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Parveen wants daughters to share love for reading

In rural Pakistan, a hard-working mother discovered the gift of education

As a young girl, Parveen woke every morning before the sun. “Very early,” she says. “Before the cocks crow.” After her mother died, it was Parveen’s job to bring her father and brother breakfast as they worked in the cotton fields. She made chapatis (bread) and walked the seven-kilometre round trip to the ploughing fields to bring them the food. When she left the house, it was still dark. When she got home, it was time to prepare lunch and walk again, this time in the scorching heat. Then dinner.

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Parveen was forced by circumstance to grow up and take on the responsibility of running a household and feeding a family at a very young age. There was no time for school.

At church, Parveen discovered a longing for literacy.

At 22, Parveen’s father arranged for her to be married to a man from a neighbouring village. Parveen was lucky; her husband was kind. Like her father, her husband was also a farmer, forced to leave school early to work in the fields. “A farmer’s son will be a farmer … no need to have higher studies,” said Parveen.

While education was not a priority for Parveen’s family, church most certainly was.

“My father did not ask us to go to the fields on Sunday, but strongly took us to the church,” she says.

But it was at church where Parveen discovered a longing for literacy. She wanted to hear God speak directly to her through his word, but she couldn’t read.

Parveen’s church has been working with Bible Society in Pakistan, running a Bible-based literacy course called “Beacon of Light” that’s aimed at teaching women to read.

“Only 15-20 per cent of girls in rural areas are given the opportunity to go to school. Most are married by 16,” says Anthony Lamuel, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Pakistan.

“But if a woman becomes literate, she can be instrumental as a beacon to illuminate the family with the word of God,” he says.

Parveen began attending the literacy classes at her church, with the permission of her husband. At her graduation ceremony earlier this year, her eyes sparkled with excitement.

“It is cotton picking season, and it was very difficult for me to join the graduation ceremony because I help my husband to collect the cotton from the fields,” she said. “Due to my desire, my husband allowed me to attend.”

At the graduation, Parveen was given a Bible of her very own. She has already begun to read it with her children.

“I am thankful to God that I can now read the Bible.” – Parveen

“When I read the Bible with my family, my children listen very carefully because I read slowly. When I make a mistake, my children laugh and enjoy it,” she says shyly, hiding her face with her hands and giggling.

Parveen’s ability to read has widened her view of life, and the lives of her children. Education, which was considered a luxury when she was growing up, is now something she believes is important for her children.

“My three children are studying at school which is very near to our home, and I plan to encourage them to have a good higher education, for spending a happy life,” she says.

“I am thankful to God that I can now read the Bible.”

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