Jim Sheldon

Newsletter, May 2013

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OPENING THE GATES FOR YOUNG WOMEN IN PAKISTAN

Why are civilized, knowledge-loving women the target of the Taliban?
Why are they not our pride, our strength, our might?

Seen on the back of a Lahore auto rickshaw
Photo and translation by Carla Petievich
courtesy of the Hoshyar Foundation

Of all the news of violence out of Pakistan, nothing shocked the world more than last year’s shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a teenage schoolgirl who was targeted by militants for the sin of wanting to learn.

In spite of efforts to terrorize them into silence, brave Pakistanis have continued to support their daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers in their struggle for the education that promises knowledge,
career opportunity, and a better life for their families and communities.

Friends of Pakistan USA has made the education of girls part of our basic mission. This year we take one more step by focusing on scholarships for young women aiming to complete the two years of intercollege required for entry into university or vocational training programs.

FORGING NEW PARTNERSHIPS:

Most of us have seen the dismal statistics—40% of Pakistani women over the age of 15 are illiterate, giving that country the lowest female literacy rate in Asia. We are glad to see the picture improving as more girls attend primary and middle school, but another barrier remains.

Secondary education traditionally ends at grade 10 and leaves the question of what girls will do with their schooling. Both universites and vocational training schools require two more years of higher secondary school or intercollege just to apply. At this point the doors begin to close for this is the time when girls under pressure to marry. Intercolleges for girls are few outside of the cities. Education for girls in rural areas usually stops at age 15, meaning a great waste of talent as young women who might have served their communities as teachers, social workers, nurses, and midwives fail to make minimum qualifications for entry into either college or vocational programs.

With this in mind, Friends of Pakistan USA has this year decided to offer scholarships to young women from rural areas who would otherwise be unable to complete the 11th and 12th grades.

Plaque in the library at GGIC
Rerra, Azad Kashmir

Government Girls Inter College, Rerra, Azad Kashmir, The first of our partners in the scholarship program is the same school that received a set of books from FOPUSA to outfit its new library in the Library Challenge Project of 2010-2011. We were impressed then with the outpouring of enthusiasm from this school that had been completely destroyed in the 2005 earthquake, and we were encouraged by a letter of thanks from the principal. It was a relationship that we wanted to continue.

Liaison work by Jane Murphy Thomas, who developed the Library Challenge Project and the presence of a trusted contact in the community gave us confidence to work directly with the the School Management Committee. We propose to award six scholarships based on need, ability, and motivation to complete the two years of intercollege. At a maximum annual cost of only $133 per girl this would allow us to develop a project model, one that could be implemented at other schools, private or public, that meet our basic criteria for community support, accountability, and promoting friendship between the peoples of Pakistan and the U.S.A. Through a donation earmarked for scholarships we are ready to launch this project on its first year.

Hoshyar Foundation, Mansehra, Khyber Paktunkwa
This year we begin a partnership with Hoshyar Foundation, a nonprofit based in Austin, Texas, focusing on empowerment of Pakistani women through education. Hoshyar was founded by Dr. Carla Petievich, an American academic who is also an Urdu scholar with years of experience in Pakistan and India. Hoshyar Foundation has for several years. worked with local people to build and operate a school on the outskirts of Lahore and to sponsor several middle and high schools in the mountainous Mansehra District north of Islamabad, where they work with a grassroots NGO based in the area.

Studying together at girls high school in Mansehra

On her annual trips to the region, Dr. Petievich has asked what is happening to girls who finish the high school program. What is their life like? Are their families and communities benefitting as they should?

Unfortunately the picture is not always bright. Whether girls return to the village or move (usually through marriage) to urban areas, their lives will be blighted by a near absence of women’s healthcare. Pakistan has a desperate need for nurses and midwives, but even girls finishing high school with an interest in training in medical careers are unable to qualify for vocational programs unless they complete those two additional years of intercollege (11th and 12th grades).

With this in mind, Hoshyar Foundation has asked us to help them and their FWA partners operate a pilot intercollege program combining two villages. This is seen as a necessary preliminary to training girls as nurses and midwives—the next step in meeting the most critical needs of women and their families.

The estimated cost per student is nearly the same as in Rerra, Kashmir—only $15 to $20 per month—a small investment with a very big return.

Message from the President:
MAKING A DIFFERENCE AGAIN

Reading today that relations between the United States and Pakistan are at their lowest ebb—the point where Pakistan has the lowest possible opinion of the U.S. and Americans have the lowest possible opinion of Pakistan— I am struck that need for outreach to the people of Pakistan is more urgent than ever. Friends of Pakistan USA needs to make the biggest difference possible in the perception the American and Pakistani people have of each other.

Our board member Ann Hartman of the East West Center in Hawaii is engaged in one of the most high-impact areas—changing the perspective of the people who report the news through a journalist exchange project. Ann is currently in Islamabad and Lahore, introducing a group of American journalists to Pakistan. A group of Pakistani journalists are simultaneously traveling in the U.S. having real life experiences of the American people.

Friends of Pakistan USA is actively looking for ways that we as individuals and as an organization can encourage direct communication between Pakistanis and Americans. That is one of the thoughts behind our scholarship program with the Government Girls Intercollege in Rerra where our six young women scholars will know their grant comes from Americans and actually send a report to us at the end of the school year.

Another FOPUSA board member, Millard Mott, has proposed a sister school project that would put American and Pakistani classrooms into direct contact through the Internet. Here a major challenge is posed by lack of Internet access and rolling blackouts in Pakistan, but we are looking for “out of the box” solutions. We are even exploring text messaging as an easier means of contact. Anyone out there with an interest in working through these technical problems with us? It’s a brave new world out there.

50TH ANNIVERSARY PROJECT REPORT
—By Barbara Janes, Past President

FOPUSA is proud to announce that the completion of our commitment to raise $10,000 in recognition of the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary contributed to the programs of two wonderful nonprofit organizations in Pakistan. The two organizations, involving three different projects, are Design for Change and The Citizens Foundation.

DFC Students in Karachi demonstrating ways to
sort trash to help the environment

Design for Change is part of a global initiative that encourages school children to identify and find solutions to world’s greatest challenges. The purpose of this contest is to enhance creativity among children and teach them to take charge of problems around them. To support DFC in its mission by hiring two part time support personnel, FOPUSA donated $5000 to this important cause.

$5000 each was also donated to The Citizens Foundation for two important projects the Aagahi Literacy project and stocking a high school library. The Aagahi literacy project has provided basic literacy to thousands of TCF mothers and school ayahs who had not had an opportunity to go to school.

PHENGALI SCHOOL PROJECT IN FIFTH YEAR
At our first membership meeting in Ft. Collins, Colorado, in 2008, Friends of Pakistan USA voted to raise $2000 a year for five years to fund the secondary education of ten girls through The Citizens Foundation at the Phengali secondary school near Lahore.

BUT…. we still have $1107 left to raise by June 1. We know we will succeed and go on to enable other girls to fulfill their dreams of higher education and a better life, but the time to fulfill our pledge is NOW.

OUR MISSION: AN ENDURING FRIENDSHIP

On October 8, 2005, the mountains of northern Pakistan (Azad Kashmir) were rocked by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake triggering the greatest catastrophe in the recorded history of that region. Understanding that three million people were left without shelter with winter fast closing in, a few returned Peace Corps Volunteers and their friends sprang into action to send aid to our friends in Pakistan.

That was how Friends of Pakistan USA was born, and we have continued our commitment, raising funds for girls education, flood relief, and refugee work. Our unique mission remains the promotion of friendly relations and understanding between the people of Pakistan and the people of United States of America.

We believe the mission of friendship is as urgent today as relief to earthquake victims was in 2005. Our membership is not limited to returned Peace Corps Volunteers. We need the support of all Americans who care about Pakistan and believe that peace and friendship between our countries is essential to both nations and to the world.

Please consider joining our efforts in 2013. Our dues of only $15 can be paid by check in the name of FOPUSA and sent to our treasurer:

Sandra Houts
1305 Abbey Circle
Asheville, NC 28805

Friends of Pakistan USA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Your dues and donations are tax deductible. Email us if you are ready to help make a difference or check our website at peacecorpsfriendsofpakistanusa.blogspot.com.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead

Jim SheldonNewsletter, May 2013
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Forgotten Malala

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The Forgotten Malala

By SEEMA JILANI
Kainat Riaz, shot by the Taliban in the same incident at Malala Yousafzai, shows the blood-stained scarf she was wearing on the day of her shooting.

Kainat Riaz, shot by the Taliban in the same incident at Malala Yousafzai, shows the blood-stained scarf she was wearing on the day of her shooting.

It was one of the most ruthless attacks of our time: three Pakistani schoolgirls were on their way home when the Taliban shot them.Their crime? Pursuit of an education. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and two other young women sustained injuries to their arms. “We are all Malala,” roared the world. Protestors marched and lit candlelight vigils. Malala was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and became an iconic symbol for young women’s educational struggles.

We went about our self-congratulatory ways, assuming we had done something tangible to help. But we forgot the two others injured in the shooting, who are just as deserving of an education and no less heroic. One of them, Shazia Ramzan, plans to move with her family to the Punjab Province of Pakistan to escape the more volatile region of Swat. The other, Kainat Riaz, is wedged in no man’s land, with few options available to her given the economic stratum of her family. In November 2012, I visited Kainat at her house in Swat Valley.

The road to her village is edged by the Swat River, which lazily laps against majestic, ivory-crested mountains. Not long ago, the Taliban publicly hung men in the main square of Mingora, just a few miles from this epic terrain.

When I arrived at Kainat’s modest house I was greeted by Pakistani Army soldiers, who stood guard outside as a precaution against Taliban attacks. A velvety neon pink pencil bag sat on Kainat’s nightstand. She had carried it the day of the shooting. It was one of her most prized possessions, evidence of her zest for education.

She showed me the scarf she was wearing on the fateful day of the shooting. Her burgundy bloodstains were rusty smudges, now deeply ensconced into the fabric. “I sat across from Malala in the school van,” she began. “Suddenly, a man appeared. I fell over and cried in agony. I felt my shoulder getting more and more wet. I was worried about my friends.” Kainat had been shot in her upper right arm and was rushed to the hospital, where she necessitated treatment for several days.

 

Due to complications, her home recovery lasted several months. To this day, she endures severe nerve pain and still does not have full function of her hand.

“I want go to school even if the Taliban comes for me again. I will never give up,” Kainat said. It was a gentle resolve, the kind of fortitude that cannot be taught, only earned. When I told her I was a doctor, she beamed. “I want to be a doctor too, so I can help people.”

When our time together ended, I felt the fuzz of the furry pink pencil bag in my hand as Kainat’s hand blanketed mine. “This is the mark of our friendship. So many journalists and politicians visit and go home, but you will never forget me, right?”

Since the shooting, neighbors have repeatedly told Kainat to stop going to school. Some have even accused her of inviting the Taliban’s wrath onto the community. When I asked her why she kept the shawl from the shooting, she responded: “It is the only emblem of my life, with the stain of my blood, my struggle.”

Weeks later, I woke to the shrill jingle of my mobile phone. Kainat was scrambling for breath and anxious. There had been an explosion at the house next door to hers. “Maybe it was a natural gas explosion, but maybe it was the Taliban. They blame me. I wake up with nightmares. The neighbors all tell me to leave.” Her voice splintered, “We have no money to escape. I am scared for my life.”

Despite her valiant efforts, Kainat has only been able to attend school twice since last December. All modes of transportation — buses, taxis, and private cars — refuse to drive her to school. She studies from home now. The Pakistani Army has cautioned the family that their safety cannot be guaranteed outside their home, so they remain under house arrest after dark. Kainat has not left her home in over three weeks.

There is no physical therapy available for her wound recovery, nor is there any mental counseling for her PTSD. For this brave 15-year-old girl, there are no visits to friends’ homes, no trips to the market. She cannot even walk outside her home.

Immediately after learning of her perilous situation, I frantically called everyone I knew to find help. In the past several months, I have contacted the U.S. State Department repeatedly on behalf of Kainat. I have spoken with every journalist I know and contacted anyone whom I thought could possibly assist in protecting her life. No one has come forward with concrete advice.

Malala has now settled in England and remains the voice of young women striving for education. Meanwhile, the world has abandoned Kainat, who is a vulnerable, unwavering young woman in a place that, at best, mutes her aspirations and at worst will kill her.

In my quest to find Kainat a fresh start, I discovered how astoundingly wide the chasm between our public indignation and private lassitude is. The indifference is merely masked in political speeches that reduce women’s rights to theatrics. Is our moral memory so fickle that we must wait till Kainat is tethering between consciousnesses, hooked up to a ventilator in some wretched Pakistani hospital before we act to protect her?

According to UNESCO, over 100 million young women in developing countries have never completed primary school. Pakistan has over three million girls out of school and nearly half of rural females have never attended school.

We have an opportunity to re-write history here. If we are complicit in allowing this catastrophe to unfold, we are writing Kainat’s death sentence with our apathy. If all we have to offer as the most powerful country in the world, to the poorest, most endangered young women, who would literally die for a chance at an education, is empty promises and candle light vigils, then we have fallen further than I thought.

Seema Jilani is a physician who worked extensively on medical evacuation flights for critically ill children. She specializes in pediatrics and has done humanitarian aid work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Bosnia. Reporting for this piece was done during a trip to Pakistan in November 2012.

Jim SheldonForgotten Malala
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Press Release

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Press Release
April 18, 2013

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who Served in Pakistan Fund Scholarships for School Girls in Pakistan

Inspired by Malala Yousafzai who survived a Taliban shooting, a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and supporters who served in Pakistan, have funded scholarships for girls attending secondary school in Pakistan. The scholarships will cover tuition fees and other essential expenses including books, supplies, uniforms, and transportation.

Friends of Pakistan USA (FOPUSA), a non-profit organization founded by returned Peace Corps Volunteers and supporters who served in Pakistan, has approved funding for up to 46 educational scholarships for young women attending Secondary schools in northern Pakistan for the years 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The FOPUSA will donate up to $4,206 to the Hoshyar foundation in Mansehra District, Pakistan, for scholarships for forty girls from the villages of Jabbar Gali , Meil But, and Manda Gucha, Mansehra District, Pakistan, so that they may continue their education at the 11 and 12 year levels.

Six girls in Class Level 13 at Government Girls Inter-College, Rerra, Bagh, Azad Kashmir will benefit from a $900 scholarship donation from the FOPUSA for 2013-14 academic year and, upon successful completion that year, will be eligible for continued scholarship funding from FOPUSA for the 2014/15 academic year.

For the past five years, the FOPUSA has donated $2000 per year for ten girls to attend Phengali TCF Secondary School, Lahore, $5000 to support the innovative educational organization, Design for Change Pakistan, Karachi, and $2600 to support basic literacy education for mothers and school ayahs through the Aagahi Adult Literacy Initiative of The Citizens Foundation, Pakistan.

After the devastating earthquake of 2005 destroyed the Government Girls Inter College, Rerra, Azad Kashmir, FOPUSA donated a set of library books to meet the GGIC Library Challenge Project of 2010-11, and sent an additional $2400 to The Citizens Foundation, Pakistan, to stock a Secondary School TCF library. 

Jim SheldonPress Release
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