Nominated Asian Girl Ambassador 2013: Zehra Shah (Finalist)

Syeda Zehra Shah's Photo

Name: Zehra Shah

Organization: Pakistan’s Human Resources Organization (HRO)

Awards/Achievements: 1) Facilitator for non-formal education; 2) Human rights education trainer; 3) Volunteer with different non-profit organizations

 

 

Introduction

I am from a Pathan family (same ethnic group as Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by extremists last year). In Pathan communities, girls are discouraged from going to school, and they face early marriages. I started volunteering at the age of 14, when I saw the discrimination between girls and boys. I have conducted seminars and facilitated sessions on young women’s empowerment and leadership. I also facilitated training for girls at government schools to help them understand their fundamental rights, as well as help develop their communication skills.

I want to continue this struggle for girls’ rights, so that women in my country will also be included in democratic processes in every sphere of life. I want to be a role model in my society and promote education, women’s and girls’ rights, young women’s leadership, and civic education among women and girls.

My organization, the Human Resources Organization (HRO), is an NGO formed and led by young, professional, well-educated activists from Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. All of the founding members were under 20 when the organization was created in 2008, so they did not immediately register it, but after two years, they wanted to have a legal identity and expand its work.

HRO started its work from human empowerment initiatives and started small, community-based educational institutes, providing free computer and language courses. HRO works with various education institutions to offer scholarships to poor students. HRO also works to improve the lives of poor students, child laborers and street beggars by providing skills-based training in things like automobile repair and the beautician field.

Today, HRO is a leading organization for other small-scale organizations. It also works on initiatives like advocacy and capacity building for SRHR and HIV/AIDS. HRO is harnessing the strong support of young people to work on anti-drug and harm-reduction awareness campaigns through different media outlets and networks. HRO involves young people in policy-making dialogues and supports them to raise their voices for their rights.

The Asian Girl Rights Ambassador program will be an opportunity for me to increase my exposure and experience, allowing me to learn from people around the world on how to fight for people’s rights. I will also share my experience of people in my country, so that others can understand our situation too. I will share my knowledge about my community work, how we face gender discrimination, how I implement my projects in the community, and the issues I face in my work, which arise from the negative stereotypes about girls who are active in the community system.

Nominated Asian Girl Ambassador 2013: Hoai Chu Thi Thu (Finalist)

Thu Hoai

Name: Hoai Chu Thi Thu

Organization: Vietnam’s Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender – Family – Women and Adolescents (CSAGA)

Awards/Achievements: 1) Survivor of domestic violence; 2) Advocate/volunteering to help disadvantaged people; 3) Model student at school with good grades

Introduction

When I was 13 years old, my mother was beaten to death by my father and his family members. The court had to review the case many times, but finally, with the support of voluntary lawyers and CSAGA reporters, all the people who caused the death of my mother were put into prison for seven to more than ten years. The CSAGA supported me and my brother financially until we were 18, and I now aspire to be a lawyer who protects the rights of vulnerable and marginalized people. To help me achieve that goal, I’m taking the University Entrance Exam for the Trade University’s Law Department. (Update: Hoai has passed her University exams with flying colors and will begin her studies in law when the semester begins.) I’m also volunteering as a social worker to serve disadvantaged people.

Violence against girls, including sexual abuse, is one of the most serious issues in my country. In 2011, the Vietnamese police discovered an adolescent prostitute network in Ha Giang Province and found that the leader of the network was a high school headmaster. This teacher forced many girls from grades 10 to 12 to have sex with him and then forced them to become prostitutes. In addition, domestic violence against women/girls is very common in Vietnam. According to national research on domestic violence in 2010, up to 58% of Vietnamese women have suffered from physical, psychological or economic violence.

I have given talks in school to share my story and encourage others to say no to violence. Why do I want to join the Ambassador program? Because I want to tell my story of violence to many people in Asia and encourage them to break the cycle of violence.

Girls learn rights at pitchside

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Girls play in a five-a-side game on the slippery surface of the Battambang Airfield pitch on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in celebration of the upcoming International Day of the Girl Child. Photograph: Sarah Bagel/Phnom Penh Post

Seasonal rains did little to deter about one hundred girls from playing football in Battambang on Sunday. In celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child this Thursday, local sports and leadership training organisation SALT Academy organised a football festival for all the girls that participate in their league competition.

The event was held in co-operation with the Garden of Hope Foundation and their 2012 Asia Girl Campaign. Girls of different ages and backgrounds got together for a series of five-a-side friendlies on the Battambang Airfield. It was a great moment to meet peers from other neighbourhoods and make new friends.

The Mighty Girls, a team of talented young players within SALT’s programmes, acted as mentors and coaches for the participants and also helped co-organise the festival. The girls learned important life skills during the day, and in small groups talked about their human rights and about their own futures and careers.

“The girls need to know about their rights in order to protect themselves now and in the future,” said 14-year-old Keourm Kanha, one of the volunteers from the Mighty Girls. “In Cambodia, every child has the right to education and participation, among other [things],” she said.

“The right to protect your body, which is part of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, is very important for them to know as well, because many girls here are victims of domestic violence or abuse. Knowing about it is the first step to actively change your situation.”

Kanha is set for further work on promoting girls’ rights in the region, and will travel today to a conference in Taipei, Taiwan, that brings together outstanding young women from all over Asia for a week of cultural exchange and dialogue. Kanha will represent Cambodia in the conference that is organised by the Garden of Hope Foundation.

For further information visit the Asia Girls Campaign on Facebook.

Originally published by the Phnom Penh Post here: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2012100959173/Sport/girls-learn-rights-at-pitchside.html
(“The English-language Phnom Penh Post is the oldest and most comprehensive independent newspaper covering Cambodia today.”)