Yesterday morning we met with Aqueela Asifi, her husband and their youngest daughter for breakfast. It was a breakfast which gave us the possibility to ask more questions and to learn more in detail about her project and the possible challenges which she faced along the way.
The inspiration she is giving you when you meet her is amazing. Some rights which I take for granted constitute challenges for her to overcome. Yet, she takes them with a smile and does her utmost to overcome them. One example is the inequality between the genders.
Firstly, when she arrived to the refugee camp in Pakistan back in 1992, the girls were not allowed to go to school. How would the refugees then perceive it when a woman with her persistence comes and challenges that way of working? I believe she handled this very cleverly by showing that it is part of the religion to get an education and that the gender of the child does not matter; all children have the right to an education. Even if she is today getting the Nansen Refugee Award for her girl education project, the men in her surroundings are still taking some part of the credit. They claim that it would not have been possible without their help. Aqueela Asifi seems completely fine with this. For her it is the children – especially the girls – and that they get their schooling which is the aim. To her it does not matter who gets the credit for it.
I get so impressed and inspired when a person is so strong that she puts aside her own credit in order to secure that the project continues to progress. Today, she has made a real difference in the camp: more schools have opened, the age of when the refugees marry away their girls seems to have risen and – most of all – it seems like the girls are gaining lots of confidence and motivation to make a difference with their lives.
In February, Aqueela Asifi is planning to move back to Kabul. Her school in the camp is now fully established and she is trusting the teachers to continue with the work that she has started. Now she wants to tackle a similar problem in Afghanistan and to try to secure schooling possibilities also for the children there.
Thank you very much Aqueela Asifi for your inspiration and motivation to drive change and to make a difference.