Posts Tagged ‘women’s rights’

News Day Tuesday: And you thought going to your school was tough.

January 13, 2009

At left, Shamsia Husseini took an exam with her classmates.  (photo: Danfung Dennis for The New York Times)

I remember when I went to school, all I had to worry about was homework, tests, catching the bus, getting to the cafeteria before the line got too long,…you know, typical stuff.  I never worried about being attacked by people who thought I shouldn’t be going to school because I’m a girl.

But sadly, that is exactly the kind of thing students and teachers of the Mirwais School for Girls have to worry about.  Back in November, a group of men attacked 11 girls and 4 teachers with acid.  Seventeen-year-old Shamsia Husseini (pictured at left above…you can’t really see her face) suffered the worst.  Her injuries were so bad that she had to be treated at a hospital abroad.  They were so bad that today her vision gets blurry, making it hard for her to read.

Not surprisingly, parents refused to let their daughters go outside after that.  So for four days, the Mirwais School for Girls was empty.  But four days was enough for the headmaster of the school, Mahmood Qadari, who proceeded to work tirelessly to fill those classrooms again.  He asked the local government for more police, a footbridge, and a schoolbus.  And he held meetings with hundreds of parents imploring them to let their daughters return to school.

And so today, just TWO months after the attack, the 40 classrooms of the Mirwais School for Girls are so full that additional classes have to be held in tents outside in the courtyard.  Did the government come through with the police?  No.  The bridge?  No.  The schoolbus?  No.

It seems that the only things that came through were the courage and persistence of the parents, the teachers, and most of all, the students.  Almost all of the 1300 or so students have returned to school, including 8 of the 11 girls who were attacked.

And yes, that includes even the girl who was hurt the most – Shamsia Husseini.  Last I heard, she was taking a geography test, trying to remember what the capital of Brazil was.  And if she did remember, she’d know more than a college graduate like me because I am absolutely terrible at geography.  😉

(I Googled it though.  The capital of Brazil is Brasília.  I never would’ve guessed that in a million years.  My two guesses were Rio de Janeiro, because of Carnaval, and São Paulo, because my plane landed there once on the way to Argentina.  Don’t tell Mari that.  She might hit me.)

If you’d like to read the full article, here it is.  There are also pictures showing the students going about their day in school.

News Day Tuesday: In Poverty and Strife, Women Test Limits

October 28, 2008

Moises Saman for The New York Times)
Zeinab Husseini, 19, sits in the drivers seat of her vehicle accompanied by her husband. (photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times)

Moises Saman / The New York Times)
Second Lt. Nahida Rezai, 25, was the first woman to join the Afghan National Police in the town of Bamian. (photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times)

Habiba Sarabi, governor of Bamian (photo: Zalmai for TIME)

So I know that last week’s headline was kind of a bummer.  Knowing that sexist men get paid more is kind of like saying the CEO of a long-established investment firm should get more than 300 million dollars in bonuses even if his firm ends up declaring one of the largest bankruptcies in history, thereby contributing to the current global financial meltdown.  Ahahaha!  Wouldn’t that be a riot?  What’s that?  That actually happened?  Oh.

Well, sexism and financial crises aside, fear not fellow citizens of the GBD!  For the plucky women of Bamiyan, Afghanistan are here to lift your spirits!

First up is Habiba Sarabi – governor of Bamiyan.  And not just any governor mind you, but the first and only female governor in Afghanistan.  And this woman’s got spunk.  Bamiyan’s a small town, ravaged by years of war and hardship.  So you would think (ok, so I would think) with all the problems that come with war, that protecting the environment would be the least of the governor’s worries.  And I would be wrong.  She is working to establish Band-i-Amir as Afghanistan’s first national park, and she means business.  When a platoon from the Afghan National Army visited the park and left their trash behind, Governor Sarabi called them back and lectured them – told them to clean up after themselves.  The army.  Yeah…she’s not joking around.

Next up are regular citizens like Nahida Rezai and Zeinab Husseini, who are breaking down cultural and gender barriers in order to support their families.  Rezai is the first woman to join the police force in Bamiyan.  Husseini is the first woman to drive in Bamiyan.  Yep.  To drive.  Think about that one for a second.

And finally, there are the many women of the 17,000 Community Development Councils throughout Afghanistan, including Bamiyan.  There are both men’s and women’s councils, each of which come up with their own ideas for local development projects.  In Bamiyan, one of the projects the women’s council came up with was to install solar panels to provide light, and now the project has opened up all sorts of possibilities, such as computers, televisions, and educational programs.  You can read more about all of these fabulous women here.

Why do you think the women of Bamiyan have been able to make this kind of progress, despite all of the obstacles and hardship they face?  Actually, hold that thought.  First I should ask…do you think what is happening with these women IS progress?  There are quite a few people in the world who would argue otherwise – that to continue with this type of change will only lead to the breakdown of the very fabric holding their communities together.  Thoughts?