About the author: Emran Poya is a Star alumnus and a teacher at Star’s C Branch. He graduated from Kabul University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. In addition, he is an Evaluator of Computer and English at Marefat High School and Director of GYPF Alumni Afghanistan.
In honor of International Women’s Day, female students from different schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan were connected via Skype to bridge gaps, overcome stereotypes and pave the way for women’s empowerment in both countries. The video conference took place on Friday, March 8, 2017 and was coordinated by the Global Youth Peace Festival (GYPF) Alumni in Afghanistan with the cooperation of the Peace Village Organization and the Justice, Aid and Development (JAD) Foundation in Pakistan.
Before starting the session, the students were briefed by the facilitators about the purpose of the session. After the session began, the Afghan students played their national anthem and then the Pakistani students played theirs. All students stood during both national anthems in a show of respect. Then the students came in front of the webcams to introduce themselves to their fellows across the border.
The conversation started with basic questions, such as How is Karachi/ Kabul? What do you like about Karachi/ Kabul? In this way, the girls could connect and build basic friendships between each other.
Emran Poya, Director of GYPF Alumni Afghanistan and Youth Ambassadors of Change, addressed the girls and mentioned that though both countries have political problems, even the borders of both countries were closed and citizens of both countries weren’t allowed to cross the border. He explained that the organizations want to pave the way for women’s empowerment in both countries and prioritize efforts to benefit humanity, peace and the exchange of culture. He added that by connecting youth from both countries they can celebrate the common culture of both countries and respect the differences.
Youth, especially women, have the highest effect and can play key roles in each society. Therefore, both facilitators, Emran Poya and Aliya Harir, believe that by connecting the youth of both countries they can take a step forward to solve the political problems between these two countries. When the citizens of both countries respect the culture and differences of each other and can talk peacefully with each other it shows that they knew the importance and essence of community and can pave the path for a great friendship between both countries.
At the end of the session, the students are asked to write letters to their new friends from across the border. The facilitators will collect the letters from both schools and send them via postal mail to the other country.
Students’ Words After the Conference:
Ayesha said, “I really enjoyed talking to friends from Kabul. I learnt that we have to remain at peace – we cannot fight with each other. If we talk to each other we will understand that we are not different.” Sonia said, “I always prayed for Afghanistan and Pakistan to be friends and now my prayers are answered.” Kaiynat said, “There are so many beautiful places in Kabul, I would love to visit Afghanistan one day. This must be a beautiful place.” Sidra said, “I made so many friends today, if they ever come to Karachi, I will take them to Clifton and Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi.”
Suraya Islam, Head of Education Programs at JAD Foundation and the facilitator of the dialogue, said, “Such programs help students talk to each other regardless of the political situations. We need more dialogues between students, as they are our future generation. There are so many misconceptions which can be cleared and these programs help identify commonalities.” A teacher, Ms. Nida, said, “We always try to inculcate the values of pluralism, diversity, and a sense of global citizenship in our students. Sessions like these help build on our teachings. They give an opportunity for students to reflect.”
Maryam Masoomi said, “It was really great talking with the students from Pakistan.” She also mentioned that all her good memories from Pakistan are rekindled and that she has remembered her childhood memories when she was in Pakistan many years ago. She wishes a peaceful relationship between both countries and wishes to visit the country of her childhood again.