The Smartest Girl in all of Afghanistan

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 13:36 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

" 10327-F-BH761-090 " Photo by: Ashley N. Avecilla BALKH, Afghanistan — During Afghanistan’s university entrance exams last month, a girl named Shohreh Ghaderi scored the highest of anyone in the country.

She beat over 225,000 other test-takers. Considering Afghanistan’s history of repressing women’s education, Ghaderi’s feat is challenging the status quo of families not sending their daughters on to higher education.

The university entrance exams in Afghanistan, known as the Kankor, are the Afghan equivalent of the American SATs, but far more imperative for Afghani students. Only about thirty-percent of the students that take the Kankor will be accepted to a public institution of higher education, according to Outlook Afghanistan.

Those who do not qualify have the option of attending one of the few private universities, but most students are too poor to afford it. Shohreh Ghaderi commented on the situation of her fellow test-takers to BBC News saying “Many students who sat for the exam had no security where they live. They don’t have proper books or teachers or access to computer. They have nothing.”

Ghaderi, however, will be one of the fortunate ones that will be going on to university. On taking the exam she said to BBC News, “There were 160 multiple choice questions. I only made three mistakes. I remember I was doubtful of one question. It asked what the chemical formula was for phosphoric acid. It was a very easy question, but I don’t know if I chose the right answer.” Despite those three mistakes, she managed to earn the highest score in the country.

Because of her high score she stands out, but what makes her achievement all the more noteworthy is that she is a girl. Traditionally, Afghan girls do not go on to university, instead opting for a domestic life, but that is not the case for her family. She credits her education to her family saying, “My dad used to help me with my questions. I do not believe any of this has to do with luck. I was brought up in an academic family where everyone cares about education.”

When it comes to how she achieved the highest scores in the country she says to BBC News that there was neither a “special technique” in how she studied nor any unique talent, but it was how hard she studied that mattered. She says, “Everything is possible if you have strong will. You have to have a goal in life and believe that nothing can stop you from achieving it.”

Ghaderi credits peace and security to bettering education for other girls. She tells BBC News that violence in certain areas is why girls are not going to school saying, “Some people won’t let their daughters study because of the lack of security.” She continues to say, “If everywhere was safe then there would be no excuse for stopping their daughters from studying and it would become an outdated tradition.”

With Ghaderi’s impressive score, she will be attending Kabul University. She intends on studying medicine. When she visited a class of other girls prior to their university exams, she left them with this encouraging message, “I hope I can be an inspiration to you all and that you all will be successful in the university entrance exam and then you will become and inspiration for our community.”

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Libya Declares Gaddafi Rapes as War Crimes, Paving Way for Victim Compensation

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:02 a.m. DST, 25 February 2014

Eman al-Obeidy, Libyan Woman Gang Raped by 15 Gaddafi Soldiers, Photo Courtesy of Libyan Rebel

When discussing tools of warfare, one tends to think of guns, tanks, espionage and bombs. Unfortunately though, the damaging and lasting elements of war go far beyond this list and are seldom given the attention they deserve.

For instance, rape has been utilized in war for hundreds, even thousands, of years, but since it's harder to monitor than death tolls, it commonly gets overlooked and goes unpunished.

Armies and rebel groups use it as a weapon to exert dominance, spread anarchy, and disturb the mentality of their opponents. This sad reality still happens across the globe during conflicts, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where HearCongo.org says 40% of the DRC's female population has experienced rape.

In a huge stride to fight impunity for rape, Libya's cabinet has determined that rape victims from the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi should be recognized as war victims that are entitled to the same compensation. The legislation still needs congressional approval before it will be institutionalized and thus officially recognize rape victims as equals to wounded ex-fighters.

If passed, the women like Eman al-Obeidy who was raped over the course of 72-hours by 15-soldiers loyal to Gaddafi, will have access to measures that include financial assistance, and physical and psychological care. (Anderson Cooper 360 Interview with Obeidy)

This piece of legislation is especially impressive and groundbreaking because of Libya's staunch conservatism that causes rape to be a taboo topic. Setting an example in postwar recovery will not only allow hundreds of women to come forward, but will also exemplify to other countries that rape is a war crime worth discussing, confronting, and reconciling.

Women have deserved this recognition and solace for centuries, and its long overdue for civil society stakeholders and governments to ensure this respect for human dignity is carried out. After all, investing in a healthy and safe population provides for more stable and prosperous future.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Fear: The Enemy of Gender Equality

Fear: The Enemy of Gender Equality

"A woman’s fate is determined by men and women who play God. Her first gift is a doll-named-Baby with which she rehearses home maker, wife and mother. She is groomed to be a ‘proper woman’ — the silent one when the men are talking. All these in preparation for her husband’s house; is that not where all ‘good’ women end? A woman’s worth is defined first by her father, then her husband and last by the children she bears. She’s more blessed if she bore boys. If it’s a girl child, irrespective of her career success, she has to follow her mother’s steps. A ‘good woman’ doesn’t break the cycle! That’s not all, these ‘inequality gods’ add spice to her lifespan with other tough stops like the lack of freedom of choice; gender discrimination; rape and assaults of all kind. A woman should not allow these ‘inequality gods’, be they spiritual, economic, political or social, to script her life and that of her daughters." ~ Temitayo O, Nigeria

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