Educating girls? Why it is not worth the risk for many around the world – A personal perspective

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Even though I moved away from Pakistan years ago and left behind a world full of chaos and terror, I was recently taken right back by a  news story.

The leader of an “Islamic” group kidnapped approximately two hundred and eighty girls and has threatened to sell them in the marketplace. I put Islam in quotations because as a Muslim woman I know that those are not the teachings of Islam, which promotes the seeking of knowledge via education equally for both men and women.

I want to make this point because from the Western world, looking into a different, third world religion and culture are often confused as one. Islam is a religion practiced around the world and each culture practices in accordance to their cultural traditions. It is difficult to separate the two as they are so very intertwined.

Back to the point at hand, the threat of violence in forms of rape, torture, kidnapping and death, is one of the major reason people are afraid to send their girls to schools in third world countries. This has been quite apparent in the media recently with cases of rapes and killings of women in India.

At a more personal level, even though I no longer reside in Pakistan family friends often speak of current and recent horror stories regarding the issue of girls and barriers to their education.

For instance, a close family friend’s nieces were attending post secondary education in Pakistan. Since the family could not afford to provide a private car to pick up and drop off the girls to and from school, they often walked and took the bus.

On their way to school a boy started harassing and taunting one of the girls. A girl in this sort of a situation has two choices in such a culture: One is to walk away and try to ignore the harasser and the other is to converse with the him. The second option would lead her and  her family to shame, so really she only has one option which is to ignore and walk away.

Having chosen that option and having had offended the boy, she was met with an acid attack. Barely surviving, her face was no longer recognizable and her body burnt. Now she serves a life sentence of living a lonely and sad life, cooped up in her parents’ home as chances are that no one will marry her in her current state.

With no financial backing, no justice or repercussions for the boy, with no political or social connections, the family immediately pulled their second daughter out of school for the fear that she may meet a similar or worse fate. This is just one of the many terrifying stories that I have heard.

Then of course, there are matters of finances. When a poor family has to decide between their boy or their girl to attend school, they pick the boy. It is not because they do not love their girls, it is because the boy is a safer investment for their future. The girl is most likely to be taken care of by her husband.

Employment for women is also not an option due to the same reason as is in the case of education: violence. Additionally, females are the last ones to be considered for a job in a competitive market with endless availability of large, unemployed and qualified male population.

The environment for girls from the elite  or upper class is completely different as they live in protected areas with private security, private modes of transportation and family ties to the rich and powerful, which in return buy them further assurance of protection and safety. They are also most likely sent to the West to attain their education. Thus, it is the middle and poor class girls that are mostly victimized.

Corruption lurks at every level of the government, including in the law enforcement. If you do not have a system to enforce rules and laws and offer protection then why would any parent risk their child be put on a path with so much danger?

In their minds education is not worth risking their daughters’ lives and their families’ honour, especially in a country where education does not ensure a job for the female population as mentioned above.

Until there is proper protection and enforcement against women in third world countries, there will be little that can be done to educate the majority of the poor female population around the world.

Regarding the kidnapped victims, I pray that those innocent souls are reunited with their families safe and sound. May God keep them under his protection and punish the ones who commit acts of cruelty in His name.

Here is the article regarding the kidnappings that occurred:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/05/world/africa/nigeria-abducted-girls/

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“THE POOR LITTLE GIRL” by Vinod Madyalkar, India

There she stands by the school gate…
Wondering whether she would ever make it in…
From here it all seems so great…
Is being poor that big a sin??….

She stares at those toddlers as they pass…
Struggling and scrambling to miss the class..
She starves for those books, she craves for those bags..
But who would care for a little girl , in filthy old rags?…

Even she had dreams , colourful as ever..
But now they are shattered , lost forever..
Yet , she stands by that big black gate..
Hoping somehow, something could change her fate…

Will she ever enter that gate?..
Into the world unseen!! …
The school bell reminds her – she’s late…
There are houses she should clean…

Picking those crutches from her side..
Along the street she limps…
Suddenly, she stops in her stride…
And turns, for one last glimpse…

Blind are we to the mistakes of our own…
Living for ourselves is how we have grown…
Blind are we to the sufferings of others!!
In greed for money, aren’t we slaughtering our own sisters and brothers???

Poem taken from: http://www.voicesnet.org/displayonepoem.aspx?poemid=233930

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A new day a new perspective

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All cried out and yesterday’s tears dried up, I wake up to the news that one of my cousin’s twelve year old is in critical condition, probably in a hospital ward where hundreds other lay hoping for a chance at life. Most of my extended family still resides in a third world country where those who were not fortunate enough to be born into the elite rich class struggle to find safe and helpful healthcare.

Makes me see how menial the problems we face here in a first world country are compared to those at another end of the world. Reminds me never to take for granted the blessings which were and are bestowed upon my family and I for having left that place behind. To have security and peace of mind, to have proper healthcare. I do not rest my head at night thinking about whether I’ll have food in the morning or not. I walk the streets free, I drive as I please to where I please without the supervision of a man. All things that could not be had I still been living in a different part of the world.

Today I only have a prayer in my heart for my twelve year old, second cousin and gratitude towards God and his blessings. Thank you.

Can karma exist without its acknowledgment?

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There are two types of people when it comes to karma: those who believe in it and those who do not. I am not sure where I stand… maybe somewhere in the middle? I do believe that you should treat others as you would want to be treated and that doing good means good will happen to you. But then you see people who are going about their lives with not a care in the world regarding how their action impact others… They seem to be doing fine… When does Karma come into play?

The origins of karma come from Hinduism where it is believed that when you are reborn into another life, you will reap what you had sown in the previous life, be it good or bad (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/karma). I am not sure about reincarnation but according to the law of karma then, why is it then that good people must suffer? For instance, why must good, innocent children suffer? What did they do to deserve starvation and abuse and poverty across the globe? Why are the leaders and politicians of third world countries thriving on the money that should be pouring down to the poor?  Why is karma not kicking them in the butt? Is it because they simply do not believe in such superstition? Which then makes me wonder… is there karma without its acknowledgement? Is it simply superstition? Does Karma exist at the cosmic level?

I Would love to hear thoughts on this topic 🙂 so please feel free to express yours.

cheers