Category Archives: the girl effect

the hijab and its purpose, part 5 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: this is the conclusion of 15 year old Mariyah Rehmani’s ebook. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts and have learned something along the way. As we’ve been posting these installments there has been a dramatic rise in America of Islamophobia. Until classes in ethnic studies are required, until we talk around our dinner tables and on the bus about the people of the Middle East with the goal of awareness and understanding, until more dialogue takes place between all races, faiths, and genders, there cannot be peace. Thinkpeace girls? It’s time for action. Recently there have been reports of threats and attacks in schools across the United States. A 7th grader in Ohio, threatened to shoot a Muslim boy on the bus ride home from school, calling him a “towel head,” a “terrorist,” and “the son of ISIS.” A sixth-grade girl wearing a hijab in the Bronx was reportedly punched by three boys who called her “ISIS.”  So now, after reading Mariyah’s ebook– do you understand HER choice? Has your awareness been raised? If you saw her walking down the street in your town, what would you say, do, think? Let’s talk.  

SPRING WEAR:  Spring is all about having fun with different colours and prints. Lots of flowery designs and fun pastel shades fill the wardrobe of this season. It’s a great time to try new styles and experiment with something out-of-the-box! Spring has weather that can be warm but also windy, which means it gets a little tricky to dress up without getting either too hot or too cold. The following styles that were put together by some talented stylists showcase how one can enjoy the spring weather in full style, without having to compromise on modest fashion and can have fun all the while.

SUMMER WEAR: It’s that time of year where it’s hot and sticky (and possibly humid). But it is also the time where schools are out and everyone wants to be outside and have lots of fun. Amidst the trend of bright colours, light fabrics and short clothes, it becomes a little daunting for a muslimah to dress modestly yet not die of heat. The following looks feature different ways in which you can dress with modesty and beat the heat! The following looks will also help you gain an understanding of what colours and styles you can wear to dress light but also fashionably. So, sit back, relax and flip through the summery styles waiting for you on the next few pages!

 EVENT WEAR/DRESSY LOOKS:  Whether it be for a night out with your friends, or a dinner with your family, here are ways the hijab can be worn for dressier, more formal occasions.

FALL WEAR:  The ethereal beauty of falling leaves and the perfect sweater weather make fall one of my favourite seasons. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cool, and sometimes this weather can be tricky to dress up for. Let’s see how hijabis pull it off!

 

WINTER WEAR:  As winter sets in and it becomes more and more chilly, most hijabis use their trusted fashion defence mechanism: layers! Winter means more prints, more styles, more material, and sometimes even a scarf or two more to spice it up!

FANCY SHMANCY:  For the diva in you.

the hijab and its purpose, part 2 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: In the second installment of  Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose, the hijab is presented in many forms and through the eyes of various people. As we open our minds to various cultures and belief systems, it is important to remember that there are REASONS people believe what they do and it is only through really listening that we can come to understand our differences. It is our hope that these blog posts will spark meaningful dialogues and a better understanding of what makes up all the colors of the world. Imagine!

 

“Coarse talk does not come into anything without disgracing it and modesty does not come into anything without adorning it.” — Al-Tirmidhi, 4854

Different Types of Veils Worn

There is a variety of different types of veils worn all around the world. Muslim women wear these different types depending on multiple factors including the country they live in, the culture they are a part of, the occasion, or for some; even the weather. But most of all, the woman herself decides what she is most comfortable wearing, and makes her choices accordingly. One must remember that the Hijab or veils come in different sizes, types, materials and colours, and can even be worn differently under each broad category. As it is visually apparent, they provide varying amounts of coverage of the Woman’s body.

Why Some Women Choose Not To Wear It

Many people are not aware of this, but there exist a number of Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab at all. Just like those who wear the veil, women who choose not to have their own personal reasons. Some claim that the Qur’an does not explicitly talk about covering one’s body through a veil such as the hijab. They feel as though wearing the hijab is more of a cultural interpretation of the words written in the Holy Book. Some claim that it is too hot where they live, and they would not be able to bear the heat. Some say they aren’t ready for the commitment or the responsibility of wearing the veil every day in public. Oftentimes, women who wear the hijab in the public world receive a lot of social stigma, and things like stares and uncomfortable glances become a daily phenomenon.

Why She Doesn’t Believe In the Veil- Mrs. Sajeda Jamal 

“Mrs. Jamal has more than 15 years of experience in the early childhood learning space and was raised in Dubai where she completed her B. Ed and Certificate in ECCE. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, curriculum designer and app developer”.

What is your view on the Hijab? Do you think it is necessary for a Muslim Woman to wear it?

No it’s not necessary. I feel it is more to do with the culture than with religion. Of what I have read in the Qur’an, the word used is Khimar which means “cover” and in the broad sense it could mean anything, like a bed covering or a sheet. Although the Quran does ask the woman to cover her bosom. But nowhere does it say to cover the hair or face. It does talk about cover the beauty, the word being used “Zinat”. Personally speaking, I feel like a modest dressing is more important. It is important for a girl to dress not to lure men in any way. Revealing dressing to me is improper dressing. I don’t see harm in wearing the Indian Shalwar Kameez (Traditional dress worn mostly in India and Pakistan), and do not see the need to wear any extra scarf over the head. I do not see why you would say that the entire beauty lies in the hair. That is stupidity.

Mr. Jamal (Mrs. Sajeda’s Husband): Firstly, the Qur’an is the only indisputable book, the word of God. It does not say “cover your hair”, it only says “khimar”. God is not short of words, and could have specifically mentioned “hair” or head. In Indian culture and Arab culture etc. women are expected to cover their heads. It is merely cultural. Additionally, you face is your identity, it is part of who you are, why do you throw that away?

What Is the Purpose of the Hijab?

To better understand the purpose and meaning behind the Islamic veil, what better way to do this than to read verses directly from the Holy Islamic Book: The Qur’an. In Chapter 24 titled an-Nur (meaning: The Light), in verse 30, Allah commands Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as follows:

Translated, it means: “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” (Al-Islam.org)

This message commands all Muslim men to glance downwards i.e. to not look at any other women lustfully (apart from their own wives) so as to avoid the possibility of temptation. This is often referred to as “Hijab of the eyes”.

In the succeeding verse, Allah commands the Prophet (s.a.w) to address the women of Islam:

Meaning: “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) …” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)

This is a very similar commandment as that which was given to the men in the previous verse, dealing with “The hijab of the eyes”. It also states that women should “Guard their private parts”, doing so by being chaste. (Al-Islam.org)

The teaching of “hijab of the eyes” is very similar to the biblical teachings as well. In The Gospel of Matthew, chap. 5, verses 27-28, Jesus (as) says: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Keeping this in mind, if you ever see a Muslim talking with the opposite sex and looking downwards, it is not because of a lack of confidence, but rather it is him/her abiding by the Qur’anic as well as Biblical teachings. Subsequently came the verse that describes the Islamic dress code for Women:

“…and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khumur over their bosoms…” (Al-Islam.org)

What does “Khumur” mean in this verse? the , ِخ َما ر is plural of khimar ُخ ُم ر Khumur veil covering the head. Check any Arabic dictionary like Lisanu ’l- ‘Arab, Majma ‘u ’l-Bahrayn or al-Munjid for further clarifications. Al-Munjid, which is the most popular dictionary in the Arab world, defines alkhimar as “something with which a woman conceals her head.”

Fakhru ’d-Din al-Turayhi in Majma ‘u ’lBahrayn (which is a dictionary for words specifically from the Qur’an and hadith) defines al-khimar as “scarf, and it is known as such because the head is covered with it.” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)

So the word khimar, by definition, means a piece of cloth that covers the head.

Click here to watch the wonderful Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan discuss the meaning of the Khimar: YouTube Preview Image

So what does the phrase “Place their Khumur over their bosoms” mean? Let us dive into a little Islamic History: According to various commentators of the Qur’an, the women of Medina in the pre-Islamic era used to put their khumur over the head with the two ends tucked behind and tied at the back of the neck, in the process exposing their ears and neck. By commanding women to “place the Khumur over their bosoms, Almighty Allah ordered the women to let the tied ends of their scarf loose, subsequently extending onto their bosoms so that they may cover their ears, neck and chest area. (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”) Our understanding of these verses was then confirmed by the reaction of the Muslim Women to this commandment of God. The Sunni source quotes Ummu ’l-mu’minin ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, saying:

However, it is crucial to note and to understand that different women interpret the Qur’an’s words differently. Many women simply believe that wearing the Hijab is a cultural translation of the words from the Holy book and do not think that Khumur is something that covers the head, but rather just the bosom. (As it is not stated explicitly in the Qur’an but that most people agree that the definition of the Khimar is a cloth that covers the head.) Finally, the verse goes on to give the list of the mahram – male family members in whose presence the hijab is not required, such as the husband, the father, the father-in-law, the son(s), and others. This verse ends with a list of the mahram, i.e. the people in presence of which the veil is not required, for e.g. the Husband, the father, the grandfather, sons(s) and so on and so forth. There also exists another verse in the Qur’an that talks about wearing a loose garment Jalabib (sing. Jilbab) around themselves as to not attract attention towards their figure. In essence, the purpose of the hijab is to promote modesty, and in turn, safeguard women from the lustful stares of men (and vice versa) and to ensure that both women and men do not commit illicit acts. It is about empowering women, and giving them a medium through which they are no longer objectified by society, but liberated from it. They are much more likely to be judged by their personality and intellect rather than their body and their sexuality. It is important to keep in mind that the religion of Islam is a lot about prevention rather than cure. A lot of the commandments by God restrict any acts that may lead to unlawful behaviour.

A brilliant video that really opened my eyes about the effect of wearing a burqa/hijab in the streets (Must see): YouTube Preview Image

The Science Behind the Hijab

You may be surprised to know that the hijab is not merely a baseless practice, it too has a science behind it. All of what is in the Qur’an is scientifically accurate knowledge. Let’s look at the ways in which the brain works, and how the hijab may help a woman. The brain is one of the most fundamental organs of the human Body. It receives inputs from sensory modalities, i.e. feeling, smelling, seeing and testing etc. The stimuli that is received from various parts of the body is then stored and processed in the brain. It connects different ideas together, forms new ones, and makes decisions upon what actions should be taken in response to the given information. The brain builds the bridge from input to output.

Therefore, the conclusion that controlling sensory information coming from the eyes can largely impact the working of and further tasks such as memory, analysis of stored information, processing thoughts, learning, recognition, and several social and emotional facets relating to fed stimuli is most definitely a logical one. Neurons in the brain have the task of processing all this oncoming information, and distributing it to various parts of the brain for timely retrieval in the future. Lastly, the output of this processed information is relayed back to our brain or corresponding muscles in the form of words, actions and thoughts. Thus, it is safe to conclude that if wrong or incorrect sensory stimuli is fed to the brain, the neurons processing and storing that kind of information will in turn result in the imparting of bad ideas, thoughts and finally, bad actions and words. A simple diagram of the same information is given below:

It is then crucial to understand the fact that when a person is exposed to an environment with large amounts of provocative stimuli, especially coming from the eyes and the visual system, it leads to relevant and similar kind of aggressive and provocative words, actions and thoughts. Younger, more susceptible individuals with minds that are easily affected by such stimuli, lacking a resolute enough self control will quickly get affected by the kind of stimuli that is provided to them. They are highly likely to think, act and say things that directly correlate with what they hear, smell, taste, but especially see around them. This is why kids that play violent video games or games with similar themes are often drawn to behave in the same aggressive manner.  With the advent of ever-advancing science and technology, in a world where all kinds of resources and all kinds of stimuli are at the tips of your fingers, it is even easier to get exposed to obscene or inappropriate themes. Not only this, with social gatherings, events, parties, universities etc. there is a lot of interactions between males and females. I am not claiming that this is wrong, but rather stating that there is higher tendency of receiving provocative stimuli in these kinds of social situations.

Moreover, both males and females can dress modestly, wearing loose, unprovocative clothing that stops an indecent kind of sensory stimuli from entering people’s minds. Everyone must also maintain a certain level of modesty in the way they carry themselves, the way they talk and the words they use and in their actions and converse with other with people. This could essentially help minimise or even prevent “unwanted emotional or social consequences”. (Haydari)

Once again, it is essential to enforce the idea of prevention before cure. Both women and men must do their part in acting, talking and dressing in a decent manner so as to avoid the wrong kind of sensory stimuli from entering one’s minds. Another very important aspect of ‘purdah’ or veiling that is outlined in the Qur’an is the lowering of the gaze.

The Health Benefits of the Hijab

“In Chinese medical texts, in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine, it was stated that wind can cause sudden changes within the body and will upset the body’s equilibrium thus, creating bad health.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)

It has been written that ailments such as the common cold and flu are related to wind elements that disturb the body’s equilibrium when they enter the body, and cause symptoms such as a running nose or sneezing. “In the traditional Islamic medical texts of Al-Jawziyya, there are numerous references to the “four elements” of fire, water, air and earth and how these affect the body in adverse ways. In particular, we are advised to stay away from drafts and protect our heads in wind, breezes, drafts and cold weather.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”) Also, covering the head is important for a variety of health reasons in the warm weather. V.G. Rocine, a prominent brain research specialist, discovered that phosphorus found in the brain begins to melt at 108 has found that brain Phosphorus melts at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a temperature that can easily be achieved if one stays under the sun for a short period of time without a head covering. When this takes place, a temperature that can be easily reached if one stays under the hot sun for any length of time without a head covering. When this happens, irreparable damage to the brain is done, including memory loss and loss of a few brain functions. “Although this example is extreme, Brain damage can still be measured in small degrees from frequent exposure to and overheating of the head.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)

Bernard Jensen, noted chiropractor and neuropath claims that this is due to the fact that the  brain “runs on the mineral phosphorus” (“Science Behind the Hijab”), which is easily affected by heat.

In the end, the Islamic dress code is meant for and in the interest of Women’s safety and well-being, rather than her subjugation or oppression, as media often portrays it as.

Next week: the hijab does not keep you from doing what you want

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons Why We Still Need Feminism by Sarah Connolly

Director’s Note:  Recently thinkpeace girl Sarah Connolly wrote this article for her school’s newspaper.  Sadly, it was met with ridicule by some of her classmates.  Perhaps the reactions that Sarah received were a result of discomfort over the issues she raised in her article, but it is precisely because it sparked a reaction that we need to continue the dialogue about gender equality.  At thinkpeace we believe that boys are equally a part of the solutions to the issues facing girls worldwide. We believe that we are IN IT TOGETHER. Recognizing the importance in us all working together to create the change we know needs to happen, the United Nations has launched a program called HeForShe, a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all. We encourage you all to keep talking to the boys and men in your life about what feminism really means and how they can stand with us for equality. Being a feminist means that you only need to be on board with one idea: All humans, male and female, should have equal political, economic and social rights.  To the critics of Sarah’s article: we ask you to think before reacting. We ask you to look around at the amazing girls and women in your lives.  We ask you to acknowledge their worth and to embrace equality.  We ask you to take the HeForShe commitment and stand WITH us. Imagine!

Why women fighting for their rights is still as relevant as ever

By Sarah Connolly, Editor in Chief

Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”So why do so many people shy away from this word? On July 4, 1776, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, stating “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Before you say that the Constitution only states that “all men are created equal,” remember that in the 1700s, men was a universal term used to define all people. A feminist is not a girl who thinks she is superior to all men. The idea is about the real issues and obstacles that women are forced to face domestically and globally. A feminist is someone who fights for equality and human rights. Lately, I have heard a lot of people say that feminism should be renamed. People claim that if feminism is really about equality, then it should be called “humanism.” However, it would be completely ineffective to call the “gay rights movement” the “human rights movement.” Feminism is called feminism because the name addresses the problem at hand. So why is feminism so prevalent in today’s society? In America, women have the right to vote. They can have virtually any job they are qualified for and attend school to get a great education. Feminism is essential if women and men are ever going to be perceived as equals. Before you argue that women and men are in fact equal, consider these six injustices that women face:

  1. Around the world, women are treated as lesser human beings. In developing countries such as Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, women are not allowed to attend school. If they chose to attend, they risk being shot by terrorist organizations or having acid thrown in their faces. The few women that do attend school are not allowed to do so with boys.
  2. In the United States alone, a woman is raped every two minutes. Twenty-five percent of girls are sexually assaulted before they turn eighteen. Sexual abuse goes far beyond the United States. It is perhaps even more prevalent in developing countries where women are poor and uneducated.
  3. Approximately 15 million girls around the world are forced into marriage before they turn eighteen. Some girls are married when they are as young as seven or eight years old to men they barely know. These young girls are neither physically or emotionally ready for such a commitment. Child marriages are a primary source of domestic violence, and younger girls are more likely to have complications in childbirth and contract HIV.
  4. Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, as it is more commonly known, is a destructive operation where girls’ genitals are removed or injured to stop sexual feeling. Operations are most commonly performed on girls before they hit puberty. It primarily takes place in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. FGM operations are extremely painful and can be fatal. FGM is commonly operated without a girl’s consent.
  5. In some countries, the majority of families desire to have a male child. Women are not as valued in their societies, and poor families need male children to get jobs to make money. Sadly, baby girls become a waste of money and resources, and some families kill or abandon their female children in order to save themselves from feeding an extra mouth
  6. Feminism is needed just as much domestically as it is internationally. If a woman and a man have the exact same credentials and work the exact same job, a woman is still likely to earn eighteen percent less money. Sure, we have female doctors, lawyers and politicians, but American society undervalues female workers. Therefore, they are paid less, and there is no reason for this. If a woman and a man have identical qualifications and work the same job, then they should have the exact same salary.

Cheris Kramarae once said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” Feminism is something that needs to be addressed on a large, global scale, we still have a long way to go before everyone, regardless of gender, is seen as equals around the world. However, in the past decade, society has made giant steps toward this goal.

#orangeURhood

#orangeurhood

It’s TakeActionTuesday– and the beginning of #16days of Activism against Gender Violence. During this time we ask you to join with us, UNwomen.org and SayNoToViolence.org as we raise awareness and call for the elimination of violence against women and girls around the world.  Last year, the UNiTE campaign launched a global call for action to “Orange the World in 16 Days.”  The initiative aimed to create the symbolic image of a world free from violence against women and girls. The color orange is a uniting theme for all the events surrounding the UNiTE campaign, and is a bright and optimistic color, representative of a world free from violence against women and girls. At thinkpeace workshop for girls, orange represents many things, especially during this month of World Kindness, Tolerance and the campaign to stop gender-based violence.  Please put your orange on for the next #16days and make your statement!

#TheCall

Over the next 16 days we will be posting on facebook actions that you can take in your community. Today’s actions are:

Organize a walk with local government officials to mark the 16 Days of Activism. Wear orange t-shirts and carry orange banners, posters and balloons. Use the opportunity to engage members of your local community and raise awareness of violence against women and girls.
Share information about violence against women and girls with your local community and invite them to pledge to support the UNiTE campaign.
 ☮ Turn your profile picture orange for the duration of the 16 Days! Whether you’re on Twitter or on Facebook, it’s easy for you to turn your current profile picture orange.  Check out the overlay design on Twibbon. Go to http://twibbon.com/search and type in “#Orangeurhood in #16days”.
 ☮ Turn your emails orange! Write your emails in orange text, and put the following line on the bottom:  Wonder why this email is orange? Because it’s the International Day to End Violence against Women. Find out more at http://unwomen.org.
 As we orange our hood in New York, #orangeurhood by photoshopping landmarks from your neighborhood orange, and share them on social media via the hashtags #orangeurhood and #16days.

At thinkpeace workshop for girls we believe that violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights and a serious global issue that is preventable.  It is NOT okay that 35% of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.  The UN has stated that “Violence against women and girls impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combatting HIV and AIDS, and peace and security.  Violence against women and girls has enormous social and economic costs for individuals, families, communities and societies and has a significant impact on development and the realization of sustainable development goals.”  Together we can Say No to Violence. Start today.

Imagine.

 

 

 

give me the facts sista’: water

Director’s note: Second in her series about the issues facing girls (and the world) today, GARMIN talks water. Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation  kill more people each year than all forms of violence combined, including war. thinkpeace workshop has just contributed 10,000 paper beads made for the Students Rebuild water challenge, in partnership with charity:water. That translates into a contribution from the Bezos Family Foundation of water for 500 people in Tanzania.  Water truly effects everything– education, health, poverty and opportunity. Imagine.

 

charity: water

When my doctor tells me I need to drink more water in order to get healthier faster, I groan. Hearing that I need to drink more water is last on my list of priorities, however for many girls, women, and children in developing countries water is the first on their list. Access to clean and drinkable water is one of top global health crises today, in fact so much that it effects 1 billion people. Yes, you read that right. 1 billion people. The facts are clear.

Check out this video by one of the organizations helping to bring clean drinking water to those without it, charity:water

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I’ve watched this video a number of times and what gets me every time is the fact that water affects every aspect of life. In most cases girls and women are the ones who are collecting the water for their families. Having to collect water puts their education on the back burner and often times forces them to drop out of school. Last week we talked about the importance of education and how it changes the quality of life for girls and women. That change can’t happen if girls are focused on obtaining water. When the strain of collecting water is diminished, two HUGE things happen for those communities: food supply increases and gender equality is now an option. Fresh water is needed to grow crops and for many families having enough water to grow their own small garden increases their food supply. Secondly, when girls are no longer burdened with collecting water they can either go to school or have the option of pursuing work. Either of those two options helps their own families and then their communities. Engaging women in work increases the GDP of a country and helps an area become more economically stable. While obtaining the funds to build systems to provide clean drinking water is not cheap there is a solution.

Later this summer at camp we will talk about ways to engage you in being part of the solution!

46 days until camp!!!

give me the facts sista’: education

At thinkpeace workshop we believe it is our duty as global citizens to be informed and educated on the challenges facing girls around the world. The next couple of weeks here on the blog will focus on some hard core facts of some of these challenging global problems with the intention of encouraging you to develop a critical lens aimed toward finding a solution. Naturally, these posts will not be fully comprehensive because many of these issues are large, complicated, and without simple straight forward solutions. Understanding the basic core of each challenge is the first step in finding a solution. 

This week we will take up the intersection of gender and education.

In this past Sunday’s New York Times, journalist Nick Kristof takes up this issue, “Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. The greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books.” I think he’s spot on with this.  It’s why Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Afghan Taliban, it’s why Boko Haram took nearly 300 girls from school, and it’s one of the core contributors towards girl-specific violence. Quite simply the equation is this: girls + education = change

If you haven’t yet seen the video The Girl Effect, it’s time.

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So why would extremist groups and people in general be threatened by educated girls? Some facts followed by an explanation:

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.

Fewer children means less people in the workforce which means less hands to be able to work the fields and help around the home. It means that girls gain control of their reproduction which gives them more power to create change. 

  • An extra year of primary school education boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10-20%.  An extra year of secondary school adds 15-25%.

More money for women means that the global poverty rate will go down. A woman will work to address problems in her community, and her children will be given a greater chance of survival. 

  • Women in 32 countries who remained in school after primary school were five times more likely to know basic facts about HIV than illiterate women.

Education decreases a girl’s or woman’s risk for contracting HIV or transmitting HIV to her baby. Knowing how to prevent contraction or transmission means that the global HIV/AIDS rate will go down. 

While we know educated girls are the key to global change, the rate in which girls are attending school has not caught up. Day of the Girl and Girl Rising, both organizations devoted to raising awareness on girls issues gives us the facts:

66 million girls are out of school globally.

 Only 30% of all girls worldwide are enrolled in secondary school. 

The average sub-Saharan African girl from a low income, rural household gets less than two years of school and never learns to read and write, to add and subtract, as opposed to the average sub- Saharan African boy who fully completes primary education.  

There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school. 

If India enrolled 1 % more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. 

So if all of these facts are true, why don’t we just cut to the chase and enroll girls in school? You see, it’s not that easy. School in other countries is not always free, it isn’t always available, and families don’t always want educated girls for a variety of reasons. Educated girls will create change, plain and simple. Change is not always easy.

Knowing the facts is the first step in creating change. Girls + education = change. How are you going to change the course of this global challenge?

Send me your thoughts, questions, concerns. garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

what you resist persists

Director’s note:  At thinkpeace workshop we encourage girls to embrace their truths: those qualities about themselves that are fundamental to feeling good about themselves. Sometimes it’s easy to let other voices get inside and create self-doubt. Holding onto our truths is important to standing in our own strength in the face of pushbacks from others. Lately, intern GARMIN has realized the power of knowing and owning her truths. It’s an ongoing process for each of us. 

“What you resist persists” by GARMIN

During my last yoga teacher training weekend we had a grueling 2-hour hip-opening practice. Our teacher kept saying, “What you resist persists” meaning that whatever we kept holding back from would continue to be there.

In her acceptance speech for the John Steinbeck Award, MSNBC host, activist, PowerGirl, (and my big girl crush) Rachel Maddow, said this about being out as queer,

As a general rule, if you can be out, you really ought to be out because, A) you will be happier, being closeted is a sad thing to be. It also makes you vulnerable. When you are closeted people can always have something to use against you and so you are never actually operating from a position of strength even if you feel like coming out is something that would make you vulnerable in the world, being closeted is a much more vulnerable thing to be. You can never speak from a position of strength unless you are speaking from a position of honesty.

While this is the speech that pushed me over that metaphorical edge to come out to my parents, Maddow’s last line, “You can never speak from position of strength unless you are speaking from a position of honesty” is the line that popped up again for me last week.  These past two weeks have been hard for me. I installed my thesis and then it has been one event after the next: openings, meet the artist, showcases, and more events– literally non-stop. While there have been happy, exciting, and liberating moments, there have been just as many frustrating and annoying times. Our class of 11 is disconnected, and consumed with what we call in yoga teacher training, “a concern for looking good,” which basically means they will do whatever they can to make themselves look good and everyone else look bad by playing the “ame” game- shame, blame, and complain.  I decided that it wasn’t worth my energy to continue to be around people that brought me down. You see, I value myself, my power, and my strength and when I was putting myself in a position of powerlessness by being around people who didn’t value me I was taking myself out of my life. I wasn’t speaking from my position of strength because I wasn’t in my full honesty and truth of myself.

In typical GARMIN fashion, I walked right up to my thesis teacher and said, “I’m not coming to the group meeting of the class anymore because it’s bad for my mojo. I value myself, my strength, and my power.” She said, “OK. Have a great day!”

And just like that I was standing back in my full power.

However, just like the hip-opening practice “what you resist persists”– I had been resisting initiating this conversation with my thesis teacher. I had been frustrated for some time and it had to get to a point of me realizing its persistence to do something about it. When I surrendered to what was put on offer (the hip opening practice), initiating the conversation, it wasn’t so hard. Holding back was actually harder.

I think we as young women hold ourselves back ALL the time. From my experience, we hold back for a variety of reasons: we play small so others can play big, we don’t think we are worthy, we are operating out of fear, etc. In this past week’s U.S. version of TIME magazine, the cover highlighted Beyoncé, pop mogul, mom and PowerGirl. In the closing paragraph, writer and Facebook VP Sheryl Sandberg wrote,

In the past year, Beyoncé has sold out the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour while being a full-time mother. Her secret: hard work, honesty and authenticity. And her answer to the question, What would you do if you weren’t afraid? appears to be “Watch me. I’m about to do it.” Then she adds, “You can, too.”

Step into your greatness PowerGirl!

meet a wannabe thinkpeace girl

I have a dream… that someday any girl who longs to connect with the global girl community and learn what she can do to help heal the world will be able to come to thinkpeace workshop summer camp.  This year, in particular, I have been touched by the stories of two girls who have reached out to share a little of  why they want to be thinkpeace girls. One is a brave and bright girl from Afghanistan whose family left behind the difficulties in their home country to start a new life in Michigan and the other, who is a compassionate and concerned 15 year old from Indonesia. In forty-five days we will see if the efforts of our US thinkpeace girls to raise funds will cover the trip for one of these girls… It’s not easy to be a grassroots organization full of teen girls with hearts of gold  but limited resources. Still, we will try. Because Grisella and Hadia need to be heard.  They have voices that can tell stories of things other girls can’t imagine.  Voices that can open minds and hearts to new perspectives and possibilities. We’ll be talking about our fundraising campaign on facebook, twitter, instagram and here… hoping that not only my dream can come true, but perhaps theirs as well.  Imagine!
Today I’d like you to meet Grisella. Grisella contacted thinkpeace via twitter after seeing a tweet about our summer camp in NYC.
Dear Kelly,
Sorry to bother you
My name is Grisella and i am from Indonesia
I want to ask some things about the summer camp
Is the Summer camp held yearly ? i wish it is because i can not join the camp this year because of the flight fare is too expensive and i have not saved my money for it and oh how much is the camp fees ?
That is all. Thank you very much for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.
Best Wishes,
Grisella

I wrote her back and told her all about camp and asked her about what she cared about, thought about, and told her a little about my kids.  She got right back to me:

Yeaaah! I’m so incredibly excited for the summer camp next year oh my God! Hahaha. I’m going to be 15 this year and i’m in my last year on junior high. Well, i can say i care for a lot of things -not to brag or anything. Since, i live in Indonesia i started to think there’re a lot of things to be fixed. People here are barely well educated. They can’t afford for school fees. That’s why Indonesia stays the same.  They don’t make any better change and even worse they seem like they don’t care. And there’s health problems. This one really hurting. Bunch of people from small area come to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, looking for job and because of a lot of them didn’t get good education it’s difficult for them to have a well-paid job. Then, because the bills are more expensive than the wage, they can’t afford to buy a house but they still need a place to stay right? To solve it they build houses in the river banks, they use the river’s not-so-clean water for their daily needs such as bath, laundry, and even to cook and drink. I am also concerned about global warming. Why don’t we start to plant trees ? Like one or two trees are already helping the environment right ? Well, that’s about the conditions around me. Globally, i am really concern about bullying. Bullying is almost happening in every school all around the world. The bullies usually are not aware that they are hurting someone else. They are not aware of their words, their actions. They might think that by bullying someone it is proof that they’re strong or they are really envious because other person can enjoy life while they can’t. They might had a bad/dark past. That’s why i think every bullies should not be judged or punished. We must talk to them softly and tell them that what they’re doing is totally wrong and what they do can make the person they bullied commit a suicide. I also support noh8 campaign. Well i guess everybody should support this one because love is all we need. Why need to hate while you can love someone ? I’m 100% sure this world will be a so much better place if we do that. And there’s child labour. I think this is the worst problem ever! Children are supposed to be at school, learning things and socialising with their friends and not to work like adults. They usually do hard jobs which is really really bad for children. I don’t really know how i can solve this because this usually happen in Africa right ? And yeah I’m still under my parents guidance and it seems impossible to solve this by myself though. One last thing i want to stop is racism. Everyone is precious in every skin complexion just don’t judge everyone only by their looks.

But still i really want to stop bullying and child labour.
Well thank you so much for the information. Sorry if my english are terrible. You know, it’s not my language so yeah..
While we may not be able to get Grisella here in time for this year’s camp, we are determined to find a way– for next year. So stay tuned for more information on how to help a girl like Grisella or Hadia realize her goal, to be a thinkpeace girl! They see and feel the issues facing girls globally (and boys too, actually). Together, girls are such a big part of the solution. Global girl voices, and hearts, and hands, working together might just be able to CHANGE THE WORLD. Imagine!

malala yousafzai: a true hero

malala

 

Director’s note: Throughout 2014 our thinkpeace girls will be periodically writing for the blog about things and people that inspire them to be active participants in the Global Girl Community. First in this series is a blog written by Sarah Connolly, a 16 year old from Indiana. Moved by another 16 year old, Sarah is committed to helping others… Imagine!

Sometimes, it can be hard to stand up for what you believe in. We live in a world where people are denied many basic rights, and this is not something we should stand for. We should try to spread the word and influence as many people as possible. One girl did exactly this. As Americans, we may or may not be aware of what is going on outside of our own city, state and country. I am here to inform you of a young Pakistani girl’s journey to get her basic rights. This is the story of Malala Yousafzai, a girl who valued her education above all else.

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997. She was raised in the Swat District of Pakistan and was educated by her father. In Pakistan, the Taliban, a group of government officials who regulate the actions of the residents of the country, had the ability to ban girls from attending school. This outraged Malala, and she would not stand for it. She did not feel that the Taliban had the right to take away her basic right to education just because of her gender.

In 2009, Malala started blogging anonymously for BBC News. They wanted an inside source on how girls felt about being stripped of their rights in the Swat District. It was a dangerous task, but her own father recommended her for the job. On January 15, 2009, the Taliban officially banned girls from attending school. Over one-hundred girls’ schools had already been blown up. The next day, Malala came out in public and read pieces of her blog for the first time.

Schools reopened for girls shortly after, but many were too afraid to attend. Malala continue to speak out, and as soon as her blog ended, she was asked to film a documentary for the New York Times. During the Second Battle of Swat, Malala’s family was entirely split up, but the documentary continued to be filmed. Not long after this, Yousafzai’s father received a death threat from the Taliban. This scared the family, but nevertheless, Malala continued to speak out. Her activism kept increasing, and Malala decided that she wanted to be a politician instead of a doctor. More people were learning of her story, and things seemed to be looking up for her. This would not last for long.

Suddenly, Malala seemed to be receiving more and more death threats. They were published in newspapers, and many were slipped under her door. She even began to receive threats over social media. The Taliban was trying to get her to stop fighting against them, but she continued to speak out. The group agreed that they “must” kill her, and they set out to do so. Malala was shot on October 9, 2012, while riding a bus home from school. She was with two other girls, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan. Malala was shot in her head, neck, and shoulder, and she was unable to speak. The other girls were wounded, but could still speak about what happened. The girls were rushed to the hospital, and they were all treated with the utmost care.

After the shooting, many protests were held. Over two million people signed a petition for the right to education in Pakistan. This led to the first Right to Education Bill in the country. A ten million rupee ($105,000) reward was put on the heads of the men involved in the assassination attempt. The people of the Swat District really began to start speaking up for their rights.

Malala has impacted and changed many lives, and she is only sixteen years old. July 12th was deemed Malala Day in 2013. This was the day of her first public speech since the attack, and it is also her birthday. Her memoir, I Am Malala, was published in October 2013. Maybe we cannot do everything Malala did, but we can for sure take a stand. Find something you are passionate about and use it to change someone’s life. Start with something in your community, and then take it to a larger level. You never know what you can do. Malala started with an anonymous blog, and now she is one of the most well-known activists and heroines of our time. We can all learn from and be inspired by her story.

From a recent article in PolicMic, here are 12 reasons Malala rocked 2013:

1.   She took the UN by storm on her 16th birthday.                                                                                       2.   She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.                                                                                              3.  She released her captivating memoir, “I am Malala”                                                                              4. She launched her own nonprofit organization, the Malala Fund                                            5. She left Jon Stewart speechless and taught us all about forgiveness                                  6. She sparked a dialogue about the importance of education for children                          7. She was awarded the 2013 UN Human Rights Prize                                                                       8. And the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought                                                                           9. She’s even inspired a school curriculum                                                                                             10. She confronted President Barack Obama about drone strikes                                            11. Her heroic story pushed policymakers on child education                                                12. She’s going to keep inspiring us in 2014

So, thinkpeace girls… how will YOU rock 2014??

♥♥

live well, PowerGirl!

I’ve lived in New York City (NYC) at various points in my life, and I now consider it to be one of places I go to when I need to press the reset button; to recalibrate my dreams, desires, and my connection to the ground. It’s the place I most feel in my body and in relation to other people. It’s the place where I get out of my head and out of my own singular experience and into a global conversation. It’s where culture, entertainment, and surprise are in the corridor of your apartment building, Broadway, the Central Park Zoo, the subway, and in all the art galleries simultaneously.  (And it’s the one place in my life where people know how to walk: not super slow or three in a row.) For these reasons and many, many, many more we have chosen to have thinkpeace camp 2014 in NYC (SURPRISE!!!)

NYC is filled with thousands of tourist t-shirt shops; every corner stacked high with ‘I LOVE NY’ and subway map t-shirts. However, on my last trip I saw a seemingly surprising t-shirt that said ‘GO LOVE YOUR OWN CITY.’ Now reasonably harsh, as New Yorkers are very protective of their city, I was still shocked. And yet, its bluntness made sense; it was encouraging the radical action of loving the places where we are. What if instead of lusting or dreaming about places we’ve been or want to go we loved into the nooks, crannies, and sweet spots of our lives?  What if we loved the guy who makes us sushi at the corner market, the security guard in our building, the bus driver, and the pharmacist who calls to make sure you have all of your prescriptions; what if for one moment we lived well into the places where we physically are?

 ★

“I ABSOLUTELY LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!”

That line from Eloise at Christmastime accurately describes how I feel about Christmas. I seriously love Christmas! It’s one of two places that I shine the most; camp being the other one. It’s the thing that makes my heart oh-so-happy. I talk, think, and plan Christmas the other 364 days of the year! I love the anticipation of Christmas, the music, decorations, snow, sweet treats, making gingerbread houses, trekking to the Christmas tree farm, Santa Hats, yummy smelling candles, planning the flavor of Christmas morning pancakes, thinking of the best possible gift for each person, and of course Christmas morning. A few weeks ago papa g (my dad) said “GARMIN (actually, he used my given name), you are just as excited about Christmas at 22 years old as you were at 6 years old.”

I acknowledge that the western idea of Christmas is not universal. I spent one Christmas in Hong Kong, a predominately Buddhist country. And yet, I think that living well into our places is brought to the forefront in the intricacies of Christmastime.

Here at thinkpeace we talk a lot about being the best global girls and stewards of our resources, talents, and ideas as we can be, and I truly believe it starts at home. It starts in the small places. In the act of holding the door, saying hi to the mailperson, making cookies for friends, and living from a place of gratitude. It starts with initiating a conversation with the person sitting next to us at the coffee shop as we cram our last papers of the semester out, it starts with mailing a letter to our friends and families, and it starts with the acknowledgement of our feet physically on the ground and breathing deep loving breaths– it starts with you PowerGirl. You want to change the world?! It starts with you, with you living well into the places where you are.