Author: Thomas Valenti

Tom Valenti is an attorney, arbitrator, mediator, trainer and conflict resolution practitioner based in Chicago, IL, but offering services globally.

Guest Post: Open Letter to Hillary Clinton from Three Young Afghan Students – Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo

Valenti Law

Dear Mrs. Clinton,

We hope you would be healthy, this letter is written by three Afghan girls (Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo). You may wonder about receiving this letter from Afghan girls. You may be happy receiving it, you may not. You might have the time to read or you might not, but we suggest you to it read once. We thought a lot about to whom to write this letter, like: Mr. Donald. J. Trump; the last president of US, Mr. Obama; the ex-President of the US’s wife, Mrs. Michelle Obama; and you Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Finally, you were the one we chose to write this letter for. As a woman you can understand us girls better.

Arezo, Farangis, and Sakina

Mrs. Clinton,

We three have lots of dreams to be heard, we have a lot in our hearts about our futures and goals to be shared with someone —…

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Guest Post: Open Letter to Hillary Clinton from Three Young Afghan Students – Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo

Dear Mrs. Clinton,

We hope you would be healthy, this letter is written by three Afghan girls (Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo). You may wonder about receiving this letter from Afghan girls. You may be happy receiving it, you may not. You might have the time to read or you might not, but we suggest you to it read once. We thought a lot about to whom to write this letter, like: Mr. Donald. J. Trump; the last president of US, Mr. Obama; the ex-President of the US’s wife, Mrs. Michelle Obama; and you Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Finally, you were the one we chose to write this letter for. As a woman you can understand us girls better.

 

Arezo, Farangis, and Sakina

 

Mrs. Clinton,

We three have lots of dreams to be heard, we have a lot in our hearts about our futures and goals to be shared with someone — someone who can understand us, get what we say and listen to our hearts talk. We need someone experienced, someone who has lived life longer than us, and knows how life is going on and why are humans living. We want to have someone who guides us and supports us in the path of having our dreams and reaching our goals. Here, in our country, it is too difficult to talk about our goals, and share them with others. Whenever we want to talk about our dreams, we get negative ideas. One says: ”your dreams will remain just dreams.” Another says: “your dreams are much bigger than what you are.” The next one says: “I do not think you are the one to achieve these goals.” The other person says: “the bomb explosions and suicide attacks will not give you the chance to have your dreams come true, you will probably die in suicide attacks somewhere on the street, in the educational societies, in the mosques or even at the schools like the youth who died.” The only positive thing that we hear is this,” you are still alive, this should be everything for you.”

The people around us have no hope for living a long time. When there is no hope in life, how can we talk about our dreams and future plans? We live in a country in which the people are killed in bomb explosions in every nook and cranny. This is life for us! Suicide attacks and burying the dead bodies of hundreds and hundreds of the people, and having the next hundreds injured, including men, women, the elders, the youth and the children. When we leave home for school in the morning, we are not sure of coming back safe. We are not safe even at the school where is the place of learning and getting knowledge. When we leave for anywhere until we are back at home, losing us in a bomb blast is the main and the biggest worry of our parent. They have the deep fear of losing us and not seeing us again. When our parents leave for somewhere, we are uneasy about a suicide attack happening somewhere in our country and losing our parents. Then it will be so hard living without a father and mother. When life is all worries about losing our beloveds, how can we think of our goals and planning to achieve them?

The harmful effects of bomb explosions and suicide attacks on the street, roads, or even in the classes at school and in the educational societies leave the students despondent the about the way life is going.  The recent bomb explosion has decreased the numbers of students entering education, most of them leave the school. The students are killed sitting on the school chairs with their pens in their hands and notebooks and books opened on their desks. The teachers are killed with the markers in their hands while solving the mathematical equations, explaining a biology lesson or chemical interactions. This is our life here. The insecurity and unsafety in our country have changed most family’s thoughts and decisions about sending their children to school for studying. The recent bomb explosions and suicide attacks have forced the families to prevent their children from going to school and taking classes in the educational centres.  They think it is best not to send their children school, otherwise, they will lose their children in suicide attacks. When families do not let their children to go to school because of the insecurity, the boys have no way, but to go to other countries, where they live many years of their life in refugee camps feeling lonely and insecure away from their families in very difficult situations of life.   And if they do not go to other countries, they have to work and save up for living.

Since the economy is weak in Afghanistan and the percentage of unemployment is high, they are forced to do illegal activities. The girls who are not let to go to school and study because of the bomb explosions and suicide attack, get married in a young age, even though they are not in their marrying ages. Then they stay uneducated the rest of their life.  After they get married, they start a common life with their husbands where they must obey their husbands. Most of the husbands here treat their wives like slaves.  The husband means to “to order” and the wife means “to obey.” If they are not obedient to their husbands, they are beaten to death by their husbands.  If the girls get married they will have to fight with marital problems then they can never go on with their studies, and cannot get a good education, because they will be mothers and they will be force to look after their children, and do the chores. We have friends who have gotten engaged in a very young ages and we see how life is hard for them and cruel to them. But we want to save our futures, we do not want to suffer the same fate.

 

Mrs. Clinton,

This is a dream for us to go to the US, and this is our goal to study college there. But when we talk about our dreams with others, they make fun of us ‘’you are girls and it’s not possible for you to go to other countries like the US. studying in a foreign country does not look good for girls  —  you might batter forget about studying in the US, if you girls go to the another country the people will talk behind you   —  you do not have the capacity to study there even — if you were boys there would be no problem studying in a foreign country, but you are girls and it is impossible for you.” Because we are girls, we cannot even think of studying in the US. We are girls that is why we are not capable of studying the college in one of the US universities, and we cannot dream what we desire from the deep of our hearts. Because we are girls, we even cannot have our own style and way of living. It’s impossible for us to live to our own style in our dream world even. As girls when we leave home for somewhere our families determine what time to come back but our brothers stay out for long times.

 

Mrs. Clinton,

We have had the dream of the studying in the Us, when we were young girls, and still we do dream from the bottom of our hearts. It has been one of our greatest and biggest dreams, and we are sure of having these dreams of our come true one day. But if you help us, it will come true sooner. If we study in the US, we can save our future, fates and live our dreams. You have never been us, and you have never lived the life’s we have. You have never been in a country like us. You have never been despised because of being a girl, you have never been made fun of while talking about your dreams, you have never seen and buried hundreds and hundreds of dead bodied together. That is why it may be a little hard to understand us. Despite of this, as a woman you can understand how another woman is feeling better than a man, that is why we chose you to write this letter for

We see our future in danger, we suffer from a great sense of insecurity. We do not want to die in a bomb explosion because we are too young to be killed. We have dreams, we love our selves. Please help us with our goals and dreams.

 

Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo

 

 

Sakina email: Sakinarezvani25@gmail.com

Arezo email: nazariarezo09@gmail.com

A Young Afghan Girl’s Reflections Upon Selena Gomez

What a young Afghan wants to know from Selena Gomez and what she would like Selena Gomez to know about her

I’m Muska Ehsan. I am a 14-year-old Afghan girl with big dreams. I live in a society where girls survive for their dreams, in a world surrounded by rich and big people (physically) with really small minds. But I don’t want to waste my time waiting for them to allow me to become broad minded.   I want to start this now, for myself.

I must admit, I am fully addicted to music. It empowers me, encourages me to focus on my goals, and it brings up a fire in my heart to not stop. I am a very big fan of Selena Gomez, she is the first person who affected my life this much. She gave me a hope to be what I am and to never lose hope during hard times, which are often in my country. She completely changed my life with her speeches, lyrics and life journey.

 

Selena 

I still remember the first time when I listened to her song, “Who Says.”  It touched my heart. I started crying.  I didn’t know why I cried, but the song had totally touched my heart. For some reason, I just started to search about her and slowly learned about her life journey and how she got to this stage of life. Watching her videos and speeches had totally changed my mind.

I had a new chapter to start with a new hope. So, I started to work with an Afghan kids’ television show. It was a new experience for me and I found many lovely and loyal fans. Actually, I had a kind of celebrity life in the small town of Kandahar. I was powerful and had the fire to do more, and give my best shows on television and encourage Afghan young girls to fight against the awareness of life which people have splashed in our minds. I wanted to give them the message that there is so much to do to help this country, and in several ways to change people’s minds.

After a year of television life, my father told me about a dormitory school which was the best school in Afghanistan for girls. I, hopefully, applied and got accepted. I was very happy, and couldn’t wait to encourage my friends, classmates and roommates to listen to music.  But, unfortunately, I didn’t know about dorms rules.   What I had thought about dorms wasn’t the same as I came to know about them. When I went there, the administration took my phone.  They started me on a busy study timetable.

Even so, I told everyone about Selena Gomez.  I could not hold my mouth to talk about her…

Quietly, it was getting harder for me because not having music was making my life complicated. Not receiving any news about Selena was like hell. I spent my nights crying but slowly it was getting normal and my focus on the future was increasing. My lovely advisor always kept encouraging me and told me “do not give up”. And the big dream of working in Disney channel as an actress was always burning. I know I will face many difficulties, but I will keep going because that is what my queen (Selena) is doing.

So, I imagined that I was asked to interview Selena on television and this is what I wish to ask Selena:

 QUESTIONS to my idol who may never see this…

  1. Whose biggest fan were you in childhood?
  2. What do you think about Afghan life? Or do you even think about Afghanistan?
  3. What is the most important thing which never stopped you from reaching your goals?
  4. What is your biggest fear in life which you fought for, to get to this level?
  5. Which kind of books do you like to read?
  6. Is there a quote which you have always followed the most?
  7. Which kind of people you like the most to talk to?
  8. If you could help Afghan girls, how would you want to help them?
  9. In what do you place no value in life?
  10. Did you ever imagine the life you are living now?
  11. Is there any hope that you have, that till now didn’t come true? If yes, is it impossible?

 

My dream is that someday I will have the chance to meet Selena and ask these questions of her in person.

 Muska

Muska Ehsan

What is inclusive education? A Guest Essay from Benafsha Yaqoobi*

Every human being was created free and with equal rights in every aspect of individual and social life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (148), ensures these rights; rights, such as freedom in choosing or changing living place, freedom of speech, freedom of decision to believe or not to believe in spiritual affairs, education, etc.

On the other hand, since the very beginning of mankind’s creation, we have been seeing a variety of differences in this creation. The first one, is the difference in sex or gender, as mentioned in many places in The Quran and The Bible, that they were created males and females. Other types of differences include ethnicity, race, language, religion (or system of beliefs), and also health-related differences. We may call these differences, diversities.

RayhabBut attitudes towards these diversities have been different from time to time, depending on the status of intellectual and social evolution of mankind throughout history. There have been a considerable number of wars, due to religious, ethnic or racial differences. For instance, The Crusade, which was a war between Christians and Muslims to conquer Jerusalem, was a religious one. Also according to historians, people with health status differences, such as leprosy, would be called, unclean and therefore would be drawn out of cities, far from the public. People with epilepsy would be associated with demons and in Roman Church. Their heads were pierced, so, hopefully the demonic spirits might exit from them.

There has been a large amount of evidence and documents, from the beginning, even to nowadays, showing and proving that mankind has had problems with his/her fellows with differences all around the world.
Disability, which could be defined as, limitations in functionalities in some parts of the body, or impairments in sensation, physical or even mental system, that are permanent , may create challenges for a person with disabilities. These challenges mostly come out of a kind of attitude towards this diversity, as well as other diversities.

One of these challenges is education, since there were no positive or inclusion-based attitudes towards people with diversities throughout history.
There has always been a question in people’s minds, whether it is possible or feasible to give diversity and minority people their right to be educated, or, whether they must be excluded or even deprived from such right, due to their diversity status.

Our aim in this essay, is to discuss about an evolved and ever-evolving approach to the issue of education, specifically for those with diversities, which we call, “inclusive education”.

Inclusive education: Definition.

Shelley Moore, a Canadian education specialist, defines it as follows:
“Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school”( Inclusion BC website).
Of course, even though the special needs of people with diversities, such those of people with disabilities, are not to be neglected at all, since all barriers are to be removed to pave the path for these types of people to receive a quality education, as equivalent as possible with the mainstreaming children.

Historical overview of approaches:

The importance and significance of such an ever-evolving attitude towards education of people with diversities may become clear, only if we have an overview of how mankind started the path and where we are nowadays.

Looking through history, we may face at least 4 approaches towards inclusion of people with diversities. They could be identified as, deprivation, segregation, integration and inclusion approaches.

Deprivation: this approach is derived from a totally negative attitude by majority or ruling people of a society towards people with diversities and their right to be educated. According to historians, in many of the ancient empires, people with low incomes were not allowed to send their children to school. In fact, education was merely the right of noble people.

Even nowadays, we may see in different parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, that females, as well as people with disabilities, and also some minorities, are either partially or totally deprived from their right to be educated. The fallen Taliban regime, during its governance, would not allow females to receive education. This and much more evidence is proof of a negative approach towards the education right for people with diversities, which, even nowadays, is followed by some under-development, at least in the level of traditions, if not to say by governments in a formal level.

Segregation: as mankind began to evolve himself scientifically, technically and intellectually, following the ages of renaissance, reforms and enlightenment, he began to think about how to involve people with diversities in the process of education, that led him to establish segregated places for diversity people. Louis Braille, the inventor of a system of reading and writing for persons with vision impairments, called, “Braille System”, was one of those people with disabilities who received education in a segregated, special school for the blind in France in 19th century.

Even nowadays, we see here and there, some segregated special schools for people with disabilities, such as people with visual, hearing and mental impairments. Such kind of places are criticized of segregating and isolating such people from the mainstreaming community.

Integration: in integrative approach towards education of people with diversities, we see the establishment of special classes within public, ordinary schools, for those with diversities, specifically those with disabilities. This approach, although evaluated by scholars as a much better approach comparing to segregation and deprivation, but findings have shown that people with diversities, even though, feel sort of segregated from the mainstreaming students. Even nowadays, we may face even in modern countries, both segregated and integrated places for education for people with diversities, including those with disabilities.

Inclusion: based on the laws and regulations on the elimination of all kinds of discriminations against people with all types of diversities, such as, Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, CRPD (2006), and Sustainable Development Goals SDG (2017) by The UN, and more, education specialists thought about how to fully include and involve people with diversities in the mainstreaming educational system. In the 21st century, this is the best and highly-appreciated approach, since it was evaluated as a helpful approach towards disappearance of discrimination.

The inclusive education advantages:

This approach is proved to be a good way of including people with differences in one place, in order to flourish the spirit of harmony and tolerance among students, who will be the future-makers, and on the other hand, to help people with diversities to feel comfortable with the mainstream.

Other advantages of this approach can be outlined as follows:

• improving individual strengths and talents, with high and suitable expectations for each student.
• Work on personal goals while taking part in the class procedure with other students with the same ages.
• Engaging the children’s parents in the process of education and in the school activities.
• Nourishing a culture of respect and correlation. Inclusive education may create an environment for understanding and accepting individual differences, decreasing the effects of irritation and bullying.
• Creating friendships with a wide range of other students, each with different needs and capabilities.
• Having positive effects, both on schools and on the society, so that they may welcome diversity and inclusion on a wider level.

Inclusive education requirements:

As mentioned above, to remove the barriers for those with special needs in a mainstreaming school, the following items may be required:

• Special stationeries: some categories of disabilities may not be able to use mainstreaming stationeries, such as notebooks, pens, pencils, etc. therefore, alternative stationeries may be provided for them. For instance, for children with vision impairments, if they are totally blind, special stationeries are required, such as, slates, styluses, tailors frames, Brailing machines, etc., and if partially sighted, they may require devices to make them able to read the normal books, such as books in large prints, or magnifying devices, etc.
• Resource center: this is specifically needed for persons with disabilities, since they need some rehabilitative services before joining public schools. Such center can also provide them with their special needs during being in public school.
• Resource person: this person could be a mediator between the children with special needs and their teachers. The resource person can train the teachers of the public school about inclusive education and its successful ways. The person can also be, for example, an interpreter between a child with hearing impairments and his/her teachers, using sign language, or, a reader for a child with vision impairments, who may have done assignment or exam paper sheets, using Braille system.
• Accessibility of school place: school environment should be accessible, specifically for those with physical impairments, with ramps and lifts to make it easier to ascend and descend from staircases, and for those with vision impairments, with tactile marks across the path that appears to be used by a child with vision impairments, using white cane.
• And also flexibility of teachers in using a variety methods of teaching, including work groups, peer mediations, etc., to make the class a place which is child-friendly.

Conclusion:

As discussed in the essay, mankind was created free, but with diversities. But as human knowledge began to develop, it was gradually realized that these diversities are not good excuses of persecution against one another.
Regarding education, which was considered one of the basic human rights, 4 approaches were discussed concerning people with diversities: deprivation, segregation, integration and inclusion.

Inclusion was considered as the best and ever-evolving approach, with advantages, such as, developing a spirit of harmony and correlation between different types of children in one environment, so that people with diversities may feel themselves harmonious with mainstreaming children.

Also, the special needs of children with disabilities, depending on their type of disability, are to be considered as inclusive education requirements.

Finally, it is worthy to be mentioned that, Afghanistan, as a war-torn country, is in need of tolerance, harmony and correlation between all types of people, including ethnicities, religions, etc., to build a sustainable peace and stability all around the country.
Therefore, by promoting inclusive education to all schools of this country, this spirit of harmony and correlation will be develop and flourished within our children, who will be our future-makers.

Citations:

1. The Quran.
2. The Bible.
3. Shelley Moore: Transforming Inclusive Education: Inclusion BC website:
http://www.inclusionbc.org/our-priority-areas/inclusive-education/what-inclusive-education

Benafsha 2

* Benafsha Yaqoobi , the director of an NGO for persons with disabilities, called, “Rahyab Organization (ORRSB)”, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She started her school in Kabul and continued until grade 7, right at the time when she and her family were obliged to immigrate due to civil wars of the 1990’s, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Persian literature.

She obtained a Master’s degree in 2 fields: political sciences from  “Payam’e’Noor” university, Kabul; and international relations from Afghanistan Institute for Higher Education, Kabul.

She hopes to continue her PH.D to raise her capacities and capabilities to become much more fruitful for her country.

During these years, she would do a large number of activities, such as, writing poems, writing in newspapers and magazines, directing and presenting programs in local media, etc.

 

Reflections from Vienna via Florence on IBA-VIAC CDRC Competition 2018: “The Value of Active Listening in the Heat of the Moment. (When bringing a “taser” to a mediation can be a good idea.)

“How can I interject this question without interrupting?”

“This answer doesn’t satisfy me. How can I ask again without stalling the conversation?”

“I need to discuss privately with my client, but it is not appropriate to stop this joint session now.”

“Perhaps I would need something to… tase my client, so that he could remember to consider my opinion as well!”

female taser

During mediation a lot of questions come to your mind, but it is usually not easy to get an answer quickly and keep track of the conversation. When you attend negotiation courses or you study the theory of mediation at home, it is fairly common to overlook the practical implications of such questions, but trust us, they are very relevant.

However, let’s start with some brief introductions first: we, the two writers of this hopefully interesting article, are Elisa Menichini and Emanuele De Napoli, two law students from the University of Florence, Italy. Together with two other students (Francesco Lichen Wang and Marzia Montinari), we were part of the only italian negotiator team at the 4th IBA-VIAC CDRC Mediation and Negotiation Competition in Vienna this July. We were coached by the experienced Professor Paola Lucarelli.
Florence Team
The CDRC Competition was a very formative experience, a melting pot of creative law students from all over the world ready to compete and learn under the guidance of legal experts and professionals willing to share their expertise and ideas. Mediation is a rather recent Dispute Resolution method in Italy (2010) and we, as future legal practitioners, felt that this competition was the right opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.

During the many rounds, carefully and masterfully directed by Claudia Winkler and the CDRC Staff, 33 teams of negotiators and mediators proved their skills in mock disputes based on the 2018 Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Problem.

There would be so much to describe and write about the competition itself, the wonderful staff and the friendships that were born this year in Vienna, but we will concentrate on a specific event that we truly believe captures one of the key aspects of mediation and conflict in general. Something that we all need to remember.

During one of the rounds we were facing the Istanbul ŞEHİR University, while the mediator was coming from Maharastra National Law University in Mumbay. The negotiation process was lively and dynamic since the beginning. Our team was divided as such: Elisa = Legal Counsel; Emanuele = Client. Bargaining techniques were followed by quick responses, numbers were soon flying across the table and the two opposing clients were dragged into the heat of the negotiation. The trusty legal counsel (Elisa) tried more than once to calm and reassure her competitive client (Emanuele), but he was too focused on his business goal to be “stopped” by his lawyer.

The agitated legal counsel even tried touching her client, but he would just uncounsciously move away. Even trying to hit his legs wouldn’t work, since he was conveniently keeping them under the other side of the table. The now fuming lawyer wrote down on her papers in capital letters “NO”, as a concise but effective way to express her disapproval of a certain proposal. Not even this last resort seemed to restabilish the connection between the two. The businessmen were at work and they didn’t want to be bothered!
Im-not-Listening
Eventually a break was called and we were able to breath, relax and get back into our two combative characters after having shared briefly our ideas and views. The rest of the session went smoothly.

Once the round was finished and the feedbacks by the expert assessors had already been given, we had the opportunity to receive further insights from the judges. When we told this “comic” situation to Thomas P. Valenti, one of the experts who offered us precious suggestions and tips, he recommended (as an obvious but very clever joke) an innovative technique to force active listening and to calm down for a while an overachieving client: using a taser. When caresses, stares and kicks in the legs fail, go harder and use a taser.

Even if it was only meant as a joke, it truly made us think of the value of mediation, active listening and teamwork. During this competition as well as during similar events that we took part in, we noticed how conflict can be like a tornado, drawing the parties into the fight and making them lose sight of their true interests, even if they’re well-prepared. The legal counsels might feel that they need to manage their clients and sometimes thwart their emotions. But the role of the legal expert is changing and a lawyer should be able to understand and compensate for his clients’s whim as well.

That’s exactly why you need mediation, why you need a third party that can redirect you to the right path. The legal counsel should be the “trusty companion” that can grant a proper reality check when necessary and the needed aid when in doubt.

In conclusion, mediation can be considered a “metaphorical taser”: a ground-breaking method among the dispute resolution procedures. It shakes the way we perceive conflict in nowaday society, it changes the rules. The CDRC Vienna Competition was the perfect context to see how effective mediation can be.

We, as young students and future professional, are active witnesses of an epochal change in the way people face conflict: an opportunity instead of a danger to be avoided at all costs.

And if sometimes we’ll need to be “tased” to achieve this results, so be it.

By Emanuele De Napoli and Elisa Menichini,
University of Florence (School of Law),
Italy.