Monthly Archives: October 2010

Country-Wide Child Labor in Afghanistan: Not as Cut and Dry as it Looks

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Photo Source: BBC

What is wrong with this picture? Building and reforming education infrastructure in many countries is very difficult, largely due to widespread child labor. Afghanistan, one of the poorest  countries in the world poses no exception to this struggle. The BBC recently featured the country-wide problem of child labor in a new photo essay, which shows that even in a country divided by difficult topography, many different ethnicities and over 30 languages, child labor and a huge informal economy are problems common throughout. As you may know, in Faryab and Jowzjan provinces, where Barakat schools are located, many girls did not have the opportunity to go to school because they were helping in their family carpet weaving businesses during the day. The same  appears to be true for children in urban areas in these pictures — their current economic situation outweighs the long-term benefits of going to school. While this problem is then increased by the fact that much of the labor being done by children appears to be done in an expansive informal economy, we must figure out how to work within this situation instead of rejecting it wholesale.

Despite mounting adversity in the form of attacks on girls’ schools and dire economic conditions, children do still have a desire to go to school. In order to satisfy this desire, it is necessary to forge compromises between work and school. What we in the West often do not understand is that children helping their families’ businesses is quite customary and that effective schools are the ones that work within this context. Helping one’s family business from a young age is usually a part of a child’s life — to deny this would be to not fully understand the context of work within Afghanistan. It is therefore necessary to cater school and literacy initiatives to students in a way where they can still help their families, while going to school. Some helpful ways that we have found are through home-based literacy courses, night school programs and income generation curricula, like that developed by Saba Gul of Bags for Bliss to teach girls in Pakistan how to monetize their embroidery skills during the regular school day.

Joining the effort towards worldwide literacy is about taking into account the culture in which we work. This is one of many problems in the region that requires creative solutions and input from everybody!

As usual, feel free to comment below or shoot us a tweet @barakatinc if you want to join the discussion about child labor and increasing education in the places that need it the most.

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Top 5 Reasons to do Barakat’s 3rd Annual Walk for Literacy!

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Our 3rd Annual Walk for Literacy is this Saturday, October 16 – there’s still time to sign up! Need some more encouragement? Check out the reasons below!

1. The Organization: Barakat is one of many non-profit organizations trying to make a difference in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and our close contact with our on-the-ground staff gives us great understanding about the problems facing these countries right now. We are diligently working on small-scale problem solving in a widely misunderstood region and hope that by raising awareness about our cause, we can reach more women and children in these countries and give them the tools they need to empower themselves.

2. The Community: Participating in Barakat’s Walk for Literacy gives you a chance to meet people in the Boston and Cambridge community who are equally committed to the cause of literacy in South and Central Asia.  Even if you’re doing the Walk alone, you can find someone new and interesting to chat with and learn something from. Cambridge Mayor David Maher and journalist-turned human rights activist, Liz Walker will both be giving speeches to commemorate the event.

3. Making a Difference: Problems in South and Central Asia can seem like a world away, but they aren’t. Barakat’s mission is to enable thousands of women and children in this region to access their fundamental right to basic education so that they may empower themselves. It’s no secret that investing in education is a key strategy in alleviating poverty and inequality in developing countries. You can help by Walking on October 16th.

4.The Season: Everyone loves autumn in New England! The Barakat Walk for Literacy gives you a chance to enjoy the lingering days of fall while coming together for a great cause! Take advantage of this great opportunity to get outside and see 5 miles of fall foliage in the crisp October weather.

5.  The Activities: The fun doesn’t end at the Walk – we have fun activities after the Walk to celebrate everyone’s participation and hard work. This year, we will have henna tattoos, a kite-making workshop, and lots of delicious food from local establishments!

6.  The Exercise! The option between a 2.5 mile or 5 mile route around Cambridge allow Walkers to get as much exercise as they want! As the weather starts to cool down and the holidays approach, October becomes one of the last months when you can get outside and get active. Why not bring your friends and walk for a good cause?

Not in the Boston area, but want to help our cause? You can donate to Barakat here! Proceeds from this event will support our programs in Afghanistan Pakistan and India! Find more information on the Walk here.

Hope for Aisha: Taliban Victim Honored with Award and New Nose

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In what has become one of the most recognizable photos of 2010, readers of Time magazine were placed face to face with violence against women in Afghanistan in the magazine’s July issue. The photo of the brave girl who is only known by her first name, Aisha, exposed the unbearable conditions she had continued to  lived under, when her face was mutilated last year. Aisha’s story let Western audiences know that violence against women in Afghanistan is an issue of paramount importance, and one that cannot be hidden any longer. While the Taliban was technically dissolved in 2001, strongholds of Taliban resistance still exist and are in operation, as can be seen by the violent actions taken against Aisha and many other women like her.

Photo Source: BBC

While Aisha’s story was grim and heartbreaking, the tides turned this past week as she was honored with an award and the chance to have the constant reminders of her horror mended. Due to the widespread exposure and debate over her story, Aisha, highlighted in a previous post following the interview she gave for Time, was honored by the Grossman Burn Foundation with the Enduring Heart Award. She received the award from Maria Shriver in California where she also received a prosthetic nose and a chance to begin her life again without the daily reminder of her suffering. At 18 years old, she was being abused by her husband, a Taliban fighter and ran away. She was captured by her husband’s family and  had her nose and ears cut off and was severely beaten.

Aisha’s new start is some of the most refreshing news out of Afghanistan this week after the death of Mohammad Omar, a governor in Kunduz province whose death marks  Taliban violence in the normally  more stable north of Afghanistan. At the same time, the fragile security situation cannot create an ultimatum between, as President Hamid Karzai speculated in the Time article, “[…] protecting the right of a girl to go to school or saving her life.” I think we are all thankful that Aisha’s horrifying past has a chance for a new beginning, but let’s not forget that Aisha’s situation was not unusual. The more girls that are educated and empowered, the less of a chance the Taliban stands. So let’s stand together for Aisha and Afghan women whose stories we don’t read in major publications, but who remind us of the work that remains unfinished.

-Elizabeth Peyton

Got a comment? Start the discussion below or tweet at us @barakatinc!

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

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Barakat is happy to join UNESCO in celebrating World Teachers’ Day! As we continue our efforts to empower thousands of women and girls in South and Central Asia through education, we are reminded often about how necessary quality teachers are to this cause. Teachers in Barakat programs have been essential to the spreading of knowledge about human rights, the perils of smoking and gender equality. Our teachers serve as role models for their students and continue to exhibit the values of education.

A Barakat Teacher in Pakistan (Photo Credit: Barakat)

The origin of World Teachers’ day marks the signing of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, on October 5, 1966. This document, while recognizing the importance of teachers in “continued moral and cultural progress and economic and social advancement,” creates a set of universal standards and rights for teachers in order to ensure that they get the resources they need in their important roles.  UNESCO marks the event every year with a conference dedicated to international issues within teaching. This conference will be coupled with a virtual exhibition titled, ” A Tribute to Teachers.” Worldwide celebrations of teachers will take place.

Ever think about where you would be without the influential teachers in your life? If you think teachers had a bit impact on your life, consider what teachers can do for disenfranchised groups all over the world. In places where there are no school buildings or inadequate textbooks, the presence of a teacher can deliver education, despite lack of other resources. Please join Barakat in celebrating the contributions of teachers worldwide, and remember your favorite teachers today!