ISLAMABAD: The United States (US) has only utilised a meagre amount of $3 million under its much trumpeted $70 million programme “Let Girls Learn”, launched by former US first lady Michelle Obama. The programme aims at benefitting around 200,000 adolescent girls between the ages of 10 to 19 in Pakistan.
According to details provided by the US embassy, since the launch of this programme back in October 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had provided 17 grants (over $3 million) to communities in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, while also working in close collaboration with communities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to address community-specific barriers that prevented adolescent girls from getting an education.
The United States Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls ensured that adolescent girls got the education they deserved. The US embassy through an email reply stated that USAID’s commitment to increasing opportunities for adolescent girls included a number of ongoing USAID programmes.
US Embassy in Pakistan Deputy Information Officer Gregory McElwain said that as part of USAID’s global contribution to empower adolescent girls, USAID Pakistan would provide $70 million to new and ongoing programmes that would benefit 200,000 adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 in Pakistan.
The official claimed that in Punjab, USAID small grants have created safe learning environment for girls, established special schools and accelerated learning programmes for out-of-school girls, besides initiating training programmes for teachers.
He said that in Sindh, USAID had supported functional literacy skills trainings to protect adolescents against child labour, promoted inclusion of adolescent girls with special needs in mainstream schools, provided skills training for employment in the garment industry, delivered school supplies and conducted enrollment campaigns.
Similarly, he said that in Balochistan, USAID had provided school supplies and conducted enrollment campaigns, adding that in KP and FATA, USAID had rehabilitated and refurbished schools damaged by conflict or used to house displaced families and constructed boundary walls to increase safety. In addition, latrines were also constructed to guard the privacy of girls, he said.
McElwain said that USAID had trained nearly 1,880 female teachers on instructional techniques that encouraged active participation and helped build students’ confidence.
The email read that USAID reading programmes have reached over 382,000 girls, besides helping to enroll or re-enroll over 37,000 girls in schools in FATA, KP and Sindh. The agency also helped build or rehabilitate over 158 girls and co-education schools.
McElwain further said that small grants have been provided to support innovative activities to reduce barriers, improve equitable access to quality education and build local capacity to improve adolescent girls’ education and empowerment.
Besides, the official claimed that support training, scholarships and internships for talented but financially disadvantaged adolescent girls were provided that created paths to higher education, entrepreneurship and self-employment.
However, the US embassy officials did not respond to the queries despite repeated attempts to give clarification over the utilisation of meager amount of funds in two years, the reasons of slow pace of fund utilisation and existence of a time frame for the utilisation of the funds.
It is pertinent to mention here that former US first lady Michelle Obama had announced $70 million in a special programme hosted for the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his wife Kalsoom Nawaz and daughter Maryam Nawaz at the White House in July 2016.
Michelle Obama had said on the occasion that it would primarily help build over a dozen new schools and rehabilitate hundreds of others. “We will be funding skills-training programmes and college scholarships for girls. Taken together, these efforts will reach 200,000 girls in Pakistan,” she had stated.
Lauding the role of Michelle for the cause of education in the world, Maryam Nawaz had said on the occasion, “You are not only a good mother but also a constant inspiration to millions of girls around the world.”