Reaching out to their sisters-What about abused men?

Started by ramcharger1985, Jan 11, 2006, 11:18 AM

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Anyone else find this sexist? What about abused men?

Reaching out to their sisters
Westfield woman's brainchild lets American teens advocate for girls worldwide
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff
MIDDLE and high school girls in the United States worry about their grades, their sports, their friends. Halfway across the world, and arguably a universe away, Afghan schoolgirls worry whether Taliban insurgents will assassinate their teachers in a campaign to stamp out girls' education.

Those universes, however, are coming together through a program called Girls Learn International Inc., in which American girls, and boys, are learning how to advocate for girls' education around the globe. They are also teaming with schools in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia and Kenya, and getting to know girls there.

The 3-year-old organization is the brainchild of Lisa Alter of Westfield, a copyright attorney and mother of teenagers Arielle and Jordana Alter Confino.


"I was taking the train and reading the paper every day when the Taliban was in power (in Afghanistan), about the role of women and girls. I'd read about female genital mutilation, baby girls in China being abandoned, and it struck me how we are so removed from them," she said. "I would talk to my daughters about it, and one day Jordana said, 'Mom, why don't you stop talking about it and do something?'"

So Alter, now 48, took classes on gender and human rights and did a lot of research, deciding to focus on education. "It's hard to stop the human rights abuses against women if they're illiterate," she said.

The idea for a student organization gelled when she realized she could help empower American girls, too, by teaching them to be advocates for their sisters across the world.

"There's a perception that teenagers can't make a difference on a global level," she said of American youth. "This is really an ideal issue as it relates to them. Feminism has taken on the meaning of a dirty word, but on the other hand, these girls are living it."

She assembled a board of female executives, sought out human rights leaders to join her advisory group and hired an executive director, Alexandra C. Budabin, who is working toward her doctorate in political science.

The first chapters were started in 2003 by her daughters when they were in middle and high school. So far, 30 schools in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire have chapters. The New Jersey schools include Millburn High School, Newark Academy in Livingston, the Pingry School in Martinsville, and Summit High School.

Alter aspires to have chapters in all 50 states in the future. Arielle, 18, a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, hopes to start the first Girls International Inc. college chapter there.
In meetings, girls learn about the obstacles facing girls in the Third World and related issues. At a summit in May, chapter members presented papers on child marriage, treatment of women and girls in war, and the spread of HIV-AIDS among Third World women.

They become advocates by spreading awareness, writing letters to Congress and the United Nations, signing petitions, and raising money for their sister schools in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kenya, Uganda and Colombia, to name a few.

In the process, they are learning valuable leadership skills that will prepare them for adult life, said Alter, who credits her parents for inspiring her social activism.


"There are two halves to it. There's tremendous value in terms of the impact on students here in this country, and turning them into the kinds of citizens we want. On the other hand, it has an impact on schools in other countries," said Jessica Neuwirth, president of Equality Now, a women's human rights group. Neuwirth serves on the advisory board of Girls Learn International Inc.

A lot of the education is directed at their peers, said Jordana, 15, a sophomore at Westfield High School.

"We wrote letters to individual girls in our partner school in Afghanistan. People were shocked that we were helping them. The girls in my club spread awareness by talking to others in school, that it wasn't the girls who were attacking us."

Among the group's school partners is the Badakhshi School for Girls in Afghanistan's Kapisa province, where only 12 percent of all students are female. While new schools are opening, Taliban terrorists are targeting teachers with female students. Last week, a headmaster in Zabul province was beheaded in front of his wife and eight children because he taught girls.

The cause is personal to Khalida Sharafi, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Morristown, and a member of the group's board of directors. She had just graduated from high school in Kabul when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. After her father was killed, the family fled and gained political asylum in the United States.

Sharafi resumed her education at the County College of Morris, working in a clothing factory to support her family. She went on to Rutgers University and graduated from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 1995.

"As a female and an Afghani it's important. Eventually, we're going to have an impact," Sharafi said. "Women need to learn not only how to read and write, but to open your minds and get out of the blindfolded thinking that a woman's job is in the house and bringing kids into the world."

Despite the demands on her time, Alter, who is married to ophthalmologist Joel Confino, said she's committed to expanding the group and seeking corporate sponsorships.

"There's a business to running a nonprofit, but if you hear one story, hear a speech by Mukhtaran Mai, how can you stop doing this?" asked Alter.

(Mukhtaran Mai won international acclaim since her story became public. The elders in her Pakistani village ordered she be gang-raped to avenge her brother's involvement with a woman of a different caste. She broke the culture of silence, reported the crime, and used money she received to open a school for women and girls.)

Alter is also inspired by the young members of Girls Learn International Inc., including her daughters. "If you give kids a chance, they are capable of doing very great things at a surprisingly young age," she said.

To find out more, visit

The Biscuit Queen

The feminists have a point. Instead of bitching that this woman is helping girls, why aren't we actively helping boys?
he Biscuit Queen

There are always two extremes....the truth lies in the middle.

Sir Jessy of Anti

Exactly.  I didn't find much sexist about this except for this passage, "She assembled a board of female executives".  Men are just as capable of helping women and girls as women are capable of helping men and boys.
"The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master." -- Ayn Rand<br /><br />

Sir Percy

Well done that woman. I have no problem whatsoever in someone helping genuinely discriminated against girls and women. Maybe the Princesses in American schools will gain a better understanding of real discrimination some women in other countries have to deal with as opposed to the faux-victim nonesense that infects our home society.
I agree with TBQ, it is the boys here that need a focus too.
vil, like misery, is Protean, and never greater than when committed in the name of 'right'. To commit evil when they are convinced they are doing 'good', is one of the greatest of pleasures known to a feminist.

Laboratory Mike

Quote from: "Sir Percy"
Well done that woman. I have no problem whatsoever in someone helping genuinely discriminated against girls and women. Maybe the Princesses in American schools will gain a better understanding of real discrimination some women in other countries have to deal with as opposed to the faux-victim nonesense that infects our home society.

Nah, they probably wouldn't be able to comprehend what genuine discrimination is, and wouldn't chagne in that particular sense. Now, if they went to such a place and saw it first hand they might take notice.

And yes, BQ is right about us taking care of our boys also. It's why I started my Patriarchy chapter... perhaps others here can do something similar?

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