Education Champion Network

Shawana Shah

Co-founder and Programme Director, Da Hawwa Lur (DHL) Champion since 2019
“I want girls to know that they have a Malala in them who will fight for their right to speak out for themselves.”
Teaching girls and women to advocate for increased funding for girls’ education and improved school conditions

The Issue

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, there are about 1.6 million out-of-school girls, more than twice the number of out-of-school boys. Because the government allocates less money to girls’ education than boys’ education, there are only 10,802 schools and colleges for girls in the province compared to 16,980 for boys. This disparity increases after primary school and in communities outside of urban centres. 

As many families do not allow their daughters to attend classes taught by men, the limited number of female teachers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also prevents girls from going to school. In the province, there are 51,017 female teachers compared to 91,606 male teachers. The gap increases in rural areas and even more so in mountainous regions.

Shawana’s approach

Policy Reform

With the support of her feminist father and activist mother, Shawana was able to complete her secondary education and attend university — but her cousins and friends weren’t as lucky. Shawana watched as her peers’ families forced them to drop out of school and get married. It was then that she decided to become a gender equality activist. In 2008, Shawana co-founded Da Hawwa Lur (DHL), a feminist platform for girls and women to discuss their problems and identify solutions. 

With her Malala Fund grant, Shawana works with communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to shift socio-cultural norms that prevent girls from completing their secondary education. She trains women, men and students to speak out against gender stereotypes, child labour, early marriage and harassment. Through advocacy, leadership and communications trainings, she is helping these young advocates develop a list of policies the provincial government can implement to help girls learn, including increasing the budget for girls’ education, building more girls’ secondary schools, improving sanitation facilities in schools and providing girls with free transportation to school. Shawana and her advocates are planning to present their charter of demands to the Women Parliamentary Caucus and the Provincial Assembly by the end of the year.

More about Shawana

Website: Da Hawwa Lur
Organization's Facebook: Da Hawwa Lur

There are 11 other Education Champions working in Pakistan.