Genevieve Walsh first visited Pakistan in 2007, two years after an earthquake killed 80,000 people there. One of the first people she met was a 13-year-old girl named Iqra, whose name means “read” in Arabic and is the first word of the Koran, giving it great significance in the Muslim world.
Already, the girl embodied her name: After the earthquake, which killed her siblings and mother, Iqra organized a tent school, where she taught the other surviving children. Her father told Genevieve he and his wife had named her Iqra because they knew education was the way to create the change their community needed, and they believed their daughter would help create that change.
After meeting Iqra and her father, Genevieve decided to focus her doctorate on girls’ education in remote communities in northern tribal Pakistan. After four years of work and research there, she founded Iqra Fund in 2011 with a goal of creating sustainable access to quality education. The model was based on empowering community leadership, funding scholarship programs and investing in training teachers. Since then, Genevieve has seen education, especially for girls, change the culture in the communities where we work. She believes these changes could ripple throughout the nation and onto the international stage: Pakistan has nuclear warheads and it borders India, another nuclear country, as well as the economic superpower of China and war-torn Afghanistan.
“Through girls education,” she says, “we’re not only decreasing poverty, but reducing extremism, nationally and globally.”
Prior to founding Iqra Fund, Genevieve worked for another educational NGO in northern Pakistan, and as an environmental science teacher for an international girls high school that spends academic semesters in southern Africa and Latin America. She holds a Doctorate of Education from Montana State University.