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Posts Tagged ‘girls’


Photo: Only a Game
Golf was the entree to a freer world for this Afghan girl.

We hear a lot of stories about disadvantaged kids who rise above their circumstances by becoming stars — at sports, say, or ballet.

But sometimes the reason those pursuits mark a turning point is simply that they open up a different world. They show the kid that there are different worlds. The kids don’t have to become stars to benefit.

Here is a story about an Afghan girl whose path to breaking free involved golf. Martin Kessler tells the story at the radio show Only a Game.

“Before it was her turn to take the shot that could change her life, Shagufa Habibi remembers being uncomfortably warm.

“Shagufa and 11 of her teammates were standing on a soccer pitch in Herat, Afghanistan. Herat doesn’t have a golf course, so this soccer pitch was the best her team could do. It was a summer afternoon — the hottest part of the day in a city where temperatures can exceed 100 degrees. It was the only time locals would let the women have the field.

“Shagufa wore a long black dress and a head scarf. She carried a wooden club.

“Each of the women had one chance to hit a ball at a target at the other end of the field. Whoever got closest would get to attend a golf tournament in Bangladesh.”

Shagufa amazed herself. Her shot was the best.

“Shagufa Habibi was born in 1995, the youngest child in a large family. Her parents are illiterate. Her dad made his living selling dried fruit — until his hand was mangled in a terrorist attack at a local mosque. …

“When Shagufa was a young girl, the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Girls couldn’t go to school, so Shagufa and her seven sisters stayed home. Shagufa was allowed outside just once a day, to help her mom buy food. …

“In 2001, the Taliban lost control of the government, and schools opened for girls. Shagufa’s friends started attending. But Shagufa’s father wouldn’t have it – he believed women belonged at home.

“So Shagufa and her sisters devised a plan. After their father left the house in the morning, they would sneak off to school.”

Over the next few years, there were conflicts with Shagufa’s conservative father, an unwanted marriage to an older man, separation, depression, and a decision to embrace sports at school. Sports were so freeing.

” ‘I was forgetting everything,’ Shagufa says. ‘I’m just free. And this ball was giving me more motivation for my future to be so optimistic.’

When Shagufa went to that golf tournament, she was “amazed by what she saw in Bangladesh. Girls weren’t wearing long dresses or scarves. She says women looked so free.

“On the final day of the trip, the Afghan embassy hosted their players for a lunch. The conversation turned to education. Shagufa had a question – but she wasn’t sure she should speak up.

” ‘Should I ask them or not, should I ask them or not?’ Shagufa remembers thinking. ‘Then I said, “Would you tell me, please: how is the education in Bangladesh? And is it possible for me, somehow, I come and do my education?” ‘ ”

Read what happened next at WBUR’s Only a Game, here.

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080616-vision-of-hope-zambia-apron

The first booth I encountered at the Art and Artisan fair Saturday was promoting a charity called Vision of Hope Zambia.

Co-founder Meg O’Brien had been a student at Berklee College of Music when a missionary friend in Zambia asked her to lend her musical talent to uplifting girls who lived on the streets.

When she visited Africa, Meg must have been shocked by what she saw: young girls, often orphaned, often HIV positive, who had no place to get a meal or even take a shower. She flew into action, co-founding Vision of Hope Zambia with Chitalu Chishimba.

Meg’s mother and aunt also flew into action, creating a craft initiative that donates 100 percent of proceeds to the cause.

The two artisans not only sew with skill — baby bibs, changing blankets, aprons and the like — they also are good at selling, promoting Meg’s charity while highlighting various features of their products.

Meg’s aunt saw me talking to my grandchildren and immediately pointed out the colorful array of child-size aprons. In the end, though, I bought an adult-sized apron for myself.

From humble beginnings in 2009 (“weekly meetings in the backyard of the Girl Scouts building underneath a tree”), the organization is now able to provide housing and education for many girls as it continues to grow.

Photo: Vision of Hope Zambia
Girls at Vision of Hope proudly show off their hard work in rug making.

 

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The article by Astrid Zweynert and Ros Russell begins, “Boys campaigning for girls’ education is not common in most parts of the world, but in India’s Rajasthan state, they are at the heart of a drive to get more girls into schools.

Educate Girls trains young people to go into villages to find girls who are not in the classroom in a country where more than 3 million girls are out of school.

“Some 60 percent of Educate Girls’ 4,500 volunteers are boys, founder and executive director Safeena Husain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

” ‘Having these boys as champions for the girls is absolutely at the core of what we’re trying to achieve,’ Husain said in an interview as she was awarded the $1.25 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the largest prize of its kind. …

“In Rajasthan, 40 percent of girls leave school before reaching fifth grade, often because their parents do not see education as necessary for their daughter because she is going to get married or stay at home to do housework, Husain said. …

“Educate Girls’ approach to is to define hotspots where many girls are out of school, often in remote rural or tribal areas, and then deploy its volunteers to bring them back into the classroom, said Husain.”

There’s plenty of research showing that when girls are educated, the standard of living in a country goes up. Educated girls “are less likely to get married at an early age or to die in childbirth, they are likely to have healthier children and more likely to find work and earn more money.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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I hardly need to remind readers of this blog that people are people. We are all just living our lives, with more or less the same daily concerns. And the differences are what make things interesting.

Sam Radwany at the radio show Only a Game recently described some youthful experiences in Minneapolis that sound both the same and different. The story is about a group of American Muslim girls who choose to cover themselves in keeping with their kind of Islam but who are also enthusiastic basketball players.

“The Twin Cities are home to one of the largest Somali populations in the world. The community is concentrated in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, where these pre-teen players go to school. … Balancing their cultural and religious standards of modesty with sports can be tricky.

“ ‘Sometimes our hijab, our scarves, got off, and we would have to time out, pause, to fix it,’ Samira said. ‘Our skirts were a problem — they were all the way down to our feet.’ …

“Last season, some of the girls opted to wear long pants instead of dresses. But that still put them at a disadvantage when playing other Minnesota teams. …

“And because the girls’ team didn’t have their own jerseys, they had to share with the boys. Ten-year-old Amal says the experience was unpleasant.

“ ‘Horrible! Very horrible,’ she said. ‘And the boys, their jerseys were all sweaty and yucky and nasty.’ …

“That’s where a local nonprofit dedicated to expanding sports and recreation opportunities for local Muslim girls stepped in. … [They] brought in researchers and designers from the university to help the young athletes find a new solution to the stinky jersey problem.

“Jennifer Weber, the girls’ coach, said the players did most of the work themselves, with guidance from the experts. …

“Chelsey Thul from the university’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport described some features of the new uniforms: ‘And so this sport uniform has black leggings. It’s longer, probably about to the knees …

“ ‘The biggest change to the hijab is that it’s not a pullover, so that instead, it fastens with Velcro at the neck,’ Weber said. ‘So it’s got some give to it, and it’s forgiving, and it moves as they move.’

“And of course, with the young girls’ input, there’s a bit of color. Samira and Amal said the team had a lot of ideas.” Read about their design ideas and their delight in the uniforms here.

Photo: Jim Mone/AP
Somali American girls in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis designed their own uniforms for greater freedom of movement.

 

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Photo of Gertrude Ely: Bryn Mawr College Collection

I was on the brink of unsubscribing to the American Academy of Poets poem-a-day e-mail because I let so many pile up and then have to slog through all sorts of contemporary brain twisters.

But as I was working my way through the poems today, I came across the one below. I thought, “Oh, I know exactly what this is about” and was carried back to my college days and hanging out at the home of my great aunt’s friend Gertrude Ely.

Gertrude Ely was quite elderly at that time but really interesting to be around. She was knew all sorts of movers and shakers and was an awesome storyteller. I happened to be staying at her house one weekend when she received an unusual letter.

An elderly Philadelphia gentleman wrote that he had read in the Bulletin that she had received some civic award, and he just had to write and tell her a memory he had from his service in WW I in Europe. The Army was sending over carloads of friendly, proper young volunteers to chat with and cheer soldiers and bring a breath of home. The man wrote he would never forget a load of girls pulling up in an open car and Gertrude Ely calling out, “Any of you boys from Philadelphia?” He said, “At that moment, I believe every soldier there was wishing he was from Philadelphia.”

***

American Boys, Hello! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oh! we love all the French, and we speak in French
As along through France we go.
But the moments to us that are keen and sweet
Are the ones when our khaki boys we meet,
Stalwart and handsome and trim and neat;
And we call to them—“Boys, hello!”
“Hello, American boys,
Luck to you, and life’s best joys!
American boys, hello!”

We couldn’t do that if we were at home—
It never would do, you know!
For there you must wait till you’re told who’s who,
And to meet in the way that nice folks do.
Though you knew his name, and your name he knew—
You never would say “Hello, hello, American boy!”
But here it’s just a joy,
As we pass along in the stranger throng,
To call out, “Boys, hello!”

For each is a brother away from home;
And this we are sure is so,
There’s a lonesome spot in his heart somewhere,
And we want him to feel there are friends
right there

In this foreign land, and so we dare
To call out “Boys, hello!”
“Hello, American boys,
Luck to you, and life’s best joys!
American boys, hello!”

[Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote “American Boys, Hello!” while visiting France during the latter stages of World War I as entertainment for the American soldiers stationed there.]

Photo of Ella Wheeler Wilcox: American Academy of Poets, here.

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She’s a mild-mannered school teacher in Pakistan — unless education for girls is threatened, and then, watch out! She’s the Burka Avenger!

Salman Masood and Declan Walsh have the story at the NY Times: “Cartoon fans in Pakistan have been excited by the arrival of the country’s first caped crusader, in the form of a female superhero who flies through the air, battling villains using pens and books.

“The heroine, Burka Avenger, is certainly an unusual role model for female empowerment in Pakistan: a woman who uses martial arts to battle colorful villains …

“But the cartoon, in which a demure schoolteacher, Jiya, transforms into the action heroine by donning a burqa, or traditional cloak, has also triggered an awkward debate about her costume.

“ ‘Is it right to take the burqa and make it look “cool” for children, to brainwash girls into thinking that a burqa gives you power instead of taking it away from you?” asked the novelist and commentator Bina Shah in a blog post.

“The criticism has not overshadowed the broader welcome that Burka Avenger, which aired [in Islamabad] for the first time on Sunday evening, has received. With slick computer animation, fast-paced action and flashes of humor that even adults can appreciate, the character could offer Pakistanis a new cultural icon akin to Wonder Woman in the United States.”

And she is generating some thoughtful discussions about the role of girls and women and the importance of education for girls.  The show’s maker, pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid, points out that the burka is merely the heroine’s disguise.

(An excellent disguise indeed, used effectively by the playwright Tony Kushner in Homebody/Kabul, about a Western woman who leaves home and disappears in Afghanistan.)

Read more about the cartoon show here.

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