Samreen had to fight for her education — now she’s helping the next generation stay in school

 Malala Fund Gulmakai Champion Rehana Rehman helps Uttar Pradesh, Muslim and Dalit girls in India stay in school by meeting with parents and making girls’ journeys to school safer. (Courtesy of Saumya Khandelwal / Malala Fund)

Malala Fund Gulmakai Champion Rehana Rehman helps Uttar Pradesh, Muslim and Dalit girls in India stay in school by meeting with parents and making girls’ journeys to school safer. (Courtesy of Saumya Khandelwal / Malala Fund)

After working in sugarcane and wheat farms to pay for her education, Samreen achieved her dream of becoming a teacher.

Growing up in Samreen’s village, a remote flood-prone community along River Ram Ganga in India, is hard. It’s harder if you’re a girl.

When Samreen finished eighth grade, her parents kept her from continuing her education because they believed that “girls don’t need to go to school.”

Determined to complete her education, Samreen met with Rehana Rehman, founder of Navbharat Samaj Kalyan Samity (NBSKS). NBSKS helps Uttar Pradesh, Muslim and Dalit girls in India stay in school by meeting with parents and making girls’ journeys to school safer.

After many discussions, Rehana convinced Samreen’s parents that education will create a brighter future for Samreen and her parents. “Rehana said to my parents that my education will help change my family’s status and lift everyone out of poverty,” Samreen said. Although her parents allowed her to attend school, they said she had to find a way to pay for her school fees.

 Samreen — who is now engaged to a doctor — has no plans to quit teaching after marriage. (Courtesy of Samreen)

Samreen — who is now engaged to a doctor — has no plans to quit teaching after marriage. (Courtesy of Samreen)

Samreen started working in sugarcane and wheat farms. She earned enough to pay for her education, but not without sacrifice. Samreen remembers sitting alone in the classroom during recess while the rest of the class went to get snacks because she was trying to save up to pay for school.

Samreen is proud of her efforts: “I was satisfied that I didn’t ask for money for tuition fees, books and clothes.”

Because of Rehana’s intervention and her own hard work, Samreen was able to complete her secondary education, attend university and get her master’s degree in Urdu. She currently teaches Urdu in a public school. Rehana’s influence in her life inspired Samreen to give back to girls in her community.

“Many girls in our community have very conservative parents, who don’t allow their girls to go to school,” said Samreen. “By being a teacher, I can go from door to door to talk to these parents. I believe teachers can change society.”

“I’ve seen what poverty and illiteracy can do to people,” Samreen said. “I believe only education can change my family’s status.”

As Samreen prepares for the next stage in her life, she is breaking down more stereotypes. In her community, most women leave their jobs after marriage. But Samreen — who is now engaged to a doctor — has no plans to quit teaching after marriage. She’s also planning on getting a Ph.D. in Urdu.

“Girl like me should be ready to break the stigma and discrimination in their community, and be confident,” Samreen said.


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About the author

Bianca He is an editorial intern at Malala Fund. In her free time, she reads, hikes and craves for bubble tea.