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We asked Afghan students about Ramadan

by Miranda Cleland

22% of the world’s population this month aren’t eating or drinking anything- not even water- for an average of 16 hours a day, sunset to sunrise. And it has nothing to do with a lack of food. 1.6 billion Muslims around the world are taking part in the holiest month of Islam – Ramadan.

Unlike Christians, whose religion follows the solar calendar, Muslims go by the lunar calendar, which typically has 354 or 355 days. Ramadan is the ninth month. Because the internationally used Gregorian calendar has 365 days, Ramadan falls about 11 days earlier every year. This year, it began on Monday, June 6th after the sighting of the crescent moon in Saudi Arabia. So what makes Ramadan so special? Well, according to many scholars, the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (SAAW) during the month of Ramadan. Therefore, Ramadan is a time to become closer to God by fasting and exercising self-discipline. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and all able Muslims partake. We asked some of our 8th-grade students what they think of Ramadan. Here’s what they said.

Latifa, 25 years old, says “Ramadan means fasting with your whole body. Besides avoiding eating and drinking, you avoid your tongue and ears from gossiping and lying and your eyes from things that are haram. I feel great when I am fasting because I can worship more.”

Nazanin, 23 years old, likes Ramadan because “one of the benefits is experiencing the hunger of poor people.”

Shekiba Akbari, 22 years old, also appreciates the emphasis on restraining yourself during Ramadan. “My favorite part of the day is Iftar after evening twilight. I feel much closer to my creator.”

During the average day in Ramadan, Muslims wake before sunrise to eat before the day of fasting begins. At sundown, people gather in groups for parties and feasts for iftar, or breaking fast. Iftar usually begins with eating a few dates, then prayers, then a large meal. Ramadan is set to end on July 5th or 6th this year, culminating in Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

Hassina Sherjan Interviewed in Salzburg, Austria

Screenshot 2020-02-05 at 6.36.23 PM

Read the article in the Salzburger Nachrichten, titled “A woman fights for peace in Afghanistan with a pen and cloth.”

Getting a second chance at education

A young Afghan woman goes back to school to ensure a better future for her children

 By Denise Shepherd-Johnson

KABUL, Afghanistan, 11 July 2017 — At 28, Amina’s youth is betrayed only by the hardship she has faced. Taken out of school at 12, she was married by 14 and within four years had given birth to three daughters. While pregnant with her fourth, her husband, an electrician, was electrocuted and died on the job.

Just as it seemed that things could not get worse, Amina’s in-laws tried to take away her daughters and force her out of their family home in Kabul, where they had moved from Parwan, a neighbouring province west of the Afghan capital.

Unable to bear the thought of a life without her children, Amina went to court to gain custody: an arduous process that took seven years.

Without money for public transport, Amina would walk for an hour to attend court appearances and endure jibes from men who ridiculed her as a single woman who refused to pay bribes.

Remedial accelerated learning programme

Amina’s marriage had not been an easy one and her husband never allowed her to work outside the home, but with court proceedings under way and a family to support, she took a job at a kindergarten earning 5,000 Afs (US$73.5) per month.

That’s where she first heard about a remedial programme for women to give them a second chance at education.

Amina was 25 years-old with a sixth grade education and in the middle of a custody battle when she decided to sign up for learning classes run in the Parwandoo area of Kabul.

“It was very difficult to start but my teachers and other classmates made it possible by helping me. I love all subjects. I like it that most of my classmates are close to my age. They give me confidence and encouragement,” says Amina, who is now in10th grade and on track to get her high school diploma in another year and a half.

Afghanistan has an established accelerated learning programme which offers a community-based ‘fast-track’ route for out-of-school and over-age (10–15) girls to complete their primary education (Grade 6). In addition, some 3,000 women aged 10–30, including married women, are being supported to complete high school and earn diplomas issued by the Ministry of Education.

“If not for this programme, I don’t know what would have happened to me and my daughters,” said Amina. “It was always my dream to return to school one day. I [enquired at] public schools but none of them would take me at this age.”

Building a better future

Thanks to these remedial classes, Amina is catching up on what her early marriage forced her leave behind. She attends classes six hours a day, six days a week and diligently does her homework every night.

Having overcome tremendous odds, Amina is striving to help her daughters to achieve their dreams: “I want to work hard to make money and provide for my daughters. I want to make sure they will have good education and successful lives. I don’t want them to get married young.”

Remedial classes for 3,000 women aged 10–30 are run by the Afghanistan Aid for Education (AAE) under a special agreement with the Ministry of Education, with support from UNICEF and generous donors. AAE runs 12 such schools across the Afghanistan: four in Kabul, one in Ghazni, one in Parwan, two in Mazar, two in Bamyan, and two in Badakhshan.