A staggering 85 per cent of urban women and 92 per cent of rural women in Afghanistan are illiterate - statistics that are appalling to Canadian women, many who are determined to do something to help.
Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan is a non-profit organization that has come up with an idea called Breaking Bread for Women.
A group of concerned staff at Amalgamated Academy will be the first in the province to participate in Breaking Bread.
“ I got involved in this project through reading a book by Sally Armstrong entitled Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots,” explained Deanne Hiscock, a teacher at the Bay Roberts school. “ She mentioned the work of this group and I googled: Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, and I learned more about the Breaking Bread for Women initiative.
“Once I was aware of the need, and saw something that I could do, I had to move forward with it,” Hiscock said.
While the number of girls in Afghanistan schools is growing in the post-Taliban era, according to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, about half of girls ages 7 to 12 do not go to school. And, only about 13 per cent of girls in school complete primary education. Girls beyond age 9 cannot be taught by male teachers, so they have limited access to education due to the lack of female teachers.
Hiscock says the Breaking Bread initiative offers a way for women to get together and help other women at the same time.
“The idea is that guests bring an entrée or dessert and make a $25 donation,” Hiscock said adding, “ 100 per cent of the money raised goes to supporting female teachers and young girls studying in Afghanistan — $750 will pay the salary of a teacher in Afghanistan for a year. That is our goal.”
The Breaking Bread potluck dinner will take place at the Search and Rescue Building in Bay Roberts at 6 p.m. Monday, June 22.
Hiscock says organizers are hoping to raise awareness and monetary support for the worthy cause.
“We are opening this up to the community at large, as well as other schools in the area and we have 18 people committed so far,” Hiscock said last Tuesday.“They are all women - but it is certainly not restricted to women.”
A donation of $25 is suggested - but larger and smaller donations will be accepted. Guests will make their donation at the dinner, and be issued a tax receipt. However, Hiscock needs to know the number of people who will attend in order to plan and ensure there is a good balance of entrees and desserts.
“More than $1 million has been raised through such potluck dinners across the country. This will be the first one ever to be held in Newfoundland - and we hope it will be a success,” she said.
Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan is a volunteer membership network founded in 1996. Members from 10 chapters and affiliated groups across Canada are committed to education and fundraising through raising awareness in Canada and supporting the empowerment efforts of Afghan women in education, health care and skills development.
According to the organization, Afghanistan was once a land world-renowned for its residents’ hospitality. In urban centres more than 70 per cent of teachers, 40 per cent of doctors and 50 per cent of government workers were women.
By 1996 war had torn apart the social fabric, allowing the extremist Taliban regime to take control of the country... “Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan became a human rights catastrophe. Women were banned from school and work, were denied access to health care and were confined to their homes unless accompanied by close male relatives.
“Afghanistan is a country where the role of women is based on a tribal society, where much of life is governed by traditional patriarchal ideas and practices that are centuries old, many of these practices are misogynist in nature,” the organization says. “However, according to author Cheryl Bernard ( Veiled Courage), who interviewed hundreds of Afghan women during the Taliban period, not one woman believed that the injustice she had experienced was part of her culture or justified.”
The organization quotes Bernard:“...Even those from very simple backgrounds were embar- rassed by their ignorance...most women regarded their inability to read, and their general lack of knowledge and education, as a painful deficit.”
For more information on Canadian Women Helping Women in Afghanistan, visit: http://www.cw4wafghan.ca/
Information on the Breaking Bread for Women initiative is available at: www.breakingbreadforwomen.com
ORGANIZING THE FUNDRAISER - Staff at Amalgamated Academy in Bay Roberts are organizing a fundraiser to help women and girls in Afghanistan. Front row from left: Carole Kennedy, Cathy Downey, Kim Butt, Ingrid Russell, Nadine Morgan, Jolene Dean, Karen Cranford. Back row: Neena Hunt, Wendy O’Reilly, Karen Clarke, Denise Simms, Stacey Cluett, Bertha Taylor and Deanne Hiscock.