Farhana Tuniuo, Pakistan
“I had lost all hope and was about to drop out of school when I heard of the GALS (Gender Action Learning System) training. I thought it was a chance to turn my life around so I stepped out of my village for the first time ever to attend the training”, Farhana says.
At 17, Farhana Tuniuo is a GALS trainer in village Sajan Hakro in Sindh. From an early age, she witnessed the struggles of other girls in her community, who gradually dropped out of school and were subjected to forced early marriages by their families. With her father consistently supporting her ambitions, Farhana became determined to help less privileged girls by teaching them basic literacy skills, the only avenue she knew to empower them through. However, with financial problems of her own, Farhana’s own schooling remained precarious.
In 2017, Oxfam’s partner Indus Resource Centre (IRC) arranged a 3-day GALS training in Larkana city, reaching out to youth from rural communities to educate them on a range of topics including sexual and reproductive health rights and the importance of education, especially for girls. The participants also learnt to create ‘vision journeys’, mapping their dreams while taking into account their social and financial circumstances, and all the obstacles they would have to overcome to make their dreams a reality. Farhana says that the knowledge she acquired during the training on women’s rights in health, education and employment opened a world of ideas for her; she returned to her village, opened a learning center in her home with her father’s support and trained 20 other girls in her first batch.
“My main target were older girls who had dropped out of school years ago because their families felt they had become ‘of age’ at just 12 or 13 years old. I wanted them to have a safe space to learn, one their families also trusted”, Farhana says. She understood how poverty, lack of mobility and repressive attitudes restrict young girls from leaving their homes. This significantly boosted Farhana’s confidence. With her learnings from the GALS training and with a sense of connectedness in a community she was determined to improve educational facilities, Farhana says she felt like the perfect candidate for the role. She always teaches in her classes that financial independence isn’t a privilege but a necessity for every girl.
Today, Farhana hopes to serve as an example for all girls who are pressured to marry early and leave their education. “I hope to open a school, which offers affordable education and also offers out-of-curriculum classes on life-skills education”, she says.