Tackling forced marriage and ensuring girls are educated is one of the greatest challenges of our time and it’s a crisis which Pakistan can’t fail to meet. A report by Alif Ailaan in 2016 revealed the severity of the situation in Pakistan with it having the second highest number of girls out of school of any country in the world.

This must serve as a call to action and not for the issue to keep being carried onto to one generation to the next. Pakistan as a nation has to realise that no nation can succeed when girls are held back and denied from fulfilling their potential.

There can be no roadblocks in the way of any girl. The education of girls can’t be held to ransom by inaction, a lack of willingness from politicians to carry out promises and by those who continue to enforce their fear of educated girls.

Education is not a privilege; it’s a basic fundamental human right and is the greatest development investment any nation can make. When girls are educated cycles of poverty are broken, the health of that society is improved, inequality is dismantled, a potential is realised, and girls are equipped with the skills to transform a society for it to succeed.

Forced Marriage is one of the biggest prevailing obstacles that Pakistan must take immediate action if it is to address the education of girls. Child marriage and forced marriage is one of the biggest barriers to the development and freedom of any nation. It is fundamentally about slavery, it’s a destructive practice that impacts, the health, the safety, the future of that society and holds it back.

Girl’s aspirations and ambitions can’t be segregated because of their gender. We have to ensure girls no matter where they live are free to live from the threat of violence and forced marriage.

There are girls taking incredible acts of courage to be educated standing in the face of threats of violence from those who seek to deny them that right because they are girls. Pakistan as a country must meet that courage with a long-term investment of infrastructure of schools and programme for every girl to fulfill their potential.

We can’t stand by as a generation of girls are left to continually lost to control and fear. Every young person is a potential future leader, teacher, doctor, scientist, business leader, youth worker and human rights lawyer.

Our movement for change for girl’s education must be relentless and bold. The future of every girl must be all of our call to action. We have to hold politicians to account without fear, we have to engage communities and empower change from within.

Our collective futures depend on each of us upholding our fundamental human rights confronting violations, speaking out for those at risk and taking action to dismantle them.

The writer is an Anglo-Pakistani human rights activist who tackles Forced Marriage. He is passionate about empowering change and fighting for the education of girls.