A Traditional Wedding in Rural Afghanistan

Naila

Najzla Arzoo

Education Officer

Saripul Province, Afghanistan

August 10, 2015

 

Let us take you to Saripul province, one of the northern provinces of Afghanistan where we are implementing sponsorship funded programs, for a glimpse at a rural Afghan wedding.

Typically, the boy’s family together with some relatives will go to the girl’s house to get the formal positive response, which is confirmed by the receipt of a basket of decorated artificial flowers and a tray of candies and chocolates. This arrangement will then be taken to the boy’s house, accompanied by family members playing music and dancing, where more relatives have already gathered to wait for the basket. This becomes the engagement party. After the meal is served the family will continue playing music and dancing.

Bread

Girls baking bread for a wedding party

The night before the wedding ceremony there is another party called Henna which is commonly celebrated in the girl’s house or in a hotel. There will be around one hundred relatives and friends of both families. Guests first go to the home of the family that invited them to the party, before all gathering at the girl’s house together. Except for close relatives there will usually be separate halls for men and women to sit, be served their meal, play music, and dance. Henna, dye from the henna plant, is applied to the groom and bride’s palms after the meal. The bride and groom do not see each other at these gatherings prior to the wedding, but are permitted to meet on other days.

In rural areas, wedding parties are not celebrated in wedding halls but directly in the bride’s house. The wedding begins with the gathering of a few girls in the groom’s house for some pre-wedding preparations. Girls and women from both families will design and decorate the bride and groom’s room. They prepare silky curtains, bed sheets, and other handicrafts. Usually hundreds of guests are invited to the wedding. In most cases, men will be invited for lunch and women will be invited to join them in the evening. After dinner, the bride and groom, in their specific wedding attire, will be accompanied by their close relatives and friends to a special decorated camp for all guests to see.

Gift

Preparing a trunk of gifts for bride in Eid

The couple’s faces are then covered by a shawl and a family member places a mirror under the shawl, symbolizing the bride and groom seeing each other for the first time through the mirror. Then with help from close friends or relatives, the bride and groom cut the cake. They will hold each others’ hands and give the special sweet water prepared of sugar and water, or juice, to each other to drink. This is followed by hours of celebration with music and dance, only breaking for guests to give gifts to the bride and groom.

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Mangane, an Example of Community Leadership

Mengos

Mr. Mengos

Basic Education Coordinator

Mangane, Mozambique

August 3, 2015

 

Mangane is one of the impoverished communities in Mozambique where the majority of people have no job opportunities, and resort to farming as their daily activity for survival and to sustain their families. Luckily, it is a community where sponsorship programs such as Basic Education, School Health and Nutrition, Early Childhood Care and Development, and Adolescent Development are all being implemented.

School

Mangane Primary School before Save the Children intervention

Prior to Save the Children sponsorship, the school dropout rate had been increasing because parents and caregivers did not value education. A total of 283 children were enrolled in school in 2013, and in 2014 that number has increased to 392, demonstrating an increase of nearly 40%. The sponsorship program helped community mobilization and bringing community leaders to play a role in children’s education. Mangane had only three poor classrooms, both uncomfortable and with unsafe conditions for both children and teachers. However now with the help of sponsorship funds, the community has four new conventional and furnished classrooms and an administrative block, as well as improved and separate latrines built for girls, boys, and teachers. Save the Children is also providing sports equipment to ensure that the school environment is fun and friendly!

Abacar Fadil, is a community leader from Mangane, testified in his own words, “… My name is Abdul Fadil, I am a community leader and also a school council member. I know for sure and see how fast Mangane Primary School changed. A high number of children at school is now visibe from the time [Save the Children sponsorship] came to implement programs in our community. Awareness on parents and caregivers was raised in order to make them understand the importance of school.

School_kids

Mangane Primary School after Save the Children intervention

I remember the time when parents were suffering a lot, every year rearranging the classrooms with local materials, children used to be with no lessons, during the rainy and windy days. Now everyone in the community is happy with what is happening, thanks to SCI programs and I would like to see this happening in other communities to help more children in need.”

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Durga Puja, Worship of the Goddess Durga

Moazzam

Moazzem Hossain

Senior Manager Basic Education

Meherpur, Bangladesh

July 27, 2015

 

The culture of Bangladesh reflects the way of life for the people of the country. Festivals of different religions and cultures is one of these reflections. Durga Puja, for example, is one of the most important events in the Bengali society's calendar, meant to epitomize the victory of Good over Evil. This festival is widely celebrated in Meherpur, across the Hindu community. Relatives from different parts of the country or from neighboring India join this ritual each year.

The children at the third stage of Durga idol makingAt the beginning of autumn a rigorous preparation starts for celebrating this festival. The Puja committee hires the best clay artisans they can afford. Pals, or clay artisans, have an age old tradition of breathing life into images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. For Durga Puja, first bamboo sticks are cut in various shapes and sizes to make the basic structure of the idols of the Goddess Durga, and the platform on which the colossal statue stands. Durga's figure is then shaped with straw tied with jute strings. The straw figurine of the Goddess is then applied with a first coat of clay solution with the percentage of water high. This helps to fill the crevices left by the straw structure. The second layer is applied with great caution as it is the most important layer, giving prominence to the figure. The clay mixed in this step is very fine without any impurities.

The lengthy and backbreaking process of constructing the idols is done diligently and methodically by the artisans, to create the most exquisite pieces of artistry. The perfection of idol making demands that the skeleton structure of bamboo and straw be done by one group of artisans, the clay mixing and applications are done by another group, and finally the head, palms, and feet are done by the highest graded Pals.

Durga

Goddess Durga ready for the worship

It is a popular belief that the Goddess Durga arrives and departs to predict the lives of people for the coming year. Durga reigns through her clay and straw figure for 6 days, standing on her lion mount, wielding ten weapons in her ten hands. At the end of the festival, the sculpture is taken in a procession, amid loud chants of, "it will happen again next year," and drumbeats, to the river or other local body of water. She is then cast in the waters, symbolic of the departure of the deity to her home with her husband in the Himalayas.

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How to Improve Reading in Mali

Catherine

Catherine Kennedy

Basic Education Advisor

Sikasso, Mali

July 21, 2015

 

I am a Basic Education Advisor with Save the Children, and I support several countries. I feel very lucky to have this job – you never do the same thing twice and you are always having new experiences and learning.

I come to Mali twice a year to help move education work forward, such as in terms of quality and reach. We identify priorities together based on issues they have found in their daily work, new priorities from the Ministry of Education, communities, and children, and new approaches and strategies from other countries or from the international education community.

Group

Cathy surrounded by children & adults in a reading camp

This visit, we are focusing on three things: improving the quality of our community-based reading clubs, using the data we gather on reading to help inform what we do, and identifying ways to make children safer at school.

The reading clubs are run by volunteers to give children the chance to practice and reinforce the reading skills taught to them at school. We hope that by making these clubs fun and child-centered, children will also develop a love of reading which will serve them through life. During my visit, we have visited six camps in three sites. Our basic education team in Sikasso chose one site that was good, one that is on the way to being good, and one that really needs help.

The one that was good was really very good – the volunteer was friendly, fun, and very engaging with the children. He invited their opinions and respected their ideas. It was obvious the children enjoyed the song, story, discussion, and reading time he led them in. It is important for me to see this, because it means that the team and I have the same idea as to what quality is, and we know what we are trying to achieve. The other visits reminded me how different these ideas can be for our volunteers, who have a very limited, often negative, experience of school themselves. As a team afterwards, we brainstormed ways to continue to help the volunteers through strengthening their skills and confidence.

Group2

Cathy surrounded by children in a reading camp

My second objective was to help the team analyze the latest data coming out of our Literacy Project. We saw some exciting trends emerging. For example, children learning in their own language are learning to read faster than those that are taught in French. We were also reminded of how inequitable systems can be, as schools with fully trained, motivated teachers that are on the government payroll are doing much better at teaching reading than schools where the teachers are community members, paid irregularly, and teach in remote locations with poor infrastructure. We discussed the implications around these findings, and how we can focus our energies and resources on those most in need.

The last objective was to make schools safer for children. We held a cross-sectoral workshop with other teams that work in schools, such as in school health and nutrition, sanitation, and staff from the emergency education project in the north of the country. Participants reflected on their own experiences as children, then on what they see now as professionals. We shared different approaches to keeping children safe, such as teacher training in positive discipline and child rights, school-based codes of conduct, and child governments and mothers’ associations, and discussed best practices within each. Then we identified gaps in our current programming and made a plan for the next 18 months to address the issues.

I am now sitting at the airport in Bamako, the capital of Mali, waiting for a delayed flight to Nairobi in Kenya. From there I’ll be going to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a week to support their efforts to help children learn to read more effectively. I feel my time in Mali was well spent – they are a great team, and I love working with them. I wish I didn’t have to travel all night now, but at least the delayed flight enabled me to write my blog!

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Words from a Teacher in a Save the Children Supported School

Faima

Faïmi P. Moscova

Sponsorship Manager

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

July 17, 2015

 

Jadlin is a third grade teacher at a Save the Children-supported school located in Dessalines, and has worked there for over 5 years. He teaches children between the ages of 8 and 10 and lives very close to the school. Growing up, Jadlin liked to work with his classmates pretending to be a teacher. It is something that he truly enjoys. 

Group_outside

Jadlin with children in front of the school

Before the integration of Save the Children programming, Jadlin admitted he didn’t have sufficient training to manage his classroom or teach certain topics such as geometry or creative writing. The various trainings he has received through Save the Children have brought significant changes to his professional life. According to Jadlin he has learned new teaching methods in disciplinary techniques, how to better manage his class, and how to encourage his pupils’ participation. He now knows it is important to use questioning and group work in the classroom. “I considered myself like I was a dirty dish. Save the Children washes it and fills it up with knowledge.” he added with humility and fulfillment.

Jadlin recognizes he is not the only beneficiary of the organization. Now with help from Save the Children, the school has at its disposal services such as wastebaskets and a book loan program for third to sixth grade students. Parents also are more aware of the activities in the school and of their children’s education. However, children are still affected by flooding in the community during the rainy season and the shortage of potable water. Jadlin hopes that the organization will not only continue to support teachers training but will help the community solve those problems as well. 

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Jadlin

Jadlin is proud to be a teacher at this Save the Children-supported school, and sends a big thank you to the sponsors for their support of Save the Children sponsorship programs. Be on the lookout for updates from Haiti on how Save the Children is helping communities solve other challenges facing children!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Nung Traditions and Colors

Nhan

Nhan Thi Nguyen

Field Intern

Nam Lu Commune, Vietnam

July 14, 2015

 

After the 2 hour journey by motorbike, I finally reached Nam Lu Commune following an invitation from Hai, the Vice Chairman of the commune. Here the sunshine is brilliant and birds are singing. Today is the traditional festival which is celebrated on the first days of Lunar July. 

Traditional

Nung Di women in their traditional clothes

I heard the voices of young girls, mothers, and elderly ladies. They are all in traditional clothes, on their way to the People’s Committee where the festival is celebrated and chatting about the day. As they walk they tease each other and laugh out loud happily. This must be a very special festival to them.

In the festival itself there are a lot of activities, such as art performances, traditional games, and fashion shows. Songs and plays in the Nung language are performed by both young and old people in the commune. Although I don’t understand their language, seeing the villagers of different ages singing along with the performers and swaying while following the rhymes, I know the songs are beautiful and they love them. One of the most interesting parts of the festival was the fashion show, with the performance of young Nung ladies in their traditional clothing. They are not gaudy or colorful but Nung women are still very charming in them.

Casual

Nung Di people in their casual clothes.

Traditional foods are sold in small camps so that people can enjoy the performances and local specialties at the same time. I was so impressed by the seven-color steam sticky rice. Can you believe that Nung people can make all seven colors– from black, yellow, purple to blue, gray, red and orange– from only one ingredient, a kind of local herb? It is called the magenta plant, or chẩm thủ by Nung people. They also make pink chopsticks by dying them in the liquid made from this plants leaves. It’s so incredible. The local people here tell me that in traditional festivals like this one, every family in the commune makes seven-color steam sticky rice and pink chopsticks, with the hope that good luck and happiness will find them in the future.

Does your family have any traditional dishes that you serve at certain times of year and prepare in special ways? Share with us how you celebrate!

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Meet Florence, Nembere Community Volunteer

Florence

Florence

Community Volunteer

Nembere Village, Malawi

July 10, 2015

 

My name is Florence Chokani and I come from Nembere Village. I am a community volunteer who encourages children of my area to go to school. I also teach children in Literacy Boost camps and work as a care giver in a Community-Based Child Care Center.

I started volunteer work with Save the Children in 2010, as a camp leader helping children read and write after school. Then in 2011, I joined Early Childhood Care and Development as a caregiver, where I was responsible for teaching children under the age of six. Additionally, my community selected me to be a Sponsorship Agent, after seeing the passion that I have for my community, for which I helped track enrolled children for their eligibility. This year the community has also entrusted me with another responsibility: representing youth in my area as a Youth Community Based Distribution Agent.

I started volunteering with Save the Children because I wanted to help children in my community. I would love to see an educated community in the future, which will be a breeding ground for development. My dream has always been to work alongside communities in shaping the lives of children. I have been given that opportunity thanks to Save the Children.

I also started volunteering because I wanted to learn new things, for myself as well as for people close to me. For instance, in terms of child development, I have learned how to teach and communicate with children. I have learned how to recognize child problems and abuse and how to counsel children. Above all, I have learned and appreciated how Save the Children’s sponsorship program works and impacts the lives of children, which I gladly share with caregivers and parents.

Volunteering has some added benefits: it keeps me occupied and the community values me a lot because of the support that I provide. I am content knowing that. However, nothing gets me more excited than the children. Whether out of school or in school, they always run to me because they know my presence. Knowing the impact I have on the children makes me feel special – it makes me proud to be a member of the community.

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