Category Archives: Politics

Recent Events in Pakistan

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If you’re like us you’re constantly scanning international news sources looking for articles about Pakistan and Afghanistan, but we know most people aren’t usually looking for such specific articles. Recently there has been a lot of activity going on in Pakistan that has caught our attention so we decided to try and sum up some of the activity that has really caught our attention.

Back in February the Punjab Assembly ruled that all violence against women was a criminal act. This is a huge step towards women getting greater rights in a country where they previously had next to none. The bill called “Protection of Women against violence Bill 2015” outlines different resources now available for women who are victims of violence.

 “‘Violence’ itself has been redefined to mean any offence committed against the human body of the aggrieved person including abatement of an offence, domestic violence, sexual violence, psychological and emotional abuse, economic abuse, stalking and cyber crime.” –Pakistan Today

The Prime Minister has also spoken out against honor killings, which is when families are allowed to kill women in their families that have brought disgrace on the family name and essentially make them disappear without retribution. There are thousands of women who are killed or go missing every year in Pakistan because of honor killings but the Prime Minister has finally spoken out saying that there is no honor in honor killings which is another huge step in changes in how women are treated in a country where they previously didn’t have a lot of rights. For more information check out this article.

Last month in the wake of the Brussels attack by ISIS there was another attack that didn’t gain as much media attention. This attack happened in Lahore, Pakistan this time it was carried out by the Pakistani Taliban against mainly Christians. Thankfully Lahore is on the other side of Islamabad from where our schools are in Attock City but it was a tragedy none the less. Over 70 people were killed and hundreds more were injured, majority of which were women and children. To learn more about the attack check out this article.

Recently, those of us in the west have primarily only heard about the different attacks that ISIS carries out but the Pakistani Taliban is also a very real threat to our students. Around the time of the attack in Lahore, the Pakistani government required Barakat to either increase security around our schools or close our doors. We chose to increase security so that our students could continue to gain an education even though it put a strain on our financials. Improvements to the schools included adding additional security guards at all buildings, installing security cameras, making the walls around the schools taller and installing gates. We did all of this to make school a safe place for our students to come and learn but we can’t do it alone!

Monsoon season is quickly approaching and we’re reminded of just how dangerous monsoons can be. This past weekend there was flash flooding in the provinces just north of our schools. Thankfully our schools were not affected but it was certainly a reminder of just how dangerous flash flooding can be. 53 people were killed and many more injured not to mention all of the houses and businesses that are now covered in mud from the flood waters. Summer monsoons are not far behind so it’s only a matter of time till we start seeing more stories like this one.

We hope you find these articles as interesting as we did!

 

 

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Afghan First Lady Promotes Careful Compromise

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News sources have showed much interest lately in Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani, and her unconventional media presence. A recent Washington Times’ article states that: “Rula Ghani has done what first ladies often do in democracies, attending public events alongside her husband and speaking before audiences on current issues. But her words have always been soft-spoken, measured and delivered away from the center stage of the Afghan political scene.”

Often times, Afghanistan’s first ladies are ‘invisible’, neither seen nor heard in public, and certainly not involved in any politics or activism. Ghani is one of the few First Ladies to appear as an advocate and counselor for female political issues. Her husband, President Ashraf Ghani, even set the stage for his wife’s presence by introducing her in his inaugural speech. That act alone isolates Ghani as a controversial female figure.

Ghani, however, in an interview with The Associated Press, refers to herself as merely a ‘listening post’. She refuses the expectation that she serve as an advocate for women’s rights and rejects the treatment Afghan women as victims or prisoners who are in need of escape. Instead, Ghani refers to Afghan women as “very strong women, indeed living in very challenging conditions, showing a lot of resilience, [and] a lot of resourcefulness”.

When placed in the scope of a democracy, Ghani’s actions may seem small. However, an interesting comparison arises when looking at statements made by First Lady Michelle Obama. The First Lady recently delivered a speech in which she defends the act of careful compromise. She stated:

“Do compromises make [great] leaders sell-outs? Traitors to their cause? I don’t think so. Instead I think they knew that if they could just get everyone to take that first step, then folks would keep on moving in the right direction. And they also understood that often the biggest, most dramatic change happens incrementally, little by little, through compromises and adjustments over years and decades. And I know that these days that can seem counterintuitive because we live in such an instantaneous age, [but] if you want to change their minds, if you want to work with them to move [a] country forward, you can’t just shut them out. You have to persuade them and you have to compromise with them. That’s what so many of our heroes in history have done…  they knew where they wanted to go, and they were strategic and pragmatic about getting there.”
(First Lady Michelle Obama, May 25, 2015)

Even in a democracy which centers itself on heated debates and polarized belief systems, the First Lady advocates for incremental change. Simply appearing in public and representing Afghan women as a ‘listening post’ can be a big move towards compromise. Could Ghani have made the first step towards a new female representation in Afghanistan? First Lady Michelle Obama and First Lady Rula Ghani may have more in common than first meets the eye; although they are female representatives for two very different nations, both are advocates for the careful compromises and small adjustments that move a society forward.

Here at Barakat, we know that change comes one step at a time; each girl who enrolls in our schools benefits individually from her education, but also serves as an advocate for slow but steady change, much like Rula Ghani. One girl can make a difference, even if that difference comes slowly, and in the form of small compromises.

We urge our supporters to help us continue our mission, and join us on the path towards global education, even if that path can seem long and winding at times! It is the careful consideration of different beliefs and a firm sense of understanding that will promote change for the better.

To learn how to advance the education of women and children and support Barakat’s most recent cause, visit our One for Education website here.

Changing Tides: Afghanistan’s Evolving Outlook On Women

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Changing Tides: Afghanistan’s Evolving Outlook On Women

Afghanistan is changing – with new president Ashraf Ghani, the world is hoping that at long last, Afghanistan will clean up its act. President Karzai governed amidst allegations of corruption, even from his own ministers; the Taliban still hold much of southern Afghanistan; Afghan forces are suffering from “unsustainable casualty rates.” And President Ghani too, has been subject to accusations of wrongdoing, such as those perpetuated by his presidential rival, Abdullah Abdullah, regarding electoral fraud.

But President Ghani does seem to be different. Notably, he has spoken up time and again about his vision of an Afghanistan where women in society are empowered. As reported by the Associated Press at President Ghani’s inauguration speech, “in the face of these girls I can see future Afghan leaders,” he said as he told his “sisters” in attendance that they have equal rights in society and government.

Moreover, President Ghani stands out for having paid public tribute to his wife, Rula Ghani, in his inauguration speech – a highly unconventional act, as Afghan leaders’ wives typically remain silent in the background. The First Lady herself commented that “by mentioning me the way he did, my husband really showed exactly what I mean by helping Afghan women be more assertive, more conscious of their role, more respected.”

All this looks very promising, but of course, many have expressed doubts as to whether these ideals will be realized. Mary Akrami, head of the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre, welcomes the sentiments expressed by the President, but hopes that they will be followed by “concrete action.”

That hope is shared by the team here at Barakat. As an organization built upon the idea that education is a fundamental human right and should be available to all, particularly to girls and women, Barakat is excited to see the impact First Lady Rula Ghani and President Ghani can make on gender equality in Afghanistan!