Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Got To Me Today? 80 Afghani girls fall ill at school, poison suspected

What got to me today?  People who are afraid to give girls the power of knowlege.

According to the BBC, eighty female students in Afghanistan have fallen ill while at school over the past week, the latest of which was yesterday.  It is feared, militants who oppose girls attending school are to blame, as this is far from the first time something like this has happened.  All of the girls reported a distinct odor in their classrooms before becoming sick. Investigators believe the air at the school was poisoned by the opposition to girls' education, to make girls afraid of returning to school, or punish them for being there in the first place.  A nine year old girl reported feeling dizzy, then watching her two teachers fall unconscious right in front of her eyes. 

"The Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan who oppose female education have been known to target schoolgirls. Girls were not allowed to attend school when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan until they were ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion."--BBC

Before the invasion, girls were educated in secret, and if caught faced the grimmest of circumstances.   Officials estimate that militants have blown up or burned 134 schools and colleges between 2008 and 2009 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and over ninety of them were institutions for girls.  In 2002,  15 girls were left to die inside a burning school in Saudi Arabia because the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (religious police) would not allow them out without their proper headscarves and robes.

I know this seems far away.  I know we have our own issues, mostly financial and some safety, within our own cities, states and country.  I know we are focused on our own children's schools, our PTA's, our teacher lay-offs, the nutrition of our kids' lunches.  But when I read reports like this one, and hear of the many other stories similar to this one, I can't help but be affected.  I am angered and heartbroken and don't really know what I can do about it.  So I do the thing I do best, and that is write about it.  Somehow, I figure if more people are aware of these kinds of problems, more will take action and raise awareness.

In the U.S., our biggest gender gap falls within speculating whether or not girls get a fair shake in math and science.  Can you imagine if your daughter wasn't allowed an education at all?  Look at the woman leaders we have in this country, take note that this year there were more young women than men enrolled in our finest medical schools. Though not perfect, we as a nation, are really starting to see some equality among genders.  And though we still have a ways to go (75% to be exact) before women share the same payscale and oportunity as men, we should be so thankful, so very, very thankful, that our girls are indeed allowed an education.  And if for some reason they aren't in school, it is not because of the mere fact that they are girls.

So this is what got to me today.  Girls being poisoned so they cannot be educated.  If they are educated, they learn to read and write and reason.  They learn of other women in other places with other opportunities. They realize the impact they can have, and the changes they can make in their own countries and the world.  Knowlege is power, and the Taliban, and other organizations like them, know it.

Please visit one of my other blogs www.successfulwomenweekly.com, under the Champions For Women tab, for ongoing information and  resources or organizations helping women and girls worldwide.  Thank you.

The above photo is from The Afghan Women's Mission, Danish School For Girls.  Please visit their website to learn more.

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