Blog - Page 6 of 6 - Sonia Shah Organization

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Human Development Foundation Helping People Help Themselves

The ability of a country to progress and evolve has always been dictated by the education level of BOTH the males and females living within that country. They are pillars that support each other, build upon each other, and grow upon each other. If either is lacking, the country will remain stagnant. Pakistan has a female literacy rate far below even 50%. For females 15 or older, the number has been as low as 30% in recent years.
Pakistan is the 6th most populated country in the word, with 180 million people living in an 800km2 area. It is estimated that by 2040, this number will far surpass 300 million. Add in the fact that Pakistan only spends 2-3% of its GDP on education… and you have a recipe for disaster. Half of the soon to be 300 million people will never even see the inside of a class room. Half of the 150 million that are lucky enough to go to school will receive a poor quality of education. To make matters worse, it is the women of Pakistan that will be discarded first for seats in any type of school. The literacy rate of men in Pakistan is essentially double that of women.
How can we expect Pakistan to strive with these conditions? It is up to us to help bring balance and to bring Pakistan into a new age. As more women receive quality education, the progress Pakistan could make is endless. Sonia Shah understood this simple idea and decided to do something about it. It is up to us to make her dream a reality.

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The Dreams of Our Daughters for Our Daughter (By Nabeela Rasheed, PhD)

This past year has highlighted the desperate need for girls education in Pakistan. Much has been written about the incredibly brave, erudite and visionary student activist Malala Yousafzai, since that horrific day in October 2012 when she was attacked for her beliefs in universal education for women. See latest on Malala in the following MSNBC clip . But no amount of bullets, weapons or threats can halt a movement whose time has come. Education for women in Pakistan is not just a wish or abstract idea, it is a fundamental right, it is a social imperative, it is an absolute must.
Gordon Brown, former prime minister of United Kingdom and now United Nations Special Envoy for Education, made an impassioned plea to the international community to make education a higher priority. Indeed, at the beginning of this century, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals included the laudable target of ensuring primary school education for all children by 2015. As that deadline approaches, we learn that there is a £13 billion funding gap to achieve that goal. Furthermore, it turns out that two-thirds of the children in need of that funding live in just ten countries. Prominent amongst those countries is Pakistan. The very place where Malala’s campaign began. So what can be done? We cannot leave the situation as a status quo. Realistically, we also cannot raise that almost insurmountable figure in one go as a community. What we can do is to pool resources. Join a campaign. Be a part of a vision.
In Chicago, that vision has already been created and its wheels have already been set in motion by another brave girl with close ties to Pakistan. Sonia Shah, a very special teenager living with her family in Chicago felt a strong calling to give back to the girls of Pakistan.
Writing during her high school days, she recognized that “nations must be held responsible for the education of their people.” But she also understood that as individuals we can also do our part and not just leave this all-important task to the caprices of “nations” and “governments” and “NGOs”. Instead, she rolled up her sleeves and decided that she would do her part by “starting a girl’s elementary school in … the same village that my grandmother left so many years ago.” With that state goal in mind she set out a full plan on how to achieve some measure of the Millennium Development Goals.
Sonia was an exceptional girl. She completed her education a year early and dedicated a gap year to establishing Sonia Shah Foundation. With this Foundation she planned to provide education to the girls of her grandmother’s village. Speaking 5 languages herself, she planned a bilingual school for girls with a curriculum that would be taught in Urdu and in English. She procured the land , gathered the necessary donations, established the curriculum, began the search for the teachers and oversaw the groundbreaking of the building. And then just as her dreams for the school were about to take flight, her young life was cut short.
Given that there are presently at least 5 million children of both sexes that are in need of education in Pakistan, begs the question, why only a girls school. Gender inequality in education is extreme, even in the western society, girls are less likely to have access to school, remain in school or progress to higher education. It is only through education that women can achieve their economic, political and social potential. As such, education of young girls is an imperative and intrinsic part of any program designed to redress gender-based discrimination against women and girls. It is critical to achieve a basic level of education for girls, because providing this basic right to girls ensures that those girls are later able to secure other rights to which they are entitled. The improved educational opportunities for girls, leads to a better understanding of health, nutrition and family planning as well as alleviating poverty.

While she is no longer with us, Sonia left behind Sonia Shah Foundation, the Foundation that she started to achieve her goals of education and enlightenment for the girls from her grandmother’s village. She committed to the hands of that Foundation the dreams and hopes that she had for the school and for the girls in Pakistan. Beyond providing mere literacy, it was Sonia’s aim to provide the girls with the basic tools they would need to be fully vested and functioning members of a free and enlightened society. As the world settles into the 21st century, it will be through the efforts of Foundations such as the Sonia Shah Foundation that the Millennium Development Goals will be realized.

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Sonia Shah Foundation is partnering with The Human Development Foundation (HDF) to implement the project: HDF-Sonia Shah Memorial School in village Kangra, Pakistan. Sonia Shah Foundation and HDF are entities with shared interests concerned with helping disadvantaged people and communities in Pakistan. HDF, combats extreme poverty by “Helping people help themselves.” Their powerful, Holistic Model is comprehensive and is focused on lasting change in 5 key areas – Education, Health Care, Economic Growth, Social Mobilization and Sustainable Environment. HDF development goals are fully aligned with MDGs and HDF continues to work towards its goal of ensuring that by 2015 boys and girls in HDF program areas have the opportunity to complete primary schooling while eliminating gender disparity in the school system.

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Malala Yousafzai

Earlier this year, an incident where a 14 year old child was shot by the purveyors of evil rocked the world. We felt rage, shame, and a desire to help these kids who were being forced to keep away from education!

The funds from our event will be dedicated to build schools in the Kangra Village which is merely 140 miles away from the spot where young Malala was shot. By the grace of the powers to be, Malala survived but the dreams of those little girls still hang in the balance and our participation will help keep them alive!

Sonia Shah Foundation is happy to announce that Malala Yousufzai has made a full recovery and left the hospital. The whole world came together in prayers and spirit when this symbol of education was attacked in October. However, there is work to be done to take Malala’s dream forward.

Please help Sonia Shah Foundation in building Schools for young girls in the Kangra village, a mere 100 miles from the place where young Malala was shot.

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Living with relatives in the village

I am living with relatives in the village, and their house is simple but beautiful. There are trees in the small central courtyard, and it is actually a very enjoyable place to be when the electricity is on and the fans are working. Pakistan is now approaching its hottest time of the year, and the electricity supply (especially in rural areas) is inconsistent. In Kangra, most of the afternoon and night goes by without electricity, and we are then reduced to using hand fans and finding shady areas to sit in our attempts to beat the heat. The villagers have a complicated system of regular electricity, a petrol-powered generator, and a UPS (no one I’ve asked knows what it stands for, but its a battery powered generator that charges during the hours that there is electricity). Even with these three different systems, we probably go at least six waking hours and most of the night without any electricity whatsoever. Even in the cities the electricity is unreliable. The electricity here in Peshawar has already cut out twice since I started writing this post (thank God for auto-save!). Regardless of the heat and shortage of electricity, the village is a peaceful place, and I enjoy sitting on the verandah watching the chickens do crazy things (yesterday one knocked off the clothes drying on clothesline, and had to be helped out of the shirt it found itself in). My only complaint would be having to wrap up in the chadar whenever I go outside. Even the lightest chadar can feel heavy and hot in the midday heat, and I feel awkward and uncomfortable wrapping the cloth over my hair and face. Since its something I’m not used to, I always manage to wrap it wrong and then I’m stuck trying to re-wrap it while all the other women walk serenely by. Its a very different life, but its interesting and relaxing in many ways.

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New Developments

The last three weeks or so from the time of my last post http://sildenafildosage.com/ have been busy. We could no longer use the land we had originally planned to build on, and so a new location had to be found. New estimates and blueprints also had to be drawn up, as the old plans couldn’t be used in the new location. The land has been surveyed, and contractors are now finally beginning to clear trees and brush in preparation for construction. We have also had to deal with the legal issues of transferring ownership of the land to the non-profit foundation that we have established for our project in Pakistan. After three weeks of long distance calls, we have finally begun our project. We are also closer to meeting our fund-raising goals. A very generous donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has graciously given us 3,000 USD, ensuring that we have the funds to continue building throughout the summer. Helena Potter, a colleague of my mom’s, was able to connect us to this donor and has been incredibly supportive throughout this entire process. These new funds come at an incredibly important time, as we have been unable to receive donations through our foundation’s website, which has not been working for the last week or so. The website, kulsoomfoundation.org, should now be up and running.

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School Visit

Yesterday I walked over to the the school for which we are trying to build a building, and was able to watch the girls studying and to speak with their teacher. Right now the girls (about 50 of them) study at their teacher’s house, and are scattered in their various class groups along her verandah and courtyard. Only about a quarter of them are actually sitting under fans (that only work when the electricity is working), while the rest have to make do with shade. The girls range from pre-k to grade five, and while the government provides them with textbooks, some of them are too poor to buy the notebooks and pencils they need to study. One teacher, also provided by the government (who is paid a salary of about 60 USD per month) has to oversee the lessons of all 50 girls. The girls are also unable to afford uniforms (one of the indicators used by the general populace to identify better schools in Pakistan).

Students and teacher sit in the heat, and try to push through lessons that run from about 8:30 in the morning to about noon, although officially class is supposed to begin at 7:00 am and end at 1:00 in the afternoon. The curriculum given to them by the government is in Poshto, the tribal language of this north-west region of Pakistan, and the village is in a rural enough place that both Urdu (the national language) and English (the official langauge) are taught as foreign languages, as no one in Kangra actually speaks either of the two often or well. The girls will be on a one month break from June 10th, and we hope to begin building their two-room school building then. The 6,000 USD we have already raised is now here in Pakistan and ready to be spent on building supplies and wages for laborers. If the contractors work quickly the school should be done by the time I come back to Kangra in September. Until the building is ready and we can begin overhauling the curriculum and teaching system, I am doing my best to provide the girls with whatever basic school supplies they currently don’t have, and with the fans and uniforms that will make their education more pleasant and legitimate.

More on my project soon to come, and please feel free to take a look at the pictures that I haven’t included in these blog posts: Most recent pictures from Pakistan

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Women in Pakistan

I just wanted to take the time to talk a little bit about why I feel that supporting education for girls in Pakistan is such an integral part of Pakistan’s movement towards stability and development, especially at a time when both seem so unlikely. With the government spending approximately 13% of its GDP on defense and only 2% on education, Pakistan’s education system is heavily reliant on private funding. The poorest Pakistani families often go to great lengths to ensure that they can afford to send their sons to school, but rarely do the same for their daughters. Poor mothers need their daughters to help them at home, and poor fathers can rarely afford to even feed and clothe their children properly, and so view a daughter’s tuition fees as an unnecessary expenditure. These uneducated girls are then made dependent on their male relatives, perpetuating a cycle of destitution in a country in which 24% of its 170 million people live below the poverty line. Educating a girl can aid in the development and improvement of her entire family and even her entire community, and will stabilize a nation rocked by ignorance and hardship. It is now becoming even more important to continue to fund and support girls’ schools, as the Taliban has destroyed over 400 schools in the Swat Valley and tribal regions, and have targeted girls’ schools in particular. With tens of thousands of children left without a school and a government unable to rebuild schools quickly, I believe that it is essential to reach out to and educate as many girls as we can.

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Challenges

Our challenges with land did not end when we found isviagraotc.com a second possible location a month ago. The lands could not be transferred to the foundation, and we therefore couldn’t guarantee that the land and building would continue to be used as a school. The only thing we could do was to buy land that we could ensure would remain in the control of the foundation. After trying and failing to purchase two different plots, my mom was finally able to successfully buy a third plot with money taken from her own retirement fund. Land ownership and control is an incredibly sensitive issue in the rural areas of northwest Pakistan, and owning the land on which the school will be built will ensure that the school can be sustained. We have had to draw up new estimates and building plans for this new plot, and the added costs of these have put a strain on our existing funds. Any support you are willing to give would be very much appreciated, as we would like to begin construction as soon as possible and have the school ready to be opened for the next academic school year. Please donate on our website at http://www.kulsoomfoundation.org/.

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Life in the Village

After flying in to Islamabad and driving two hours to Peshawar, it was finally time for me to visit the village where all our project work is being done and where I will be living for over a month in the fall and spring. On the hour long drive to the village from Peshawar, it was somewhat daunting to watch the bustle of the city fall away, leaving only fields and streams. The big trucks and rickshaws were slowly left behind, until only the occasional tractor or tanga (a two wheeled cart that is pulled by a donkey or horse) could be seen. This village I am now living in, called Kangra, was my grandfather’s home, and the house that I am staying in was the house where my grandmother first came to live when she married my grandfather. Kangra is quite pretty, full of greenery, with animals and children running around everywhere. Any women walking outside are wearing chadars (literally translates in to the word for sheet, but is the name of the big shawl that women cover themselves with when they go outside) and burkas, as the village is small and conservative, and all the women here practice purdah (the practice of having women hide their appearance from any men not in their family).

I am living with relatives in the village, and their house is simple but beautiful. There are trees in the small central courtyard, and it is actually a very enjoyable place to be when the electricity is on and the fans are working. Pakistan is now approaching its hottest time of the year, and the electricity supply (especially in rural areas) is inconsistent. In Kangra, most of the afternoon and night goes by without electricity, and we are then reduced to using hand fans and finding shady areas to sit in our attempts to beat the heat. The villagers have a complicated system of regular electricity, a petrol-powered generator, and a UPS (no one I’ve asked knows what it stands for, but its a battery powered generator that charges during the hours that there is electricity). Even with these three different systems, we probably go at least six waking hours and most of the night without any electricity cialis-coupon whatsoever. Even in the cities the electricity is unreliable. The electricity here in Peshawar has already cut out twice since I started writing this post (thank God for auto-save!). Regardless of the heat and shortage of electricity, the village is a peaceful place, and I enjoy sitting on the verandah watching the chickens do crazy things (yesterday one knocked off the clothes drying on clothesline, and had to be helped out of the shirt it found itself in). My only complaint would be having to wrap up in the chadar whenever I go outside. Even the lightest chadar can feel heavy and hot in the midday heat, and I feel awkward and uncomfortable wrapping the cloth over my hair and face. Since its something I’m not used to, I always manage to wrap it wrong and then I’m stuck trying to re-wrap it while all the other women walk serenely by. Its a very different life, but its interesting and relaxing in many ways.

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Construction has begun!

Construction on the land has finally begun! As you can see from these pictures that were recently taken at the plot, the contractor has begun the wall, and is now preparing the remainder of the land for construction. It is crucial to continue building now that we have begun, as the contractor may not return to a project that has been delayed for too long, and we don’t want to be left with a half-finished building. All readers, if you have yet to contribute to this cause, I would urge you to do so now, as we are getting closer and closer to successfully building this school, and a steady stream of funds have never been as important as they are now. Your support has been crucial since the very beginning of this project, and it http://cialis-coupon.net/ is very much appreciated! Please visit http://www.kulsoomfoundation.org/ to join our community and donate!

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