October 03, 2004

Fight Terror: Build a School

Pakistan is an exporter of radical Islam, with most of the country living in dire poverty, and male-only madrassahs the best schools most families can hope for. Helping the people of that country lift themselves up would be a significant boost in the long term war on terrorism.

It was both infuriating and depressing to read this article about rape in Pakistan, courtesy of BusyBusyBusy, but curiously hopeful.

As the story goes, a young Pakistani girl was sentenced to be gang-raped because her brother was accused of having an affair above his station. The sentence was carried out, and she was expected to commit suicide to erase the stain on herself and her family. This is what happened next:

But instead of killing herself, Ms. Mukhtaran testified against her attackers and propounded the shocking idea that the shame lies in raping, rather than in being raped. The rapists are now on death row, and President Pervez Musharraf presented Ms. Mukhtaran with the equivalent of $8,300 and ordered round-the-clock police protection for her.

Ms. Mukhtaran, who had never gone to school herself, used the money to build one school in the village for girls and another for boys - because, she said, education is the best way to achieve social change. The girls' school is named for her, and she is now studying in its fourth-grade class.

"Why should I have spent the money on myself?" she asked, adding, "This way the money is helping all the girls, all the children."

I wish the story ended there. But the Pakistani government has neglected its pledge to pay the schools' operating expenses. "The government made lots of promises, but it hasn't done much," Ms. Mukhtaran said bluntly. ...

If you'd like to help, checks made out and sent as follows will reach Ms. Mukhtaran and continue paying for the school and her police protection. Considering that it only cost $8300 to build two schools, any amount will probably help:

Readers have asked how they can help Ms. Mukhtaran and her schools. If you send me a check, made out to Mukhtaran Bibi, I'll make sure she gets it. My address:
Nicholas Kristof
The New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036

This is how to fight ignorance, hate, and squalor without dropping a bomb. Someone brave stands up to make their community better, and then you send in the cavalry to back them up. If the 'cavalry' can be a $10 check, there's not much excuse to sit back.

Posted by natasha at October 3, 2004 07:26 PM | International | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |