By November, the grounds of Bangabandhu Peshajibi High School had been under water for three months, and most of the classrooms were un-usable. But the flooding didn’t stop dozens of students, parents and teachers from flocking to the launch of the Best School for Girls campaign at this secondary school in southern Bangladesh’s Sathkhira District. The Best School for Girls campaign challenges schools in three districts of Bangladesh to create girl-friendly educational environments. Continue reading
The city of Calcutta in India is 10,961 miles from the community of Unocolla in the Andean highlands of Peru. But the distance did not prevent a group of Peruvian teachers at Unocolla’s Mariano Melgar High School from connecting with the story of Amlan Ganguly, the founder of a youth leadership organization called Prayasam in India.
At a recent screening of a film called The Revolutionary Optimists, secondary school teachers in Unocolla were inspired by the way in which Ganguly, a lead character in the film, has planted hope in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta by empowering children to become leaders in their communities. A teacher named Alejandro Ruelas Verástegui was particularly impressed by an exercise Ganguly leads called, “The River of Life”, which asks children to draw a river that charts the high and low points of their life experiences. He decided to use it, and other colleagues supported his idea. Continue reading
In July, Country Engagement Coordinator Mahmud Hasan launched Women and Girls Lead Global in the district of Gagni in southern Bangladesh by convening 76 youth activists and a host of local leaders – including journalists, government officials, and police officers – for a screening of Revolutionary Optimists. A rural farming area where many families struggle with poverty, Gagni has a notoriously high child marriage rate. Revolutionary Optimists, which tells the story of a youth group striving to improve their community in the slums of Calcutta, India – features an adolescent girl who drops out of school and leaves the group to marry her boyfriend. Continue reading
Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the astonishing story of the Liberian women who took on the warlords and regime of dictator Charles Taylor in the midst of a brutal civil war, and won a once unimaginable peace for their shattered country in 2003. As the rebel noose tightened around the capital city of Monrovia, thousands of women – ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim – formed a thin but unshakeable line between the opposing forces. Continue reading
Three decades ago, Wangari Maathai suggested to rural women in her native Kenya that they plant trees for firewood and to stop soil erosion – an act that grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, defend human rights, and fight government injustice. The tree-planting groups that formed gave the women a reason to come together and become involved in resolving their communities’ challenges. Continue reading
Amlan Ganguly empowers children to become activists and educators, with powerful results. The Revolutionary Optimists follows him as he attempts to replicate his work in the brick fields outside the city, where children live and work in unimaginable conditions. Continue reading
In the late 1990s, Rose Mapendo was imprisoned with her family during violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her harrowing experience included the nighttime arrest of her entire family by government agents, the execution of her husband, the birth of their twin sons in prison, and grim negotiations with prison guards to save the lives of her children. She emerged advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. In a country where ethnic violence has created seemingly irreparable rifts among Tutsis, Hutus, and other Congolese, this remarkable woman is a vital voice in her beleaguered nation’s search for peace. Now, Rose is confronted with teaching one of her most recalcitrant students how to forgive – Nangabire, the daughter who remained behind. Continue reading