Shahzad lives near Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Recently, the region has seen increasing violence, especially around the month of Muharram, a sacred month for Shia Muslims. Different ethnic and faith groups continue to battle each other in this area. Young people are at great risk of joining extremist armed groups such as the Taliban.
Shahzad was at risk of Taliban recruitment. Then he was persuaded to attend training with Aware Girls. He began to learn about conflict resolution, and find an alternative to violence.
At first, Shahzad found the training difficult. He was sharing a room with some Hindus, something he had not had to do before. Like some of the other young people on the training course, he was angry about having to interact with people from a different faith.
A few weeks passed and Shahzad kept attending training. At the training, he started becoming friends the young people from different regions and faiths. He stopped feeling angry and realised that they were all just people.
Inspired by his training and new friendships, Shahzad began to spread these lessons and messages in his own community. He started setting up poetry sharing events with people from different faiths and religions. They brought people together and helped them overcome their differences.
Thanks to your support, Aware Girls has been able to train Shahzad, and many others. So far, these young people have reached a further 686 teaching them about acceptance and non-violence. But there are still many others whose lives are at risk of being destroyed by violence. Please help by continuing to give young people an alternative to violent extremism.
This is the story of Nabila, who found an alternative to extremism with the help of Aware Girls.
Nabila lives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Pakistan. When she was nine years old, her parents sent her to a madrassa. Nabila explains, "It is a place where mothers select small girls for their grown up boys." For five years, she was taught about extremism by mullahs under the influence of militants.
She studied in a small room with 18 other girls, who were all forced by their parents to join the school. Her family told her, "the place for girls is within four walls."
Militants regularly threatened to blow up the madrassa if the mullahs did not teach extemist ideologies. Teachers and parents were scared to challenge the mullahs.
Every year, Nabila received marriage proposals from men three times her age. Her parents expected her to marry once her education at the madrassa was complete.
However, Nabila refused. She was 14 years old when she decided to leave home. Alone, she had to take on three jobs to survive. Nabila could only see a life of poverty and loneliness in front of her.
Luckily, with the help of Aware Girls, she escaped this fate. Aware Girls leads intensive training sessions to empower young people to stand up for their rights and challenge messages of extremism. Nabila took part in Aware Girls’ training programme along with other young men and women. She learnt to speak for her rights and the right of other young people.
Nabila’s story could have turned tragic but thanks to our local partner her story was turned around. She was able to take her life into her own hands and decide her own future. Thank you for your support. But many others need help. Please donate to our project.
Here is the story of Sail Muhammad, a young man who has changed minds and prevented extremism in his community thanks to Aware Girls.
Sail is 19. He is a land surveyor in Swabi, Pakistan. Sail noticed that many youth in his village went to religious schools. He knew they were exploited by the Taliban and even received specialist militant training. Sail wanted them to lead positive lives, but didn’t know how to approach their very conservative mindset.
In early 2015, Sail found Aware Girls’ training course. He realised he could reach out to the youth and prevent more lives being lost to terrorism.
Sail began to talk to the youth using what he’d learned about peace, constitutional human rights and religious tolerance. At first, some were unwilling to listen.
“Some understood my message and others ignored. But, with the passage of time, I had more youth coming to join me in the peace talks. With a small group of 15 youth, I made an organisation, ‘We Can Bring Peace’.”
Sail recruited, Mufti Munir Ahmad, a progressive religious scholar, who educates boys from the training camps on the true meaning of Jihad and explains the Taliban’s misleading teachings. He also included the messages of peace in his Friday sermons.
Sail taught the young boys that all humans are equal and we have no right to kill on the grounds of ideological differences.
Thanks to his brave efforts, several boys have returned to their families with changed minds and six have even joined him. We Bring Peace now has 50 youth who mentor students and organise positive activities, such as cricket matches and coaching, to keep them engaged.
Sail has also used his new skills to establish constructive community initiatives to combat violence and extremism. Working with the Police, Sail has launched a Gun Control Campaign. Many people have stopped keeping guns and shots are no longer fired during public festivities. Sail also created a Peace and Human Rights Awareness Program, which has been taught at local high schools since September 2015.
“It has been 4 to 5 months since I attended Aware Girls’ training on peace and I have been able to bring a considerable change in my surroundings.”
Aware Girls are able to reach young people, showing them an alternative to extremism. Their training courses enable young people to spread the message of peace and so turn young minds away from extremism. Thank you for supporting this life-changing work.
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