Whether you identify as a feminist or not, no one can deny the courage of Fawzia Koofi, as she is running for the presidency in Afghanistan during the 2014 elections. President Karzai is set to reach his limit of two five-year terms in office and if Koofi succeeds, she will be Afghanistan’s first female president. As of now, Koofi chairs parliament’s women and human rights committee.

There is no doubt that Fawzia Koofi embodies the feminist movement and sends a clear message to the world; Afghanistan is progressing, despite the Taliban’s best efforts of terrifying women into suppression and out of politics. Seeing as Afghanistan was once known as the worst place in the world to be a woman, Koofi has managed to incite dramatic change in Afghanistan’s political climate.

After years of conflict, this potential change in leadership has restored faith in many of Afghanistan’s people. Afghanistan’s first female president would serve as a representation of endless opportunity and positive forward motion for the country’s youth. Koofi has said herself that there is a strong desire for change among young people and women throughout Afghanistan. Koofi emphasizes this in her new book, “Letters to my Daughters”.

“Being a woman in politics in Afghanistan and a woman who stands for what she believes in, there is always risk”, Koofi stated. Fawzia Koofi is well aware of the danger she is putting herself in, as her own father was a politician who was killed by assassination. However, she is determined, stating that “…change is possible; it’s just a matter of some political and moral support from our international friends.”

This leads to the question of how this political shift would impact the United States, particularly in the realm of national security. Koofi herself has asked that the United States continue its support for Afghan women’s rights, even after the withdrawal of troops in 2014. Her concern is that gains made for women’s rights in Afghanistan will be eradicated if the new president enters into reconciliation talks with conservatives, including Taliban insurgents. There is great concern among women in Afghanistan, as this settlement could lead to the Taliban sharing in power. Koofi sees this threat even now, stating that “Talibanisation is a process, people within government are already promoting Taliban ideology and Taliban thinking”.

Rebekah Russo

Source:Al Arabiya News

High School Students Fight World Hunger
For the fourth year, more than 200 Ottawa Township High School students became part of the solution to world hunger.

Each year, students in the school’s Freshman Academy have been asked to come up with solutions to the problems of world hunger and limited access to clean drinking water, said teacher Pamela Cronkright.

“Students research local and international organizations and then choose which one they want to help,” she said. They sometimes raise funds for the organization; often they volunteer at a local organization or “create and present a public service announcement”encouraging others to get involved.

Preliminary totals show this year the students raised more than $12,000, volunteered more than 250 hours, and created public service announcements seen by thousands, Cronkright said.

Students can select from a list of organizations, or suggest one, to send the money they have raised.

Triplets Sam, Matt and Emily Poundstone, of Marseilles, with the help of their family, held a pancake breakfast that brought in $565 for the Marseilles Food Pantry.

Officially, it was Sam and Matt’s project. Emily and a friend saved their lunch money to raise $50 more in contributions.

Silver Young, Bethany Crum, Shelby Leonard and Sarah Lyons held a bake sale outside Handy Foods. Rachel Thrush and another student sold candy bars, which raised $150.

Cronkright said one non-auditory special needs student programmed a presentation into a speech machine and went homeroom to homeroom and gave his “talk” while his aide held his poster. He collected $83.

Students decided to send most of their funds to charity: Water, a global nonprofit organization, builds wells to provide drinking water in developing nations, and Heifer International, another global nonprofit, provides livestock, seeds, and trees to those in need.

Locally, in addition to the Marseilles Food Pantry, students volunteered or raised money for the Community Food Basket, Illinois Valley Public Action To Deliver Shelter, and the Ottawa YMCA.

Tom Hart, another Freshman Academy faculty member, also led this year’s World Hunger Awareness Project, but shifted the credit to Cronkright.

“She was the one who came up with this idea,” Hart said. “I’m just following along.”

Katie Brockman

Source My Web Times
Photo The Wild

Heroes of AdvocacyEvery wrong in the world has been addressed and corrected through some kind of advocacy, the most prominent kind of which is social advocacy. Well-known leaders throughout time from all over the world have led social movements, revolutions, and non-violent protests all in the face of injustice. Here are some of the most influential social leaders; the heroes of advocacy:

  1. Mahatma Gandhi: Named “Mahatma” by one of India’s best-known writers, Tagore; the title ‘Mahatma’ stood for ‘Great Soul.’ It was in South Africa, while serving as an Indian businessman’s legal adviser, that he became aware of European racism and injustice. While in South Africa, Gandhi found himself “politically awakened” and began to use non-violent strategies to fight injustice. He wrote a book about the Indians’ struggles to claim their rights in South Africa. He returned to India in 1915 and found himself involved in several local struggles involving workers and working conditions. He then went on to initiate the non-cooperation movement, advising Indians to be self-reliant and withdraw from British institutions. In February 1922, when Indian policemen were killed by a crowd, Gandhi was arrested, and the movement was suspended. At his ‘Great Trial,’ where he was tried for sedition, he delivered a powerful indictment of British rule. After his release from prison, he worked hard towards maintaining relations between Hindus and Muslims in India. Gandhi was the most prominent figure in his engagement in the constructive reform of Indian society. Gandhi used “satyagraha,” systems of non-violence, to try and make the oppressor and the oppressed identify with one another as humans. Gandhi recognized that “freedom is only freedom when it is indivisible.”
  2. Nelson Mandela: Born in Transkei, South Africa, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944 and engaged in resistance against the racist apartheid government of the ruling National Party. The African National Congress sought to create democratic political change in South Africa. In 1956, he was tried for treason. It was during his time in prison on Robben Island, from 1964 to 1982, that Mandela’s reputation became more famous. “He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.” Upon his release from prison in 1990, he dedicated himself to achieve the goals that were sought after four decades earlier. In 1991, he was elected President of the African National Congress (ANC). He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his work for the “peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa” – Official Nobel Prize Website
  3. Martin Luther King Jr.: Known for boycotts, demonstrations and civil movements to express civil disobedience, King was the symbol of a nonviolent civil rights revolution. He changed politics. According to The King Center, African Americans achieved “more genuine racial equality” under the leadership of Dr. King with the American Civil Rights Movement than they did before him. King was heavily influenced by his Christian faith and the teachings of Gandhi, both of which guided him to lead nonviolent movements in the 1950s and 60s to achieve African American equality in the United States. Martin Luther King was quoted during his delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech, saying that African Americans were still not free, that they still lived in poverty and segregation, that they are exiles, and so now they had to “dramatize a shameful condition.” This is precisely what the Borgen Project is doing by fighting global poverty.
  4. César Chávez: The Mexican-American who brought on agricultural reform and whose works led to the creation of the National Farm Workers Association, later named the United Farm Workers. He witnessed the harsh labor conditions that farmers had to endure and the employers’ exploitation of workers: they were unpaid, had poor living conditions in return for their services and had no medical or basic privileges. He organized marches, boycotts and strikes, forcing employers to provide adequate payment/wages to workers and provide them with benefits. Chávez was recognized for his commitment to social justice and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

There are many more social activists or heroes of advocacy who dedicated their lives to social reform and political change by fighting for people’s rights and freedoms. The activists listed above were a few of the most prominent and most influential throughout history.

Today, we’re fighting for a different kind of freedom, although it is not any less important: we’re fighting to end global poverty and free people from the shackles of poverty. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” during his fight for equal rights for colored people in the United States.

With advocacy, we deliver information and vital knowledge to the masses, thereby engaging them and mobilizing them to stand up for an issue and demand justice as the heroes of advocacy did.

– Leen Abdallah

Sources: Gandhi, Nelson Mandela: Biography, Mandela: Nobel Peace Prize, The King Center, I Have a Dream, Nobel Peace Laureates
Photo: Daily Good

Super Bowl Sex Trafficking_opt
Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent, discerning issues of our time. The fact of the matter, which has been professed by organization after organization for years now, is that there are more slaves now than there have ever been in the history of mankind. In the US alone, The Huffington Post has estimated that the industry brings in over $9.5 billion annually.

While this truth is distressing, there is a silver lining. At no point in mankind has there ever been so much support against human trafficking, nor the technology or infrastructural support to combat it, as there is now.

Human trafficking generally implies either forced labor or sex trafficking, the latter occurring in higher frequency around large gatherings of people, where there may be a larger pool of potential clients. An example of such a situation was the Super Bowl XLVII, which passed on February 3rd.

Fionna Agomuoh of The International Business Times writes that there was an “estimated 10,000 women and minors that were trafficked in the Miami area during the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., according to the Florida Commission Against Human Trafficking.” One can only assume that the issue of trafficking around this annual event has only increased in the four years since then.

In anticipation for sex trafficking at Super Bowl XLVII, local businesses, advocacy groups, and law enforcement agencies joined together in a public campaign to support victims and make themselves available to individuals looking to escape the sex work industry by raising awareness in the form of “handing out pamphlets to local clubs and bars detailing how to spot and what to do if sex trafficking is suspected, as well as distributing bars of soap to hotels with hotline numbers etched on them to aid victims looking to escape.”

USA Today also posted a full-page ad against human trafficking prior to the Super Bowl and the “A 21 Campaign, established in 2008, released several Super Bowl-related info-graphics about human trafficking this year.”

Awareness will breed more advocacy on the issue, of course, so while sex trafficking is one of the largest understated issues of American life, much like poverty, arming ourselves and our communities with knowledge and facts about the issue is definitely a step in the right direction.

– Nina Narang

Source: International Business Times
Photo: ChicagoNow