Manbir Kaur, a member of the dwindling Sikh community in Pakistan, become the first girl from the minority community to top the matriculation exam in Pakistan. She is the daughter of Giani Prem Singh, the head granthi at Gurudwara Sri Nankana Sahib.
The 15-year old has scored 1035 marks out of 1100 to emerge topper. She is a student of Shri Guru Nanak Devji High School at Nankana Sahib.
People of all communities in Pakistan are showering Manbir with praises ever since the result was announced on July 30. Her achievement is no mean feat as in Pakistan Sikhs comprise only 1% of the population.
Manbir’s father in a jubilant mood has said that she had achieved what even boys of the community could not.
“I think Manbir’s hard work has paid off. She has always been a diligent student. Besides, God has been very kind,” Giani Prem Singh told.
Manbir is now holydaying with her mother and aunt. She has taken admission in a pre-medical course at the Punjab Group of Colleges in Lahore.
“Manbir wants to become a doctor,” her father said.
Manbir is an Amritdhari (baptised) Sikh and performs “kirtan sewa (sings hymns)” at Gurudwara Nankana Sahib along with other jathas (groups).
When asked about the difficulties of getting proper education for girls in Pakistan, Giani Prem Singh said, “I think women should be treated no differently from men as they have as much a right to pursue their dreams. If they can run homes so efficiently, why shouldn’t they be allowed to conquer the world outside?”
He said about 200 Sikh families staying in Nankana Sahib were doing their bit to encourage their daughters to give in their best. “Manbir’s cousins have also done well in the Class 10 exams,” he added.
Meanwhile, in order to recognise Manbir’s effort and inspire the community’s youth to excel, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee honoured her with a siropa (robe of honour) after the result was announced.
Amidst all these good news what is alarming is that Pakistan’s Sikh population is dropping drsatically. As per the 2010 census, there are only 15000 Sikhs in Pakistan, a fall from the more than 50000 members of the community not so long ago. Sikh Community are the constant targets of atrocities and as a result many familes had migrated to cause the numbers to fall down. Girls from the community have been the target of forcible conversion to Islam for marriage with more than 100 such cases reported in the past three years.
In such a scenario, Manbir’s feat comes as a ray of hope and inspiration for girls of the community fighting social prejudice to gain education and eventually become economically independent.