When Irfana completed 8th grade there was no high school in the village - her only option was to join a high school in the neighbouring village about 25 kilometres away.
However, stories of girls being harassed on the way stopped her from doing so.
I became a member of the first women’s organisation “Tareemat Sanjh” formed in 2006 with the support of ActionAid and its local partner Awam Dost Foundation (ADF).
During various awareness-raising sessions and workshops, I learned about women’s rights as equal citizens – the issue of girls’ education is very close to her heart as this is the key to all other rights.
For years, the local people of Basti Ahmad Dab had lobbied the authorities to upgrade the only elementary school for girls and construct more primary schools in the area to cater for a population of 35,000 households.
However due to the disinterest of the local politicians and opposition of the powerful feudal lords, people’s voices remained unheard.
But this was all set to change, thanks to community activism.
In 2009, I took the lead in mobilizing the community into a powerful grassroots campaign to claim girls’ right to education.
Supported by ActionAid and ADF, the local people held regular meetings with local politicians, government officials, journalists and civil society actors to build pressure and widen their support base.
They organised press conferences, seminars and rallies, and wrote letters to the Chief Minister of Punjab.
These advocacy efforts convinced two local politicians Abdul Majeed Khan Khel, member of National Assembly and Sanaullah Khan Masti Khel, member of the Provincial Assembly to meet with the Chief Minister on behalf of the community and convey their demands.
As a result of the consistent lobbying, the chief minister approved a grant of Rs71.77 million (USD$1.62 million) for the construction of girls’ high school in the area and ordered immediate upgrading of the existing elementary school.
Now that the school construction is approved, we will make sure that all our girls go to school and get an education.
Now they won’t be powerless and poor - today is the happiest day of my life.
I don’t want my daughter to end up like me - without an education, a woman has no power, no awareness and no rights.
I had to lead a tough life as I was uneducated - I won’t let this happen to my daughter.