Education Champion Network

Zehra Arshad

Executive Director, Pakistan Coalition for Education Champion since 2018
“I’m creating a space for girls today to talk to their peers and seek strength from each other and have an adult listen to them.”
Advocating to amend Pakistan's national education requirement from 10 to 12 years

The Issue

Less than one-third of all eligible girls in Pakistan are enrolled in upper secondary school. The country’s constitution only guarantees girls 10 years of education.

Zehra’s approach

Policy Reform

After attending both public and private schools as a student in Pakistan, Zehra recognised the stark difference in quality between the two systems. Public schools often have outdated curricula and face shortages of books and qualified teachers. While private schools offer better education, they come at a higher cost that most people can’t afford. Zehra became an education activist to address these injustices and ensure that every Pakistani girl has access to 12 years of quality education.

As the executive director of the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) and a Malala Fund Education Champion, Zehra advocates for an amendment to Pakistan’s constitution that would increase the national requirement for free, quality, equitable education from 10 to 12 years. To support the campaign, PCE collects statistical evidence on gender gaps in education, engages with policymakers, conducts media outreach and trains young women to speak out for themselves in support of the amendment.

Zehra’s impact

With the Pakistani chapter of the Malala Fund Education Champion Network, Zehra organised an education financing campaign to increase the government’s spending on education to 4% of the country's GDP. Zehra and PCE also engaged with new parliamentarians on education financing and taught journalists to report on education financing.

As a member of local education groups, Zehra works at the provincial level to ensure nonprofits like PCE are involved in the sector planning and implementation process. She engages with members of the provincial standing committee on education to advocate for girls’ education and the expansion of the Right to Education Act’s mandate to a full 12 years of education. At the global level, Zehra advocates for education financing issues as the Global South civil society representative on the finance and risk committee at Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Since 2018, PCE has trained over 200 girls on their constitutional right to education and advocacy skills, offering them a space to discuss barriers to education in their communities. With PCE, the girl advocates had the opportunity to meet with parliamentarians and members of the standing committee on education to discuss expanding the national requirement for education from 10 to 12 years.

More about Zehra

Twitter: @zehra2576
Organization's Twitter: @PCESAQE

There are 10 other Education Champions working in Pakistan.