The 'Girl Child'
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Copyright 20032007 Norman Walsh/ U.N

 

In February, 2007, Yasmin Karimian, ['07] represented Notre Dame Prep as part of the International SSND Delegation

to the U.N. Commission  on the Status of The Girl Child in the World.

 

Below are the daily reflections she shared with us on-line while she was away.

We are grateful for this record of her amazing experience.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Photo: M.Burke'08, 2007

Yasmin, part of the 2007 NDP Delegation to our sister school Ignacio Ellecuria,

 is pictured here holding a baby in an orphanage in San Salvador.

 

2/22/2007 7:26 PM
 
Arrival Day, just for fun
 

Mrs. Muth and I arrived at the convent today around 5:15. Everyone seems really kind. The girl from Ghana, Agnes, is amazing, she speaks fluent English along with two other local languages and French. The girl from Peru, Vanessa, has brought along a translator and it will be a challenge to have conversations with her, but it should be interesting. Jennifer is from Jersey with no accent. Jamie is from St. Louis and Kaitlin is from Brooklyn, both have slight accents. The girls from Germany will be arriving tonight.  The convent is pretty amazing, it has a basketball court (no hoops), a pool, lounges, cafes, we get our own rooms. We even have a place where we could watch Grey's. Everyone seems exceptionally kind and Wilton seems like a lovely place. Tomorrow we will start our day off with Mass and then go to meetings from there. Hopefully I will be able to write tomorrow.

 

-yas

 

 
2/23/2007 6:30 PM  
 
Orientation in Wilton
 
Today we wasted no time and jumped right into work. I learned a lot more about the girls I will be working with and they are just truly amazing people. Vanessa and I have been talking a lot and through her translator I have learned quite a bit about her life. I wanted to share her story with you because it is just unreal. Vanessa lives in Peru, she has four siblings. She does not have electricity nor water. She walks every day and fills buckets with water. Peru has not seen rain in several years so they are using water from an irrigation canal. This is a completely different lifestyle for her. Women in her country have no rights, they cannot even walk down the street by themselves. Many parents do not send their daughters to school for the fear that they will learn to read and write, therefore begun to write letters back and forth with boys.

Agnes is another young woman who is truly just inspirational. She goes to school about 12 hours away from her home. She was telling us about her culture today and I am in complete shock. When babies are born, the mother is asked a question; "Is it human?" If it is a boy, the mother says yes and if it is girl, the mother is blamed for bringing misfortune to the family.

Agnes and Vanessa are extremely grateful to get the chance to go school and have such open minded parents in their culture. Both Agnes and Vanessa received grants in order to come here and are also going to be speaking in front of a large audience about their hometowns. I am honored to be able to witness this event.

The two girls from Germany arrived last night. They are awesome as well! Stephanie speaks 7 different languages and Nadine is kind-hearted and extremely articulate. I met a few more great people. I met Sister Pat McCarthy. She is part of the Congregation of Notre Dame. She and I had a common link; El Salvador which us NDP girls have had the chance to learn all about. She was arrested and on probation for five years. She showed me the cross that she carried when she was arrested. The chair of this convention is actually from El Salvador so it will be interesting to see what happens!

Tomorrow we will be going across from the U.N. to a building built by Methodist women and having an orientation with others in the conference. I hope to have enough time tomorrow to write some more. There is so much work and very few breaks! I hope all is well!

 

-yas

 

 
2/24/2007 9:30 PM  
 
Orientation in NYC (1st one)
 
Today we traveled down to the city to attend an orientation. The room was filled with 100 girls from all around the world. I met girls from places such as Hong Kong, India, China, Haiti, a few African countries, UK, Australia, Iran, Egypt, Canada, the Caribbean, El Salvador and Thailand.

There is one story I would really like to share with you... a girl from Haiti spoke to a small group today about her life during the visual advocacy workshop. She drew a large house on her poster and said that she believes that everyone in this world should have a large home to house children without parents. She herself has just ended her life as a child slave and hopes to speak about her experience at the U.N. The story really touched me and I hope it does the same for you. 

I also had the opportunity to meet to women from League of Women Voters who were remarkable speakers and advocates of women's rights. The girls I met from Iran and Egypt will be speaking about the trafficking that occurs in their countries. My family originates in Iran and I did not know about the huge trafficking and prostitution problem that exists there. 

Although these stories do not do complete justice to my experience today, they give a slight insight to how unexperienced and uninformed we are about the injustice that occurs to women around the world. The information I am learning is extremely overwhelming and it still has not all sunk in yet. I really have not been able to place my reaction in words. We hear so many times that we are so blessed and we truly are.

 I am exhausted and tomorrow we have to be up by around 5 in order to attend the orientation at NYU's medical center so I am off to bed! I hope Gym Meet practice went well for everyone and everyone is excited for Gym Meet week!!!!!!

 

-yas

 

 
2/26/2007 11:06 PM  
 
Orientation and the first day at the UN
 
So this is my second time writing this because it did not save the first time! The computers here are not as high tech as the ones at school!
Yesterday we had orientation at NYU Medical Center. We listened to speakers for 6 hours straight. It was pretty hard to listen to them because there were no visuals and they were simply reading off of papers. By the end of the orientation there was just a few of us left but we did learn a lot about how to give presentations.

 I also heard a girl from South Africa speak and she was incredible. She had witnessed her mother being raped and her clothes had been ripped off and burned. Although it was hard to understand her, her passion was spoken and heard universally. I've had a lot of trouble bearing the idea that many of the girls I have met will return to struggle and pain that we cannot even begin to imagine. I know it is a reality and I knew even before I met them, but I have been trying to avoid these thoughts. Sometimes however, you cannot. Whether it is the scars on a face, or a hand that is no longer there because of being burned, the struggle women go through is not hidden at this commission.

 

Today was the first day at the UN. It is just like it is in the movies. All the countries are represented and all countries are given equal time to speak if they wish too. The Chair of this commission is a woman from El Salvador and seems to be brilliant I was truly impressed by her. I also had the opportunity to meet a woman from the Indonesian parliament and she was very interesting as well. I attended a high-level round table discussion today (debate like event) from 3-6. My new friend Vanessa was speaking and I decided it would be a nice event.

Quite a few countries spoke of their status and improvements on women. At first I would be completely impressed by the countries and then I would remember the bias. One of the delegates from Sudan told us about how great this new telephone hotline was for girls...then I remembered that most people do not have telephones for girls so no matter how great the system is, the girls cannot use it. I hope to approach her tomorrow to speak about this although it may be difficult because she does not speak English.

I also plan to attend a workshop during my lunch break on Sudan given by the United States government. This particular delegate made it seem like everything was doing great in her country so I am wondering when Darfur will be brought up and I'm thinking I will probably have to bring it up because she will not. I will also (hopefully) attend the girl caucus tomorrow and see what that is going to be all about. If there are any requests of what delegates to speak to please email them to me. I am planning on speaking to China, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and India. I think that these countries will be extremely interesting with their current situations. It may be difficult if they do not speak English, but we will see.

 

Here are some the answers to questions emailed to me:

 

- Convent living is not bad. The girls I am staying with are wonderful. The convent is extremely modern and even has a fitness center we just discovered. The SSNDs are so kind, it is a lovely atmosphere to be in after being around politicians all day.

 

-No I don't have a roommate, but I share a bathroom with Agnes and the showers with everyone.

 

-The United States did get a bit bashed today. Cuba and Syria (surprising!) said they have trouble improving their status of women since we have placed economic sanctions on them.

 

-Yes it is a lot of work. I am up before 5 every morning and we go to bed rather late. We have to have talking points created in order to speak to delegates and in case we are put on the spot. I have probably been given over 150 pieces of paper to read and 20 packets/stats books to read and use as aids when speaking to delegates.

 

I am off actually now to go plan out tomorrow's day. I hope all is well and I am particularly jealous of the two hour delay you got today.

 I miss everyone!

 

-yas

 

2/28/2007 11:42PM  
 
tuesday and on...
 
It is 11 at night and I have not even been back to my room yet. I am ready to fall asleep but there is so much to share with all of you and I could not wait another day to share it with you.

Yesterday I attended this extremely interesting session call "Girl Talk." It was a place that allowed girls to speak their minds and give suggestions. We broke into smaller groups and my specific group spoke about sexual exploitation. In my group was a wonderful young girl, Neema from Tanzania. In her culture women marry at the age of ten due to tradition. The problem is not that they do not have rights because in their government they have equal rights, they just do not know they have these rights. With the help of missionaries, a center has been created for girls to runaway from the husbands and return to school.

 I am saddened to share a story with you of one of Neema's friends; She ran away from her husband looking for help and support at the age of ten. She returned to who she believed would be safe people, her immediate family. When she returned though, she was not greeted with joy, but her brother and her father beat her to death. They cannot find the brother and the father. Tomorrow I will be with Neema and she will continue speaking in front of many about what happens in her country.

I also found the courage to speak to a woman who was wearing what I considered rather strange clothes. She was a blond hair, light skinned woman, dressed in all white and wearing a turban. She was wearing a Chanel bag with diamonds everywhere. I asked her about her clothing and she turned out to be a sikh. She believes in transforming the world through yoga. It was quite an interesting conversation and I plan to look more into the religion when I return home.

As well, I watched a play called "Echoes of Eve" which was about 17 young women and their different views (all from different backgrounds). It was mind blowing and they would love to program anywhere. It would be great if more people could get the chance to see these high school girls and boy. Today however was much more interesting... I attended a session called Sexual Exploitation and the Girl Child. It was a panel discussion and interactive with the audience. On the panel was a prostituted girl from Queens, NY, a self-proclaimed eco-feminist, Roudinir from Haiti, Bella from Toga, and a young girl from the USA who has created a group of girls against trafficking which about 1500 girls have joined. Roudinir was slaved at the age of 8 and unlike many children was freed at the age of 14. Bella experienced a man from France creating a restaurant in Togo and exposing children to pornography and even when her government learned about it, they did nothing.

The story though that touched me the most, was Lucilla. Her story began when she was 11 years old and she was raped by her older brother. She moved into her uncle's home and was raped numerously by her cousins and her uncle. She ran away and was a victim of two gang rapes. She found comfort in a man who got her involved in prostituting herself and when she learned that he was a pimp, she was in too deep to get out. Her first experience, she made 600 dollars and thought that was a lot of money so she continued. She was arrested at the age of 11 and lied about her age so she spent a week in prison. Officers who arrested her, also raped her. Then, at the age of 12 she entered juvenile hall where she met with counselors. For the fear of being raped again and being put in juvie, she ran away. She was also very lucky in the fact that she received help from women and now lives in a house with girls trying to get an education who have left the sexual exploitation business. Today, Lucilla is 16 years old. She is younger than me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I cannot believe this. Lucilla wants to tell that world " We need to be recognized as survivors of sexual exploitation, not as criminals."

At this time, I learned very shocking information. NYC does not have any law about human trafficking. As well, the EU will not even discuss the possibility of illegalizing prostitution but Iran has agreed to make it illegal. I also had the chance today to speak to the Iranian delegate and took it. She spoke Farsi to me which kind of shocked me, but I replied with all that I could. She seems to be all for advancing the status of women and I attended a session of ending stoning forever campaign. I think it really is about time that we eliminate this process of killing people especially women by stoning.

There was also an interesting, but sickening session on Female Gentile Mutilation (FGM). It makes me sick to my stomach to talk about it so I recommend that if you have not heard about this, you look it up. It is shocking!

 

[An overview of FGM is available at: http://www.ndpteachers.org/strausbaughl/fgm.htm   WARNING: The information on this link is graphic and disturbing.]

Later in the day I attended the Girls' Caucus and found ignorance within the caucus, but today I had enough so I said something. Today we split up into groups. The way we were split up was racist within itself; United States, Europeans, Africans and Middle Easterners. Middle Eastern countries not include India and Thailand. Latin America and Asia were not even accounted for. I could not take it anymore and so I made it clear that India and Thailand are not part of the Middle East and there is actually Asia and Latin America. The girls did not appreciate my comments, but how can we make a change on the status of women when we are going to be ignorant among ourselves?

Today was one of the most overwhelming days yet. I cannot wait to come home and discuss everything with each of you. I hope all is well and everyone is pumped for Gym Meet.

 

-yas

 
 
3/2/2007 1:01AM  
 
My final day!
 

Today was by far my hardest day. Yes I was tired and exhausted, and I didn't feel good, but it was hardest because of the news I learned. The girl from Tanzania, Neema who I have gotten to know very well gave a speech today. I attended this session and learned that at the age of 7 she had to run away from home to escape an arranged marriage to a old man. She is in the center where she ran away to. As she told her story she stood with such dignity and I lost it. I cannot imagine being 7 years old and having to run away from my parents. I cannot imagine being 7 years old and having the nerve to run away.

 I also met a woman who had FGM happen to her. I really would like to urge each of you to research Female genital mutilation. If you have any questions about it I would be willing to talk about it in a few days.

 Today I said goodbye to the girls I have gotten to know and although I am thrilled to see everyone and participate in Gym Meet. Bella, Rudinior, Neema, Agnes and Vanessa will return to places that are not safe, that there is little hope and I get to go home to a place that I can accomplish and be whoever and whatever I want to. Today when I gave each a girl a kiss and hug goodbye Bella hugged me back. Soon after I was out the door Bella came running because she had not realized that I was leaving for good. At this moment both of us realized that goodbye was not just for today, or for a few months, but forever. It was hard for Bella to leave Togo let alone find the money to pay for her ride.

Due to Bella, I have been changed. My view on poverty, abuse, and discrimination and the effects of education is clear. There is one and only one solution as Bella said and that is education. It has been my absolute pleasure to get to know Bella and when you hear her stories, you will feel the same. Tonight, Agnes came into my room to say goodbye and she gave me something that would be worth a lot to a person from Ghana. It was a little cloth pouch but fabric for the people of Ghana is very expensive. (a hundred dollars equals about a million dollars in Ghana) She said "Yasmin, I would like you to have this" and all of a sudden I realized that I may never see Agnes again and Agnes' future is not certain. Between the two of us, the tears began and neither of us wanted to say goodbye. We have made a connection and although we may stay in touch, we are living in two different worlds that may never mix.

It may seem like I do not have hope, but that is not true. I do have hope because of the people like the girls I have met here, but today the lady from Kenya brought up a good point; we are not fighting for the same things as women, some are fighting to get positions in the governments, some are fighting to stop trafficking, some are fighting for education and some... fighting to live. We need to fight for those who are dying and then in the process of giving women life, we will empower them to become leaders, to end trafficking, to receive a higher education.

A girl from South Africa said something that I will leave you with tonight. Before I end this journal... this has been an amazing experience. I have met people from all around the world that are united in one place. I have made a connection with eight girls (my roommates) from four continents and learned the power of women. It has been an honor to merely be in their presence. I believe that I have been changed forever by the experiences of each girl I have met.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you will speak to me about the experience so I can spread the stories.

See you all Friday night.

 

-yas

"It is time to stop reacting and start acting."

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