Advocating For Children Globally
Youth have the power to change the world. We do not have to wait until we grow up to take action for the causes we care about. However, something sparks that passion within us - an event, or experience that tells us that we have to do something. In our lives, there was an event that inspired us to take action to stop violence against children. In January, 2018, the world's social media exploded with sorrow and grief over the rape and murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari in Kasur, Pakistan. Zainab is not the first victim of a crime like this. Not only is the rape and murder of women and girls common around the world, six cases of other girls, just like Zainab, living on the same street as her, have had this happen to them. When the two of us read this story, we were overwhelmed with sadness. We felt helpless, and did not know what to do. What had the world come to? What could we do to help? As activists, we have been working with organizations that empower girls and with girls in our village in Pakistan to ensure that girls get equitable opportunities as boys and access to a quality education. And we believed, that if these incidents were preventing girls from making their dreams a reality, we had to step up and come up with a solution that would prevent cases like this from happening in the future.
The very first week in which this incident occurred, we had a Girl Up Canada Coalition call with Rocio Ortega, Girl Up Campaign Associate. We began our call by discussing Coalition-related matters but then spoke to her about the incident. Girl Up is known for inspiring girls to run initiatives for other girls, and we knew that they would be the perfect people to ask about what we could do. We weren’t wrong. Rocio was so understanding, and directed us to Girl Up’s advocacy director, Kirsten Foster, and we discussed the next steps with her. We knew that we wanted to do something that had an impact and would make a difference. Girl Up gave us the perfect support, and we were so happy that we were able to work with Rocio and Kirsten! This is when the Shine Project came in.
In Pakistan, (and the same can be said about other countries) the problem does not often lie in laws, it lies in the implementation of them. Also, when it comes down to incidents regarding rape, cultural taboos come into play and often the incident is not reported. That is why we believe that the change needs to come in the education of children and breaking down societal stereotypes that prevent the laws from being effectively used to support people in need. That is the purpose of the Shine Project. It is an educational toolkit that teaches children the skills and knowledge they need to protect themselves from these incidents, and maintain their self-esteem in case they are the victims of them.
This toolkit includes lesson plans, activity descriptions and informational readings that teachers can use within their classrooms. The activities in this toolkit are meant to be done in order, so that the whole class can go through a complete educational plan that ranges from broad topics and lessons to ones that are specific to safety and protecting themselves in difficult situations. For this toolkit to be effective, it is vital for the lessons to be done in order. That way, students will be able to learn the important lessons from this toolkit in a way that isn't too odd or different from other lessons they learn on a regular basis.
Currently, we are in the process of launching the toolkit, by first testing it in a destination before making it available to the public. For this, we worked with our MP, Celina Caesar-Chavannes to come up with ways to launch. We were then able to get in touch with people working with organizations and institutions like End Violence, Global Affairs Canada, and the Office of the Children’s Advocate in Jamaica. We hope that this toolkit, once fully launched and implemented, helps make a difference in the lives of children around the world!
We are going to be sharing more about this story and how all girls can become advocates for others during Girl Up Canada’s very first advocacy bootcamp. It will be held on Friday, June 15th from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT. Here is the link to the Girl Up Canada Advocacy Bootcamp Webinar, we hope to see you there!
- Maryam and Nivaal Rehman