Children’s Rights

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

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.

 

“Till The Last Page” – a story of young Shazia’s migration to Beirut from Syria ~ guest post by Prachi Jain

Till The Last Page

The caterwaul and commotion around disturbs her sleep, she opens her dreary eyes, and lies wistfully in her makeshift bed.

Shazia fled Syria in 2012, and arrived at Shatila camp in search of refuge. Two years back, her life was totally different from what it was now. She lived with her family right outside small peaceful village Hama. Her family comprised of her parents and two younger brothers. Though they were poor, life was happy and full of hope for them. She attended government school in the neighborhood, her father had a small shop selling general household item. One of the brightest kid in school, Shazia never though she would have to live life of orphaned refugee one day.

Hama

– Village of Hama, Syria

Syria was under attack for almost a year by then, when one day her village came under attack of regime. She fled along with her family towards Southern Beirut to save their lives. She lost her mother before reaching camp, and soon after her father passed away due to fever and unavailability of proper medical care. Shazia still wonders was it really fever that took her father’s life, or was it pain of being uprooted from his homeland and loss of his life partner. By the time she reached refugee camp, all that was left in this world for her was her two little brothers, Alif and Rizwan aged ten and six. Responsibility of these two kids directly came up on their thirteen-year-old elder sister.

map-syria-300She steps out of her bed, folds it and places it in corner so that room can have more space during daytime. She shares one room with another family of 7 members. They were Palestinian refugee, living in this camp from past ten years. When she arrived at camp, all rooms were already brimming with people from Syria. Every month thousands of refugees were reaching camp in search of safe shelter from war affected country. In this dreadful time, that family had been kind enough to share their apartment with three orphaned children.

Life was tough in crowded dingy camp. Open electric wires spread like spider webs across the streets, running from building to building throughout alleyways. Power cuts and electrocution was common in this area. It was last week only, when a young boy got tangled in those wires while running here and there playfully. He tripped and lost his life. And this was the story of camp! Problems were many, earning was scanty, and the thing that was of least worth was LIFE.

“If you don’t try to write a memorable story, it will never be one! Be hero in your story, and make sure that it is the one that world remembers, one that inspires others.”

After living at camp for past two years, Shazia was no more a little girl. Responsibilities had turned her mature beyond her age. She along with her brothers used to pick bricks for construction, and carry them to site. They earned near about 4 dollars each and that was bare minimum for daily needs, let alone schooling, health care and other amenities.

Today was her birthday! In camp, every day was same, and thus apart from her nobody remembered it! While she was at work, carrying bricks on her head, memories of her last birthday with her parents came gushing to her.

She was hoping around in verandah wearing her pistachio green colored embroidered frock. Her mom was occupied in kitchen preparing her favorite dishes for the special day. Her father had gifted her doctor kit, a symbolic gift for his little princess who wished to become a Doctor on growing up. “Abba! I’ll study at a big university and then we will move to city, and then when I start working, you can stop working. You and ammi can spend all the time roaming here and there in city having fun, and I’ll earn a lot for five of us!” chimed Shazia.

“Will you move little faster?”, shouted contractor on site. Shazia came back to bitter reality. After finishing work, she took some time off, and sat alone at park’s bench.

Maybe because it was her birthday, or may be just a coincidence, but she was missing her past more profoundly today. Random memory came floating to her mind. She remembered a happy sunny day; her family had gone to nearby park with picnic basket for a day out. Her brothers were taking their turn on slide, and her mother was standing beside them making sure they didn’t get hurt. Shazia was sitting with her father on lush green grass. Her father said, “Shazia! You know our life is a story that is being written till our last living day. Once, we die, story ends. Some stories create an impact, some are dull and without any remarkable incident. But every life has a story”. Unable to understand the depth of her father’s thought, Shazia asked, “Papa! Who is author of our story? Is God writing it?” Her father laughs at this innocent question, cuddles his daughter in his arms and says “No my love! God just initiates this story by giving us life. But we ourselves are author of our story! Always remember! If you don’t try to write a memorable story, it will never be one! Be hero in your story, and make sure that it is the one that world remembers, one that inspires others.”

sabra-shatilla

-Shatilla Camp

The flashback ends and Shazia leans back on bench. What has she become? Is she even the same Shazia who was full of hope and aspirations once! If Ammi and Abbu would see her today, would they even recognize her as their Shazia? Sadness of years that had passed away, frustration of situations in present and depression of having uneventful future takes toll on her. She bursts in to tears. Why doesn’t it feel like her story! Sobbing alone on a park bench she shouts into oblivion, “This is not my story! It wasn’t supposed to proceed this way! I would have never narrated it this way”.

Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway?

The words fluttered and flew in the wind.

After the outburst, she sat bundled over there for some time and kept crying because of all the resentment that had piled up inside her.

How else will the sun rise if it won’t set? Darkness is inevitable, but so is sun rise. The break down that Shazia had on her fifteenth birthday, turned into a resolution. She decided to change track of her story. Her life is a blessing given to her by her parents. She cannot let it pass so indecisively. She makes up her mind to resume her education, and quit her daily wage job. Also she needs to find better source of income for three of them.

UNRWA operated a primary health care centre, one day school and one night school at camp. She enrolled herself and her brothers at night school. While her brothers continued their daily wage job, she requested Doctor Ahmad Shiabi at health care centre to take her up as an assistant. Doctor Shiabi had previously diagnosed Shazia when she was sick, and knew that she was mature and intelligent girl. He agreed to hire her at a monthly salary of 52 $. Soon she started learning nitty-gritty’s of health care and hygiene. In a camp hoisting such large number of people, patients were numerous and thus work was also never ending. But this was her childhood’s dream, and thus she enjoyed her job. Work for welfare gave satisfaction to her disrupted soul and mind.

When one finds inner peace, things start to align in a better way. Shazia now started saving some part of collective income that she and her brothers managed to earn. In a year, they saved enough to start a stall for selling yoghurt and tomatoes. Alif and Rizwan manned this stall, so that they can study better and continue earning a living without doing laborious work.

One day Doctor Shiabi at camp asked Shazia if she could take a session about basic first aid for women at camp, as he had some emergency and couldn’t take session today, and as the event had been priory announced, it couldn’t be postponed as well. Shazia was unsure, but she agreed to it.

Session went well, and everyone appreciated her. This gave her confidence regarding her knowledge sharing skills. She told Doctor Shiabi how she enjoyed this session, and is ready to take such sessions in future. Being always occupied in too many chores, this was a delight to him also in past one year Shazia had created a positive impression on him with her hard work and dedication. He wanted her to have a bright future, and thus he readily agreed.

One day after Shazia had winded up taking a session, a young woman in mid twenties came to her, and she introduced herself “Hi Shazia! Great session it was! I am Cathie; I am a volunteer for UNRWA.”

Shazia said, “Hi Cathie! It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Shazia I am here in collaboration with a NGO, which is trying to identify twenty bright young women, for whom they will fund higher education. I am really impressed by your awareness and knowledge for health care. Can you share your educational background with me?”

Elated to know about this initiative, Shazia said, “I am attending night school at camp. But I would love to get this opportunity. I have great deal of interest in medicine and science, and wish to study them. It has been my dream since I was a little girl!” She was so excited, but was trying to be calm and failing at it miserably just by shear possibility of having an opportunity to fulfill her and her father’s dream.

Within a month and half formalities for educational program were completed, and her formal education began. She was also getting a generous student stipend. By adding up their savings, she was able to afford better education for her brothers.

It’s been two years now, Shazia is studying at medical school. Alif will be completing his schooling by next year; he plans to take up a scholarship funded course at an American University in Social Welfare. Rizwan is still in school, he has interest in sports more than studies. He recently got selected for School’s football team.

 

Tentschools

Shazia remembers her father’s words “If you don’t try to write a memorable story, it will never be one! Be hero in your story, and make sure that it is the one that world remembers, one that inspires others.”

Once again, Shazia is sitting alone at a park bench. But this time she is not the depressed girl she once was due to circumstances. Hope has taken place of sadness, and action has taken place of complains. She has learnt that it is just not us who write our story. Situation and other people do play part in creating its plot. But the climax is always in our hand. One can surrender to destiny, and like a dead fish go with the flow, have no control over story of their life and thus end up with a tale not worth remembering. Or one can fight back, and take charge, write it the way they want it to be, and turn their tale into a saga.

Her saga is not complete yet, and it won’t be till the last day, but she will keep improvising it till her last day and till the last page. She won’t let her story be the one that is easily forgettable. She will make this story remarkable page after page.

~ Prachi

 

Prachi Jain is a young Indian writer. She has one simple philosophy for life, “At the end, we all will just have bagful of stories to sum up the life we lead, make sure to collect the most memorable ones.”

Using Political Dialogue to Create and Inspire Change

gettyimages-918330158-b169baf5-f7e3-4abf-8dc9-80f40d5600d3

 

Criticizing people for expressing sympathy by using the term “thoughts and prayers” has become a trend. Using the term as a first response is quite acceptable.  Many of us use it on a regular basis.

 

This popular criticism does not produce any result other than making the speaker feel engaged in the “discussion” but does nothing to create a discussion.

 

The criticism that can and should be placed is what happens with those “thoughts” in the days after the expression of “thoughts and prayers.”

 

The same criticism can and should be placed against those who find reason to criticize those who use “thoughts and prayers.”

 

This criticism is not much better than using the term in the first place.

 

Expressing “thoughts and prayers” and criticizing saying it are equally unproductive, if we do nothing to engage in critical thinking and have a discussion about our “thoughts” and the “thoughts” of others with whom we may disagree about the issue at hand.

 

Just because two parties disagree doesn’t mean anyone has to be wrong. Two opposing views can exist at the same time.

The more we act like our misguided leaders, the more our system of government stays the same.

The sooner we behave in a way that also listens to others in a respectful way, the sooner we will have the chance of creating the kind of government we respect and, consequently, one in which we wish to participate

Researching Reform For The Huffington Post: Child Refugees Are Fleeing A War We Created – We Owe Them A Place To Live — Researching Reform

Our article this month for The Huffington Post looks at some of the issues child refugees face as the first few children arrive in England this week. We discuss the topic of dental checks, the real reason why many of the children in the camp at Calais are young men and why we owe these […]

via Researching Reform For The Huffington Post: Child Refugees Are Fleeing A War We Created – We Owe Them A Place To Live — Researching Reform