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Hilal Her

Overcoming Challenges and Fulfilling Aspirations

April 2024

In the heart of the rugged Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, where the majestic peaks of the Himalayas tower over the quaint village of Ghanchi, lives a young girl named Rubina Batool. Her journey is not one of privilege or ease but rather a testament to resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Rubina was born into a family of modest means. Her father, to provide for the family, often had to be away for long periods to meet his job obligations, while her mother worked tirelessly in the fields. Their small village is a tight-knit community where everyone knows each other’s joys and sorrows, yet the dreams of many in the village often withered under the weight of harsh realities.

From a young age, Rubina possessed a thirst for knowledge that burned brighter than the stars that adorned the night sky over Gilgit-Baltistan. She would spend hours poring over the pages of old textbooks, her mind wandering to faraway lands and distant horizons beyond the rugged mountains surrounding her. In a village where traditional gender roles dictated that girls were destined for marriage and motherhood, the idea of a young woman pursuing higher education was deemed frivolous and unnecessary. 
In Rubina’s village, girls were often denied the chance to continue their education beyond the eight grade. The acquisition of girls’ education was seen as unnecessary, with the prevailing belief being that girls should be married off at a young age. She was the first girl in the village to pursue education after the eight grade. During her school years, she faced numerous challenges as her family faced constant criticism for supporting her ambition of pursuing education. Her family also received scorn for establishing an adverse precedent, potentially influencing the perspectives of other girls. Upon finishing the eighth class, Rubina was faced with a severe setback; there was no high school in the village for Rubina to continue her studies. Fortunately, a college was situated in the town of Khaaplu, approximately 30 miles away from her village, where she could pursue higher education. Her family faced a difficult choice but ultimately decided to rent a house to support Rubina’s education. Initially, she attended a government school where she completed her secondary education. Later, she transferred to a private school called Army Public School and finished her intermediate there. While at Army Public School, she cultivated a remarkable sense of self-assurance and an unwavering drive for personal growth and development.
After intermediate, Rubina was determined to pursue a professional degree. She stayed firm in her beliefs, even in the face of her relatives’ constant disapproval. She recognized the significance of education in shaping a brighter future for herself and her entire family. Her passion for continuing her education was evident as she expressed her unwavering dedication to becoming self-sufficient before her parents. Reluctantly, Rubina’s parents agreed to let her pursue her dreams, although they couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease and concern. At first, her parents harbored skepticism; however, it was then that her father who provided unwavering encouragement and support as she tried to pursue her academic endeavors.
After thoughtful deliberation, Rubina’s brother and she decided for her to pursue higher education at a university in Islamabad. Rubina and her brother found the experience of coming to Islamabad completely unfamiliar, as there was a noticeable contrast between the city and their village life. Rubina’s faith in Allah propelled her forward despite having limited knowledge about educational fields, accommodations, expenses, etc. Rubina was accepted into the Bachelor’s Leadership and Management Studies program at National Defence University. Rubina’s father had to sell their land to finance her university education, which was a tough choice. Following that decision, villagers would frequently come to Rubina’s home to express their disapproval precisely because it concerned their daughter and ridiculed them that she would be unable to provide them with any monetary assistance in future.
Rubina and her brother opted to lease a room in Alipur, which was situated near Chak Shahzad. Due to financial constraints, they were compelled to reside there despite the considerable distance from the university. During the first two years, Rubina and her brother would travel to university from Alipur on a motorbike.
Rubina’s father’s income was insufficient to cover her expenses. The burden of tuition fees, books, and other educational expenditures pushed their limited finances to the brink. To ease her financial woes, she decided to get a part-time job while also pursuing her bachelor’s degree. She was able to handle her expenses effectively and also made a substantial contribution to her family’s financial stability. The professors at her university were incredibly understanding and accommodating when she had to leave early for the job. 
However, all the challenges served as a testament to Rubina’s perseverance. There were tears of frustration and heartfelt prayers in the nights as Rubina grappled with her inner conflict regarding her future and dreams. Could she accomplish her objectives? What if every effort turned out to be futile? Would her accomplishments bring pride to her parents? Rubina felt a sense of unease as she navigated a world that appeared determined to shatter her aspirations. However, she stayed resolute, and her determination was the driving force that helped her overcome the darkest of times. Over time, her resolve grew stronger, fueling her relentless pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement. 

Gradually, Rubina’s perseverance began to yield positive results. Despite the scarcity of resources and lack of support, she excelled in her studies, attaining outstanding grades and garnering her instructors’ and classmates’ respect and affection. Furthermore, Rubina got engaged, which was a blessing in disguise, as her fiancé happened to be from a neighboring village and was also pursuing a professional degree. He understood the significance of education and motivated Rubina to press on. He supported her in following her dreams, even when others doubted her abilities or questioned the importance of educating a woman. In addition, her fiancé was crucial in providing guidance, networking opportunities, and emotional support during her job search.
Years later, as Rubina stood on the stage, clad in cap and gown, receiving her Bachelor’s degree with tears of joy streaming down her face, she witnessed the expressions on her parents’ faces, their eyes brimming with tears of pure happiness and awe. Her heart was filled with immense joy and gratitude to Allah at that moment. She had triumphed over numerous challenges and surpassed all expectations to fulfill her aspirations, yet her journey was far from over.
Ultimately, Rubina aims to empower women and to promote girls’ education in her village. The town has already undergone a remarkable transformation since Rubina’s venture into acquiring professional education, reflecting her incredible struggle. The villagers have come to appreciate her success, resulting in a notable change in their perspectives on girls’ education. The decision to send their daughters to school marks a remarkable shift in their mindset, but it has happened, and it is all because one girl would not let go of her dreams and aspirations. 
As she looked out at the sea of faces gathered to celebrate her success at her graduation, Rubina knew that she was not just a symbol of hope and inspiration for her community but for women everywhere who dared to dream of a brighter future. And as she steps out into the world, ready to embrace whatever challenges lay ahead, she does so knowing that no hardship could ever extinguish the light of her indomitable spirit.


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