Education has the power to change the world, especially in areas of extremism where girls’ education has been an anomaly. PHOTO COURTESY OF IQRA FUND

How a 13-year-old girl is changing the world

Iqra Fund – with roots in Gallatin Valley – educates girls in Pakistan

History is sprinkled with individuals who single-handedly generate change; those who observe the status quo and say: “No. That is not good enough.”

The domino effect created by such people can alter entire communities and even the world.

A nonprofit with solid links to the Gallatin Valley was inspired by a 13-year-old girl named Iqra. After the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan killed 80,000 people – including her siblings and mother – Iqra organized a tent school and taught the surviving children. Iqra has special significance in the Muslim culture: it means “read” in Arabic and is the first word of the Koran.

Iqra’s father told Genevieve Walsh, who has a Doctorate of Education from Montana State University, “that he and his wife had named her Iqra because they knew education was the way to create the change their community needed, and they believed their daughter would help create that change,” according to the Iqra Fund website.

In 2011, after Walsh did four years of research and work there, she co-founded Iqra Fund with the director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, Doug Chabot “with a goal of creating sustainable access to quality education.”

Empowering community leadership, funding scholarship programs and investing in training teachers are a part of the model. Since then, the organization has facilitated a change in culture for entire communities, spurred by education – especially for girls.

“Through girls’ education, we’re not only decreasing poverty, but reducing extremism, nationally and globally,” Walsh said.

The nonprofit has some impressive data to back-up its mission: 27 partnering school communities in three districts of the remote tribal north; 4,439 total girls enrolled and supported in primary through secondary school; 74 teachers hired and 94 teachers trained.

In 2019, 92% of girls in participating villages were enrolled in school, as opposed to zero percent pre-Iqra Fund. Further, 85% of village leaders participate in Iqra Fund capacity building workshops to better support childrens’ education.

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