SAN FRANCISCO, June 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Many young Pakistani women from low-income families can only dream of going to college or university. Now, however, some disadvantaged young women will have the chance for their dream to come true. With a generous donation from the Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation, established by Pandju Merali in honor of his late wife Shirin Merali, The Asia Foundation is set to launch a scholarship program that will enable young Pakistani women — "Merali Scholars" — to pursue undergraduate studies at eight highly respected colleges and universities in Pakistan. The Asia Foundation will enroll 66 women in hard-science degree programs, 67 women in medical degree programs, and 67 women in engineering degree programs.
The Pakistani literacy rate for women is one of the lowest in the world. If poor families cannot afford to send all of their children to school, they usually give preference to boys over girls. Many girls enrolled in primary school are forced to drop out before secondary school to contribute to family income. Poor girls who do manage to finish secondary school have few options to continue their education as their families cannot afford to pay for college and university tuition and books.
The Asia Foundation will partner with a local Pakistani non-profit, the CARE Foundation, to assist with scholarship recipient selection and manage the logistics of the program. The Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, uniforms, and educational supplies and books. Without this scholarship, the young women who will be selected would not be able to continue their education beyond secondary school.
Since 1954, The Asia Foundation has worked to improve access to and the quality of education across Asia — especially for girls and women. During the 1990s in Pakistan, The Asia Foundation worked with local non-governmental organizations in remote rural areas where there were no girls' schools to enable girls to get at least a primary education. The Asia Foundation has also worked to strengthen the education system throughout Pakistan by bringing together educators, donors, policy-makers, and government officials to examine the state of education in Pakistan and make recommendations.
The Asia Foundation will implement this five-year, $560,359 project with support from the Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation. The first Merali Scholars in Pakistan will enroll in the 2010-11 academic year and be supported until they attain an undergraduate degree.
About The Asia Foundation
The Asia Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region. The Foundation supports programs in Asia that help improve governance, law, and civil society; women's empowerment; economic reform and development; and international relations. Drawing on nearly 60 years of experience in Asia, the Foundation collaborates with private and public partners to support leadership and institutional development, exchanges, and policy research.
With 18 offices throughout Asia, an office in Washington, DC, and its headquarters in San Francisco, the Foundation addresses these issues on both a country and regional level. In 2009, the Foundation provided more than $86 million in program support and distributed nearly one million books and journals valued at over $43 million.
For The Asia Foundation—
SOURCE The Asia Foundation