A lover of all school subjects. A proven school debater. An admired school leader. After years of striving to complete her education, this 16-year old was told by her parents that she, like so many other girls, had to drop out and give up her plans of finishing school. The news struck hard. Graduating was Gulmeena’s dream, which, as she describes, “I deserved as much as my brothers or any boy.”

But this is Peshewar, Pakistan, where long-standing tradition generally forbids girls from an education, and steers them into child marriage, extinguishing their power and limiting their futures. For a young woman so strongly devoted to school and to shaping her own path, Gulmeena had no intention of timidly giving in.

Instead, she joined Right To Play’s after-school Leadership Club, where specially designed games taught her how to resolve conflict, build consensus and tackle complex challenges by seeing them from new perspectives. “The games showed us how to work together, discuss our issues, and create solutions.” Gulmeena says. “I discovered how to help others solve their problems.” But first, she had to solve her own.

Determined to challenge tradition, Gulmeena recruited her Right To Play coach and teachers, who convinced her mother of the value of school. They met regularly with her father, explaining her exceptional abilities and the ultimate value of her education. Gulmeena’s persistent, passionate voice led the effort: “I begged him for permission to go to school, explaining how a skilled, educated daughter could be a powerful contributor to our family and society.”

Despite his deep-rooted beliefs, Gulmeena’s father was ultimately moved by the tenacity and logic of the arguments. He allowed Gulmeena to pursue her goals – a life-changing win for a young girl over centuries of inequality.

But Gulmeena’s advocacy hasn’t been for herself alone. She’s transformed her victory into a liberating uprising. A tireless champion for the rights of girls to attend school, this recent grade-11 graduate has inspired hundreds of girls to see beyond confining customs, empowering the next generation to express, demand, and fulfil their own dreams.