The constant hustle bustle at Baji Nasreen’s home in Peshawar’s Tehkal locality has now been replaced by an unfamiliar silence. Since 25 years her home has operated as a centre where girls and women of all ages would come to learn handicrafts as well as get educated on various subjects.
Nasreen’s family was the first to settle in Tehkal’s Christian colony in 1987 and today, thanks to her family’s efforts, most if not all women of the colony are aware and educated.
Recalling her journey, Nasreen shared that in 1996 two foreigner women sought her help in imparting education to the area’s women. “I immediately came on board and established a learning centre in my own home where we imparted both practical and scholastic knowledge and skills to the local elderly women,” she informed.
When the foreigners left two years later, Nasreen continued the project. She remembered how so many women at church would be unable to read the Bible as they were illiterate. This became her motivation and she vowed to ensure that every woman of her neighbourhood would be able to read and write, and not remain unskilled.
For decades, she continued on this path come rain or sunshine but it was only the recent coronavirus pandemic that halted her endeavour. However, Nasreen plans to reopen classes at her home from next month by taking all necessary precautions as the show must go on.
Interestingly, her one-room school is not limited to the area’s Christian residents but the daughters of the local Muslim cleric also visit her home, as do women from the nearby Afghan refugee settlement to learn various skills such as sewing and handicrafts.
“I can’t impart higher education but what I do manage to achieve is making sure that these women do not remain poor, illiterate and unaware,” she asserted.
Nasreen feels that education should not be linked to one’s age, religion or caste.
“Every man and woman can start their journey of education at any stage in life,” she said, adding that a woman who is literate and skilled can not only become a strong person in her own life but also become a productive part of society.