Monthly Archives: July 2009

Get to know the Barakat staff: Christina Dinh


We’d like you to get to know the faces and personalities behind the Barakat staff, so we’re bringing you a series of updates about each of our staff. We hope you have as much fun reading them as we did writing them.

Name: Christina Dinh

Photo 1






Hometown: South Windsor, CT

School: Northeastern University

What you do at Barakat: Development Assistant

Fun fact about yourself: I can speak 5 languages (Vietnamese, 2 dialects of Chinese, French, and of course, English!)

What have you learned working at Barakat: I have learned a lot about South and Central Asian society and culture as well as how these factor into education.

Favorite quote: “Freedom lies in being bold.” – Robert Frost

Heroes: My mom, She’s superwoman and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her.

You’re suddenly stranded on a desert island but naturally you got to bring your five favorite thins. They are:

-my SIGG bottle



-a good book to read

-cell phone (so I can be rescued eventually)

Most desired superpower: teleportation becuase travel is expensive and it would be awesome to travel to wherever I wanted in a flash.


Stayed tuned for more entries about our fantastic staff!


Damon in India: Where are the women?



My girlfriend Kate pointed out yesterday as we were walking along a crowded street in Jodhpur that women are conspicuously absent. “Where are the women?” she asked me.

I assume they’re at home. I don’t know where else they’d be. The portrait you get from the street is that India’s population is 95 percent men and 5 percent women. I suppose it’s unfair to generalize this to all of India, since Kate and I have only been to a few cities in Rajasthan, but here’s what we’ve seen.

Men drive rickshaws and taxis. Men tend shops. Men do construction. Men do demolition. Men work on roads. Men tailor clothes. Men run hotels. Men run restaurants. Men make chairs. Tour guides are men. Guards are men. Policemen are men. Travel agents are men. What do women do?

Here’s what I have seen women doing. I saw a couple women working at the railway reservation station, a government run agency. In the thousands of motor vehicles I’ve seen now, I have seen about 10 scooters operated by women. I’ve seen some women sweeping the street in the morning – again, paid by the government. I have seen women in transit: walking on the street, in a vehicle, and on the train. I have heard that girls go to school, although nearly all of the children I’ve seen in school uniforms so far are boys. And a couple of the people we have bought hand-made souvenirs from have said that their wives made the items.

The men we, as tourists, encounter are so immersed in their public world of men that they seem to look past Kate. It is a rare occasion that anyone addresses her (which she is actually pretty happy about, considering how often people approach us for something). I am the one they look to first. “Sir, where would you like to go?” “Sir, what would you like for dinner?” “Sir, biscuits or some water?” Sir, sir, sir. The few times that anyone has addressed Kate, they even call her “sir”. As far as I can see as an outsider, public life in India is men’s domain. I can only guess what most women do: housework and teaching?

The question comes to my mind, what does it matter that women are so underrepresented in so many types of work? Is it important at all? I’m sure a book could be written about this, but I came up with some short answers. Yes, it is important. It only seems fair that women should be able to do the same work as men if they want to. Women have aspirations outside of family life just like men. I imagine many would like to be able to pursue them, although I’m sure some are happy with what they are doing already. But the point is to have the option to pursue what you want to pursue. That’s what seems important to me about not seeing women anywhere.

So how can women have more opportunity? Simple: education. Education can give women the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in these jobs, and the confidence they need to find them. It can give men the understanding that women should have the freedom to do what they want. Having this freedom will help everyone. When half the working-age people in a country (women) aren’t free to pursue careers, there’s a lot of untapped potential in that country. Whether because of nurture or nature, there are a lot of areas in which women are more skilled and talented than men. Restraining what jobs they can have wastes those talents. And personally, something feels very unbalanced about a world in which every direction you look you see swarms of men.





UNESCO Host World Conference on Higher Education in Paris


Last week around 150 countries participated at The World Conference on Higher Education, calling on governments to increase investment in higher education, teacher training and greater regional cooperation.

The conference, held in Paris, covered issues like the impact of globalization on higher education, social responsibility, academic freedom, research and financing.

Want to know more? Read this UN News Release for more information.

Extra! Extra! More news


We’ve scoured the papers to bring you the latest news related to our mission. It looks like some columnists are taking an interest in Pakistan these days. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristoff is teaming up with broadcast journalist Ann Curry to travel through the country. We’re staying up to date by reading Kristoff’s blog and the team’s Twitter updates.

Swat refugees begin to return home, Washington Post, July 14

Nicholas Kristof: His maternal instinct, New York Times, July 19

Thomas Friedman: Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No., New York Times, July 19

Let us know what you’re reading. Leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Damon in India: A few more photos


Damon attempted a horrifying task for many tourists and some men in general: shopping like the locals.

Luckily, Damon survived.


Stay tuned for more of Damon’s adventures! Just joining us? Catch up on what our executive director is up to as he travels through India by reading previous posts.

Take a step forward for education!


Have you registered to participate in our Walk for Literacy yet? The Walk, to be held on Saturday, Oct. 24 on the Cambridge Common, is a great way for you to support our cause. Plus it’s an excellent chance to exercise and enjoy some beautiful (fingers crossed!) fall weather.

Right now registration for the 5-mile walk is only $25. If you wait until the day of the event, it will be $40.

We’ll make it really easy for you. Just click on this link and you can register right away.


Done with that? Great! Now here’s the next step. Start raising money. Every little bit counts. Just $40 allows a girl to attend one of our literacy courses for an entire year!

A First Giving account makes donating easy. Check out the page we started and then create your own. Add a link to your facebook page or paste it into a tweet and your friends will start donating right away. Or send out an e-mail with a link to your page. Trust us – it works! In no time, you’ll be sending five girls to school for just $200.

Got some great fundraising tips you want to share? Let us know all about it and drop us a comment below!