, P. (2000). Development and social change: A global perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

(2009). The Women’s Crusade. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from