MGYW’s Roadmap for Empowerment through Education
By Farhana Mohamed, PhD

Pictures above : MGWY members seen with girl students in various schools of Pakistan. Group pictures
taken at an MGWY function in Los Angeles

The Merit Grants for Young Women (MGYW) Project has come a long way since 2000 when it was conceived and later became an integral part of the Pakistani American Forum. The vision of MGYW is to empower impoverished young women of Pakistan through higher education.

The MGYW achievements include providing sustained monetary support to almost 200 meritorious young girls; partnership with four reputable NGOs, which are providing tremendous educational opportunities to poor girls in urban and far flung rural areas of Pakistan, and initiation of a novel program to provide economic incentives to the MGYW Partner Women Co-Operatives in Pakistan. With the continued MGYW support, in the next few years, several of the MGYW grant recipients will advance to college.

MGYW has chosen to focus on providing educational opportunities to financially under-privileged young women. While literacy data for Pakistan is among the lowest in the world, there’s an additional discrepancy between female and male literacy, especially in the rural areas.

There is over eight times discrepancy between the literacy rates of rural women versus urban men. According to the “World Bank Education Statistics” (2005-2006), only 22% of Pakistani girls from rural areas (where 65% to 70% of the population resides) have completed primary school education when compared to 47% of boys.

Besides the rural and urban disparity, women also suffer under local strident customs of some regions or groups which run against the egalitarian values of Islam such as those related to education.

Since the recent crushing defeat inflicted on the Swat Valley Taliban by the Pakistani Army, stability is returning to the region. However, during almost last three years, Taliban controlled most of the region and ran a reign of terror such as ruthless killings and forcibly closing doors of education to local women. Over 180 schools were gutted down with educational opportunities to almost 125,000 young women seriously restricted.

To alleviate as much as possible the dismal status of female education, MGYW has partnered with the prominent NGOs which operate charity or low-cost schools, with predominant female enrollment, throughout Pakistan. For example, MGYW is partnering with one of the NGOs, which was among the first to open several non-formal tent schools during the 2005 earthquake in the north-east Pakistan and Azad Kashmir; it is now playing an active role in bringing the Swat Valley children back to classrooms.

Insha’Allah, on November 8, 2009, MGYW will host a luncheon, and in April 2010, MGYW’s tenth anniversary fundraising dinner will be held in Southern California. During both these events, MGYW’s achievements will be shared with the attendees along with entertainment, gourmet cuisine, and live and silent auction. Readers are requested to visit the website ( and support this organization being run with a very unique and effective business model.




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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