A Devastating Blow for Girls
Updated: Mar 27
I've had to change this post. It's previous title was "An Important Week for Girls". Why? The Taliban was going to allow girls who are of secondary school age to go back into education in Afghanistan. That is, until the U-turn I read about in the news.
My eyes are blurry as I change this blog post while pretending I've got dust in my eye. So imagine what it would have done to those whose lives are actually affected by it: the girls who got dressed in their hijabs, full of hope and happiness, only to be turned away at the doors of the school. Imagine their anger, frustration, sadness and insecurity.
I won't go into the details of the whys and wherefores - you can read about it in the news. And I desperately hope that there will be another U-turn. Either way, I think it's the right time to talk about why I’m such an ardent supporter of girls’ education, and about the charity programme Halo supports.
50% of Halo’s profits go towards supporting the education of disadvantaged girls. This is done by donating to the charity Maher, about which you can find out here. Halo is a business in it's infancy, and it's profits are small. Yet in the first year, the donation was able to help 15 girls, and we have to start somewhere. I’ll tell you about the specific programme the donation goes to in a minute.
But back to why I support Maher in the first place. That starts with the story of my mother.
She was the eldest of five children, four girls and a boy, from a traditional middle class Indian family. Her parents’ main desire was to have a son, so the birth of each daughter was a disappointment. She never told me this in so many words, but it was obvious from inferences over the years. The daughters were loved and looked after, but were never expected to have any real aspirations of their own, or to achieve very much.
Despite this my mother went on to get three university degrees and instilled in me a love of learning. She taught me that education could be both interesting and important, and that it was the root to creating strong and independent women. This belief has made me passionate about ensuring that every girl is given at least a basic education and is never made to feel inferior simply because she’s a girl.
When I was preparing to start Halo Jewellery as a business, I was encouraged to identify my three personal core values. Have you ever tried to distil everything you value into just three words? It’s not easy. Your values run through every fibre of your being, and you live and breathe them every day. But articulating them is more difficult. In the end I boiled them down to these three: Learning, Independence and Integrity.
I’ll ignore the last one, because I'm not a cynic and I believe that an element of integrity runs through everyone. But learning and independence are values that I’ve absorbed through my upbringing and they are the reason why Halo donates to Maher.
Back for a moment to the news of the day. Since the Taliban took over, they decided that girls didn’t even need to have a secondary school education, let alone go to university. The hopes and aspirations of girls who had started their secondary schooling were abruptly snatched away.
While you could argue that in absolute terms it’s better to get some education than none at all, I personally feel that giving something to someone and then taking it away is more cruel and affects the individual more than if they had never had it in the first place. This is what is particularly tragic about the U-turn the Taliban has made.
It brings me to why I’m particularly keen on supporting the Kalasagar programme at Maher. In rural India it’s still common for a girl to be pulled out of school at a young age to train her in domestic chores so that she’s ready for marriage. Unsurprisingly, some of these marriages fail, and the girl is left destitute with little to fall back upon.
Kalasagar helps these girls back into education so that they can get back on their feet. These girls have had a taste of education, but the opportunities it presents have been taken away from them so that they can fulfil the role that their family and society expects them to fulfil.
I don’t blame the girls for not standing up to their families. Few of us have the strength to question the reality that we have been brought up with. But that doesn’t mean that if the supposed protections of that reality are snatched away from us, we shouldn’t be given any other opportunities. The Kalasagar programme gives girls that second chance. And if you know me through my blog or social media, you'll know that I'm all for second chances.
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