I wanted to be an accountant — but that meant going against my parents' wishes

 Sonia with her mother and sisters. (Courtesy of Sonia Nasir)

Sonia with her mother and sisters. (Courtesy of Sonia Nasir)

In our Pakistani community, girls are forever forced into futures they didn’t choose.

I would not consider myself a rebel. From the day I was born in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, I was quiet and obedient, never creating mischief. I always did what was expected — I studied at the top schools, earned high marks. My parents were told it was a “treat” to have a daughter like me. I was on the right track.

Then it came time to choose my career, or, more specifically, time for my family to choose my career. They wanted me to practise medicine, a well-respected profession in our country. People only remember those who are doctors, no other job is regarded. But this was not my passion. I could never see myself being a doctor when I loved math.

Yet, I struggled to go against my parents’ wishes. How could my role models — who had always encouraged my imagination and taught me to be ambitious — suddenly be so limiting?

My life could have been like any other girl’s life in Peshawar. I could have caved in, surrendered, become part of the norm. I could have had a mother who forced me to abandon my dreams.
— Sonia Nasir

Luckily, my mother is educated. She came around to the fact I wanted to study math and stood up for me. She was proud that I had the courage to refuse what was expected, especially in our community where girls are forever forced into futures they didn’t choose. My mother paid for my university fees when my father wouldn’t. With her help, I enrolled at the Institute of Management Sciences Peshawar to study accounting and finance.

My life could have been like any other girl’s life in Peshawar. I could have caved in, surrendered, become part of the norm. I could have had a mother who forced me to abandon my dreams. I know now how blessed I am — my mother is my motivation and inspiration. Because of her support, I was awarded a scholarship for the majority of my tuition fees. Because of her support, I am now working to empower other women and girls to fight for their ambitions.

 Sonia with her mother. (Courtesy of Sonia Nasir)

Sonia with her mother. (Courtesy of Sonia Nasir)

As a Youth Education Champion for Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA), an organisation supported by Malala Fund’s Gulmakai Network, I help my sisters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa pursue their dreams. Through social media campaigns, enrolment initiatives and theatre performances, I raise awareness about the importance of secondary education for girls.

I know that not every girl gets a saviour like I did. Not every girl has an escape plan. This is why I fight with PYCA. When society tries to stifle your dreams, you need someone to stand up for you. My mother did that for me and I want to do that for other girls.

Thank you to Areebah Shahid, Malala Fund Gulmakai Champion and Executive Director of Pakistan Youth Change Advocates, for connecting us with Sonia. Malala Fund supports the work of education activists like Areebah who are breaking down barriers to girls’ education in their communities.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sonia Nasir is a 19-year-old student from Pakistan. She is studying to be an accountant and works at Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) to help other girls go to school.