Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Importance of Literacy

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Literacy in a population is defined as the number of people, aged 15 and older, who can both read and write. In 2015, only 38.2% of Afghanistan’s population was literate – 52% of men, and 24.2% of women. In Pakistan, 57.9% of the population was literate – 69.5% of men and 45.8% of women. Why are literacy rates so low in both of these countries? Why is this important, and how can we improve it?

There are a number of factors that contribute to low literacy rates. Literacy is affected by location, and is typically lower in rural areas. In cities, there are usually higher literacy rates. For example, in Islamabad, with a population of 2 million, literacy reached nearly 96%. Women in both countries have significantly lower literacy rates than men. This is often due to cultural norms and traditional roles. But what happens if we allow girls to receive an education?

Literacy improves self-confidence. Being able to read and write empowers individuals to be active in their community, and involved in social discussions. There is also evidence that literacy improves health. When individuals are able to read and write, they are able to make better choices with their healthcare. Investing in education can create changes over generations. Women who receive an education are more than two times as likely to send their own children to school. Additionally, it is also economically advantageous for girls to receive an education. Countries can lose up to $1 billion of their GDP in a year by not providing girls the same educational opportunities as boys. An extra year of school can increase a girl’s income by 20% when she is an adult.

Barakat works hard to provide education at no cost to our students. This includes classes, uniforms, books, stationary, firewood, clean water, health services, and teacher salaries. Donations from supporters of Barakat make our work possible.

$50 = 1 year of literacy

$90 = 1 year of elementary school

$110 = 1 year of middle school

$170 = 1 year of high school

$1,300 = 1 entire literacy program for a year

For more information, or if you would like to donate to Barakat, please click here. Literacy improves people’s lives, and Barakat allows communities to thrive.

 

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Geography and Environment

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We believe that it is incredibly important for supporters of Barakat to learn about the landscape, culture, and people of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although we work in both countries, they are not easily comparable. These blogs will try to give readers a better understanding of both countries, while emphasizing each of their rich and unique cultures and environments.

A flight from Boston to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, or Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, would take nearly 20 hours – that is, if you flew one of the more direct routes. Both cities are over 6,500 miles from Barakat’s home base in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although Barakat team members are located all over the world, we work closely together to promote our goal: helping communities thrive through education.

To give our US readers some context, Pakistan is 796,095 square kilometers, or about twice the size of California. While there are mountains, including K2, and cooler temperatures in the north, much of Pakistan is covered with dry, hot deserts. Due to the country’s location, there are frequent earthquakes. Pakistan has a small border with the Arabian Sea, and neighbors Iran, Afghanistan, China, and India. In 2016, Pakistan’s population reached over 201 million people.

Afghanistan is slightly smaller, at 652,230 square kilometers, or about the size of Texas. The weather is usually very dry, with hot summers and colder winter months. The country is covered in mountainous terrain, including Noshaq mountain, which stands at 24,580 feet above sea level. Earthquakes are also relatively frequent in these mountains. Afghanistan is a landlocked country, and borders Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and India. Afghanistan’s population in 2016 reached over 33 million people.

Each country also faces a number of environmental issues. Approximately 16 million people in Pakistan do not have access to clean and safe drinking water, and 68 million people do not have have access to sanitation. While these numbers are staggering, many organizations are working to promote clean water and sanitation in these areas, including WaterAid, Charity:water, and the Al-Khidmat Foundation.

Afghanistan also faces a shortage of clean water and sanitation. Only 30% of individuals in rurals areas have access to safe water, and only 29% of Afghans have access to sanitary bathrooms. A number of organizations are currently working to improve Afghans’ quality of life by advocating for clean water and sanitation in the country, including the American Friendship Foundation, UNICEF, and Zam Zam Water.

There is a link between access to clean water and girls’ education. Globally, it is the responsibility of women and girls to collect water for their families. Averaging over 3 miles per day and 5 gallons per trip, many girls can miss school because of this task. A global effort is needed to improve access to clean water and sanitation in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, women and girls will have greater opportunities to participate in the economy, further their education, and improve the lives of themselves and their families.

 

 

Recent events in Afghanistan

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Dear readers, wishing you a very happy Wednesday from the Barakat Team.

Although Ramadan is meant to be a month of peace and spirituality, in the last two years with worsening conflict in the Muslim world, Ramadan has become a month of violence and bloodshed. On May 26th, there was a Taliban attack on a military base in the Kandahar Province. This attack left 15 or more Afghan soldiers dead. On May 27th, at least 18 people were killed by a suicide car bomber that attacked Afghan police providing security to US forces in easter Afghanistan. The casualties included civilians – women and children – who were in the area at the time of the attack. The attack took place in the Adraskan district of Herat. The deadliest attack of them all took place on May 31st, where a truck bomb blast on Wednesday killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 300 in Kabul. Officials describe  the bombing as one of the biggest to have hit the Afghan capital and witnesses describe the blast as an “earthquake.” This is especially concerning because the area is under high-level security, and insurgents are consistently managing to get around that. For the time being no definitive responsibility has been taken by any insurgent entity and no evidence of who conducted the attack has been presented, but someone will definitely take responsibility in the next few days. Naturally, the Taliban immediately denied responsibility, for they would not want people to question their Islamic values and stance, especially since an attack of this size during Ramadan would really diminish their popularity. On the other hand ISIL does not have the capacity nor the resources or influence in Afghanistan to conduct such an attack of this magnitude but may claim the attack in a shower of power. Finally, the real long-term concern is that the Afghan government seems to be failing in terms of security, and a lack of strategic intelligence and leadership has made it easy for insurgents to conduct these kinds of attacks.

What is Ramadan?

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Good morning from Cambridge, Massachusetts,

Today I thought it would be interesting to explore the question on everyone’s mind – what is Ramadan? Is there more to it than fasting? Why do Muslims even fast at all?

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, which is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, the month that is used to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Mohammed as well as Mohammed’s ascension to the lowest heaven. The observance of Ramadan or sawm is one of the five pillars of Islam, which are five basic acts in Islam that are considered mandatory by believers. During this month, Muslims fasting (abstain from drinking water and eating food) between the hours of sunrise and sundown.Fasting is not obligatory for several groups of people for whom it would be problematic and damaging to one’s health. For example, diabetics and nursing or pregnant women are not obligated to fast.

One of the holiest nights of Ramadan, and arguably one of the holiest nights in Islam is called Laylat al Qadr. It was on this night that the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet. It is on this night that Muslims believe that all prayers are answered, and sins are forgiven.

Food and drink are not the only things that Muslims abstain from while fasting. They also refrain from having sexual intercourse, smoking and doing drugs. Furthermore, Muslims who are fasting should not indulge in obscene speech,  falsehood in speech or action and slander.

Ramadan is a month of spiritual growth, abstinence, and fostering feelings of empathy for those who do not have access to food and drink due to poverty or other circumstances.

 

Notable Women in Pakistan (Part 1)

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Hello readers! A lot of stereotypes have been generated in the last few decades about women in Pakistan, and other Muslim countries. We at Barakat would like to make you aware of Pakistani women who have really stood up for themselves and their beliefs, have become leaders in their respective professions, leaders of the communities, and positive influences for other women in their home country and all over the world.

Benazir Bhutto was the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988-1990 in her first term and 1993-1996. She was the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country. Benazir was born into a political family – her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was Prime Minister, and was removed from his leadership position in a military coup in 1977. Benazir attended the prestigious Radcliffe College at Harvard University, where she studied comparative government. Benazir continued to fight for her beliefs and her party even when she was in exile in the 2000s, and her persistence became very apparent when she returned to Karachi in 2007, to prepare for the 2008 national elections. Benazir was killed on the 27th of December 2007, while she was leaving a campaign rally.

Malala Yousafzai was born on the 12th of July 1997 and hails from Swat, Pakistan. She harnessed public attention when she was shot by a Taliban gunman for her role as a social activist promoting female education. Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and continues to spread awareness for education, especially for women, in Swat valley, where women were unable to go to school, due to the Taliban’s influence. At the young age of 19, Malala has co-written her memoir, received dozens of awards for her bravery and leadership, and founded the Malala Fund. The Malala Fund works to secure a girls’ right to quality education.

Recent Events in Afghanistan: MOAB

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Good morning from Cambridge, wishing you all a great week ahead!

The last few weeks have been rather troubling and turbulent in Afghanistan. There has been a lot of political unrest in the country, and relations with Pakistan have also been quite strained recently, which has also put pressure on the government as trade has been interrupted and civilians’ livelihood his being affected. More recently, however, the United States military, under the direct orders of President Donald Trump, carefully organized the drop of a MOAB on the Achin district in Afghanistan, which has had a number of repercussions, both physically, socially, and politically.

About the MOAB:

On April 13th the Untied States military dropped its “most powerful conventional bomb” on caves in the Achin district that, based on United States intelligence, was used by affiliates of the Islamic State.

What to know about the MOAB bob?

  • Nicknamed the “mother of all bombs”
  • America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb
  • Weighs 21,600 lbs
  • Targeted ISIS tunnel and cave complex and personnel in Afghanistan

To read more please visit this page.

Results of the MOAB:

“Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said initial information indicated that 36 militants had been killed and three large caves destroyed in the bombing in Nangarhar Province. However, Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor’s office, said 82 militants had been killed.”

The blast was felt and heard by tens of miles away, a tribal elder who lives less than two miles from the targeted area believed that his village had been the target as they physically felt the blast, and shrapnel and rocks as heavy as five pounds fell on his house, the tribal leader said.

To read more please visit this page.

Reactions to the MOAB: 

The MOAB, though carefully orchestrated by the United States sparked international controversy. Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai called the use of the MOAB as a “brutal act” against the sovereignty of Afghanistan and criticized President Trump’s orders and advocated for the immediate removal of American troops from Afghanistan. Although it has been claimed that 90 Islamic State militants were killed by the weapon, Karzai called the event “an inhumane act, a brutal act against an innocent country, against innocent people, against our land, against our sovereignty, against our soil and against our future… A bomb of that magnitude has consequences for the environment, for lives, for our plants, for our water, for our soil – this is poison, a poison that will be there for years.” Karzai is not the only person to speak out on the attack, many are criticizing the United States’ aggressive approach in trying to eliminate ISIS, especially since it is costing innocent civilians their livelihood as well as the livelihood of future generations.

To read more please visit this page.

Recent events in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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Good morning from sunny Cambridge and wishing you a happy Wednesday. Today we would like to summarize recent events that have taken place in either Afghanistan or Pakistan respectively, or events that involve both countries.

Afghanistan:

Afghanistan tries to use natural resources to gain American support 

Under the new administration President Donald Trump has frightened many world leaders and their constituents, especially those who hail from or represent predominantly Muslim countries. Afghanistan has been made aware of that, and therefore the government is trying to harness support and grab attention of President Donald Trump by “dancing its massive and untouched wealth of minerals, including lithium the silvery metal used in mobile phone and computer batteries that is considered essential to modern life.” That is not all Afghanistan has to offer, in addition to the lithium it includes coal, copper, chromite, mercury, zinc, gems, including rubies and emeralds, as well as gold and silver.

Lithium and the mining of other raw materials and minerals could be extremely beneficial to Afghan’s, and potentially raise some much needed capital for the country. However, there is a catch. With the security situation in Afghanistan working and the Taliban seizing territory, it appears that the regions with the greatest lithium deposits are currently too dangerous to enter, let alone mine in. Despite the facts, Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani are hoping that they can catch Washington and President Trump’s attention, since the country has experienced enough turmoil and wants to have some recognition in the international community and give Afghanistan the credibility they need to revamp their image, especially to the United States and the new administration.

To read more please visit this link.

Pakistan:

Deadly Blast Near Lahore Targets Pakistan Census Workers

A deadly blast took place on Wednesday March 5th in the city of Lahore situated in East Pakistan. The blast was targeting the country’ first national census in nearly two decades, and it killed four army soldiers, nice air force member and a civilian. In addition to the casualties 17 others were wounded.

To read more please visit this link.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: 

Afghanistan Reacts Angrily to Pakistan’s Fencing of the Border

As mentioned in the previous blog post, there tensions between India and Pakistan have been escalating over the last few months. It has gotten to the point where Pakistan has started fencing off the border between the two countries for reasons of being concerned about national security. Afghanistan is calling on Pakistan to stop this, otherwise the fear is that they will resort to military action. Islamabad’s “assertions that militants are entering Pakistan from the Afghan side to launch terrorist attacks in the neighboring country (Afghanistan) as per ministry spokesman Mostaghani are inaccurate and an excuse on their part to not open borders back up.

Afghanistan has also stated that the closing of the border is “unjustified” since the Durand Line, the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan established in 1896, serves both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghans are seeing the building of a fence as a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty but Pakistani officials argue that “the fencing is being undertaken “well within” their territory and once completed, will address mutual security concerns and improve understanding between the two countries.” Furthermore, Islamabad has also “dismissed Afghan objections over the international status of the Durand Line, saying Pakistan inherited it when the country gained independence from Britain in 1947.”

To read more please visit this link.