When Zoha Siddiqui began the task of determining her Speeches & Sweets topic as an ACDS 7th grader, she never imagined where it would take her: halfway around the world opening a library at a girls’ school in a village in Pakistan. Yet that’s where she was on March 25, helping to inaugurate the library her work over the last two years made possible.
Zoha’s passion for girls’ education in Pakistan began while researching her 2014 speech. A trip to Pakistan in March of 2014 gave her the opportunity to further her understanding of the issue, as she traveled from school to school interviewing girls, their teachers, and politicians about why girls were not receiving an adequate education. One of Zoha’s observations while visiting the schools was how few books the school libraries contained. She knew she had to do something to help.
Zoha identified a girls’ school in Hair village that had a library with no desks, no chairs, no bookshelves, and only 50-100 books that were shared among 1,600 students, and began what is undoubtedly her first of many library building projects. Zoha held a book drive at her high school, Sidwell Friends, and ACDS to collect enough books to build a new library at the school in Hair. With help from her brother, Raza, and his 4th grade classmates, book collection boxes and posters asking for donations were placed around ACDS in the fall. The ACDS community responded and collected approximately 1,000 books. In total, Zoha collected around 2,500 books for the new library.
The first step in the process of transforming the library space was to repaint it, clean it out, and build desks, chairs, and bookshelves. Once these tasks were completed, a group of teachers were trained to be the school’s librarians by a professional librarian from a local college. During this time, the books were transported to Pakistan with the help of Pakistan’s Embassy here in D.C. and taken to the school. A few days later, Zoha, Raza, and their parents arrived at the school. Working alongside members of the school’s community, they organized books on the bookshelves and added an arts-and-crafts table to the space. “I also had the opportunity to meet seventh-grade students in the school,” said Zoha. “Not only were they extremely kind and welcoming to me, but they were genuinely enthusiastic and excited for their new library. We talked about what they want to be when they grow up, and the importance of education in allowing them to reach their dreams.”
On March 25th, with Zoha and her family present, the library opened. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from the students, the school plans to add a library period to the daily schedule.
“To everyone who donated and helped make this a reality, know that the addition of the library is going to give the students more reason to study and more reason to keep pursuing the careers they want to take on,” said Zoha. “An educated woman is the key to the successes of any society. She is able to make better decisions for the welfare of her children and for herself, and she is motivated to become an active leader of her community in order to make a positive change. An educated woman is intelligent, mature, and most importantly, powerful.” Your ACDS family couldn’t agree more, Zoha.