While much attention (about peace education in our schools) appropriately focuses on changing the negative attitudes and aggressive behaviors of boys, HTAC has found that teaching Afghan girls about peaceful everyday living has great value as well.
Our experience at multiple school sites show that high percentages of Afghan girls (not yet exposed to our program), regularly engage in fighting, harassment, and other aggressive behaviors as well as showing disrespect for fellow students, teachers, and even their parents.
Why is it important for girls (as well as boys) to learn about peace? Deocumented studies have shown that educated Afghan women often provide a stabilizing influence in their households and are a bulwark against extremist views.
Consider the story of Fatima Haidari, in her own words, an eight-grader at one of the schools where HTAC's peace education program is being implemented.
My conflict happened almost 2 years ago between me and a girl of a family living nearby. It was over filling of water tanks from a public hand pump. I wanted to fill the water tank first, but the girl was not allowing me, telling me that she was here first. I knew I had arrived at the water pump before her and that it was my turn. We started shouting at one another and before I knew it, we were fighting. It was horrible. Both of us were bruised and hurt, but the conflict continued. Every time we saw one another, the tension returned. Although other girls (we were close to), were often present at the pump station, none of them stepped in to help us and resolve our problem. It is what it is, some of my friends would say.
Last year, a female teacher came to our class and recommended that we enroll in a new peace education program. When I saw many of my friends expressing their interest, I raised my hand and told the teacher that I would like to participate, but first needed to ask permission from my parents. I was relieved and excited to get their approval and soon I began attending peace education sessions. I learned a lot about the importance of mediation and practical skills of resolving conflicts peacefully, without resorting to fighting; not only at school, but in the home and our community.
As classes continued, I began to feel more positive about my attitudes and my behavior with other students as well as members in my own family. This led me to believe that I could finally resolve my differences with this girl I had fought with 2 years ago.
One day, our paths crossed while walking to school. I said 'hello' and greetings to her and I apologized for what had happened. She looked angry, but accepted my greetings. I then invited her to come to my home for lunch and to discuss our issues in a friendly manner. She agreed and two days later, she came to our home with her small brother. We shared some great food and talked about the benefits of peace and why it was wrong to constantly be in conflict. By the end of lunch, she smiled at me and we hugged. I felt so wonderful at that moment, as if a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I am happy to say that we became friends.
Fatima Haidari, 8th grade student at Abdullah Bin-Omar School
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