In a move that is befitting for one of the most vocal advocates for girls’ education of our time, the US Congress recently passed a bill named after Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai that increases the number of merit- and needs-based scholarships offered to women in Pakistan.
According to the official congressional website, the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act was passed by the House of Representatives in March 2020, and the US Senate adopted it by means of a voice vote on January 1, 2021.
The bill has now been sent to incumbent US President Donald Trump to sign it into law.
As per the bill, the US Agency for International Development and Aid (USAID) will award at least fifty percent of scholarships under a Pakistan-based higher education scholarship scheme to Pakistani women from 2020 to 2022. The scholarships will be available for a range of academic disciplines and will be awarded in accordance with existing eligibility criteria.
The USAID has also been directed to utilize investments made by the Pakistani private sector and the Pakistani diaspora in the United States to improve and increase the scope of education programs in Pakistan.
The agency is further required to brief the Congress annually on the number of scholarships awarded under the program, including a thorough breakdown by gender, discipline, and type of degree.
The percentage of recipients who were involuntarily pushed out of the program for failure to meet program requirements, and the percentage of recipients who dropped out of school (including due to retaliation for seeking education) will also be calculated.
The USAID has awarded over 6,000 scholarships to young women to facilitate their goals of pursuing higher education in Pakistan since 2016. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act will expand the scope of this scholarship program.