Break­ing bread...

The Compass - - OPINION - BY LIL­LIAN SIM­MONS

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.

Vol­un­teer group

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.

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