The idea is to empower and educate through action. From the beginning, “we could see the fun in their eyes – language is not so important. When you move your body and achieve something, like when you play sport, adrenaline comes rushing in. And you can also feel that someone is physically holding you, which is important after some of the women have experienced trauma.”
Sharbat Gula’s piercing green eyes made her an instant icon. Orphaned at age six during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, she had trekked by foot to Pakistan with her siblings and grandmother. Photographer Steve McCurry’s picture of her made her the unwitting posterchild for the plight of thousands of Afghan refugees streaming into Pakistan. In her homeland she became known as the “Afghan Mona Lisa.” Now she has become a symbol of a return to Afghanistan that hundreds of thousands of refugees are undertaking after decades away.
Created by researchers at Northeastern University in the fields of journalism, Jewish studies, history and computer science, the project seeks to illuminate the fraught journeys of scholars who fled persecution in Europe and hoped to come to the United States with assistance from the Emergency Committee. Read more: Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
Certainly the beneficiaries of Sanitary Aid Nigeria are keen to show their appreciation for Omu and her volunteers and constantly look for ways to keep in touch with them. “The girls in some of the locations I was unable to go to personally made videos and said ‘Thank you,’” Omu recalls. “It’s really one of those things you think you’re used to yet every experience is special.”
As a report commissioned by the Malala Fund noted, "the rate of early and forced marriage among Syrian refugees girls in Jordan has doubled since the start of the conflict: one-third of registered marriages among Syrian refugees in the first quarter of 2014 involved girls under the age of 18." According to one study, up to 17% of girls between 12 and 17 dropped out of school and became brides.
Drawn to what they hope is a guarantee of work, some women who cross the border are instead sold to Chinese or Korean-Chinese men in rural areas who cannot find wives due to poverty, undesirable living conditions, disability and the lopsided gender demographics created by the now-replaced one-child policy. Other women are abducted in public spaces, such as streets and trains, and forced into prostitution