Matt Rodell from the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center discusses his research on the measurement and modeling of freshwater availability based on ground and satellite observation. Improving understanding of the variability and changes in soil moisture, snow, and groundwater has implications for weather and climate prediction, water management, agriculture applications and natural hazards such as floods.
> From the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
> I’m Chris Murphy. I’m the head of the Near East Section here in the African Middle Eastern Division, and on behalf of our chief, Dr. Mary-Jane Deeb, who is a bit delayed but will be here, hopefully in a few minutes, and of all my colleagues here in the Division, I wish you all the warmest of welcomes to this, one of our noontime lecture presentations, which we do I think approximately 50 a year. The African Middle Eastern Division consists of three sections, the African section, the Hebraic section, and the Near East section. The African sections and its staff is responsible for the development of the collection from and about sub-Saharan Africa, and from the African diasporas. The Hebraic section is responsible for developing the collection in Judaica and Hebraica worldwide. And the Near East section of which I’m head, is responsible for developing the collection from an about all the Arab countries, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, the Turkic central Asian countries, the Countries of the Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and Turkey. As I noted, the staff is responsible for the development of the collection. The staff also is responsible for reference and outreach. Reference consists of relatively simple answers to simple questions, or to assisting scholars and other researchers with complex research questions. Another part of the task of the staff is outreach. And by outreach, we mean making, not only the collections that we have developed here known to the public, but also the cultures that produce these materials. And to that end, we have these noontime lectures here in our reading room. And generally, the staff of the division or the individuals who discover the fact that some person has recently written a book, or has produced a film, or otherwise done something to make the cultures of the countries for which the African Middle Eastern Division has responsibility to make those cultures better known, and then we importune that person, or sometimes persons, to come and give a presentation. And today’s presentation, I know that Nawal Kawar, our, one of our Arab World specialists has worked very hard in making this happen. And I’d like to express my appreciation to her and her other colleagues who are the real people who make this happen, and who make this division work. And I would now like to ask Nawal to come up and introduce today’s presenter.
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> Thank you Chris. I like first to welcome each one of you for taking the time during this day, which is windy and very cold, to come to the Library and attend our program. It is really my pleasure to introduce to you, Ms. May Rihani, was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, during that country’s golden years, and studied at the American University in Beirut. She’s a pioneer in girls’ education, and a tireless advocate of women’s rights. Her knowledge on the subject is drawn from years of experience in visiting more than 30 countries, designing and implementing programs in more than 40 countries, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, for a range of donor agencies. These include the U.S. Agency of International Development, UNICEF, the World Bank, as well as private and corporate foundations, such as GE and ExxonMobil. Ms. Rihani was elected as the co-director of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative and in that role she participated in the UNESCO Annual Conference on Education. As Senior Vice President and Director of the AED Global Learning Group, and Director of AED Center for Gender Equity, Ms. Rihani was responsible for educational reform programs in several countries in Africa and the Middle East, and for ensuring gender equity in the organization’s educational social development programs. Also, in her capacity as a Director of the Center for Gender Equity, she designed and oversaw over 100 projects to increase the rates at which girls are enrolled and retained in schools around the world. She has addressed girls’ education in a large number of international conferences, such as UNGEIs, UNICEFs, and CIES. In the U.S., she has played an important part in increasing awareness of the challenging facing young women around the world by testifying on Capitol Hill and by contributing to documentary drama between court, Girls Rising, aired on CNN in 2013. As a result of her extensive global work, Ms. Rihani became an expert on the relationship between girls’ education and health, reproductive health, and HIV Aides. She has been recognized nationally and internationally. Her work has been covered by the Washington Post, the African and Arab Press, and most recently by the Arabian Woman Magazine, a women’s magazine known throughout the Arab world. With reports of abduction and assassination of girls in Nigeria, Pakistan, and other countries for the sin of seeking an education, Ms. Rihani’s work could not be more relevant or timely. She has faced and argued with uncompromising male community elders in Africa, Asia, and the Middle Eastern countries using their values to gain their support for programs that would improve educational opportunities for girls. Ms. Rihani is a woman whose full life is dedicated to helping girls and women take charge of their lives.
[ Papers Rustling ]
In addition, Ms. Rihani is the author of eight books, five in English and three in Arabic. Her English books address the issues of girls’ education, women’s empowerment, and global human development. One of her books, “Learning for the 21st Century: Strategies for Girls’ and Women’s Education in the Middle East and North Africa,” was published by UNICEF and was translated into French, Arabic, and Farsi. Another of her English books, “Keeping the Promise,” published by AED, is considered a framework for advancing secondary girls’ education. This book has been used by many global organizations as a resource on the benefits of secondary girls’ education. She’s also recognized as one out-of-the-box thinker and poet with three volumes of Arabic poetry to her credit. Her Arabic books are a collection of free-verse poetry that deal with love, language, Lebanon, and global common ground. Her free-verse poems are inspired by her travels, which taught her how much commonality there is in humanity, even as it exists with diversity. Ms. Rihani also explored themes, such as blending and tensions between east and west. Her latest book, “Cultures Without Borders,” is a memoir. Given her global work on girls’ education, women’s empowerment, and her [inaudible] and literary contributions, she has attracted the attention of her peers and colleagues, academic institutions, and the international development community. She is the recipient of many prestigious national and international awards. Among them, Khalil Gibran International Award, the Said Akl Award, and the Juliet Hollister Temple of Understanding Award. In conclusion, there is a book-signing activity for her book entitled, “Cultures Without Borders,” for anyone interested in purchasing it at the end of the presentation and question and answers session. Help me welcome Ms. May Rihani.
[ Applause ]
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> Thank you Nawal, thank you Chris, thank you the Library of Congress, and thank you to everyone in the audience for being here. It is my pleasure to present to you today a kind of a summary about the book with maybe a focus on one of the topics of the book. “Cultures Without Borders” is a memoir that tackles four themes. The period of a “golden age” in Lebanon, the wide-reaching impact of girls’ education, women’s empowerment, and a common ground that underlies different cultures. It is set as a journey of a girl who grew up in Lebanon from the ’50s through 1975 when Lebanon was, in my opinion, the only diverse democracy in the Middle East. The media then could, and did, criticize people of power, including the President and other national and international leaders, and no one went to jail. It was also a time when Christians, Muslims, and members of other faiths, lived together in peace. My book tells the story of important shared values and goals of different cultures learned during my travels to 71 countries and my extensive work in over 40 countries. I worked with ministries of education, ministries of social affairs, ministries of health, ministries of women’s issues, and I worked with countless urban and rural communities. This gave me a window to understand cultures and populations in an in-depth way. As a result of such involvement in that large number of countries, I realize that there is a common ground among cultures which is by far more important than the apparent differences. I learned that the more human beings understood, acknowledged, and valued the common ground, the more they became global citizens. My book deals with different cultures and describes where they meet and overlap, and where they diverge. I believe, however, that as a result of acknowledging that borders of cultures are porous, the possibilities of war diminishes, and opportunity of peace and human development increases. I felt that I would have failed my task if I did not address each one of these four themes. However, given the time that I’m giving, given, I decided that I have to pick one theme out of the four that I mentioned to you and elaborate on it. And the theme I picked for this lecture is the transformative power of girls’ education which is increasingly being recognized by major governments and major donors as the cornerstone of human development. I should admit that when I started working on girls’ education in 1979, I was told this is a fad that will go away, so don’t work on it. And I was stubborn, I wanted to work on it. I would go as far as saying that the single issue is the necessary condition to humanity’s enlightenment and advancement, and please feel free to challenge me during the questions and answers. This has been illustrated to me time and again in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Morocco, Mali, Malawi, Guinea, Senegal, Uganda, and the Congo to name a few countries. I have seen positive transformation of societies that took a step forward thanks to girls’ education. I’d like to talk about the reality of girls’ education in the world. First, it is important to recognize that today there are 132 million children, and I repeat, 132 million children, though eligible to be in school, they are not in school. An unacceptably high percentage of them are girls. It is important to recognize that the majority of the countries of Africa and Asia, and in some countries in the Middle East, there is a gap between the number of girls who are in school and the number of boys. There are more boys in school than girls. A question begs to be asked. Why? This is where I think we need to dig deep and try to understand the complexity of the reasons why girls are not sent to school as much as boys and to address the causes within the context of the cultures who are, after all, the ones who must accept and implement solutions. The problem used to be at the primary level. Many countries, not all, made substantial progress at the primary level. However, the problem remain and is stubborn at the secondary level. There are many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where the percentage of girls who go to secondary school is less than 35% of those who are eligible to go to school. I want you to imagine if this was happening in our country here in the USA. What it means. If only 35% of the girls go, enter secondary school, I did not say complete, just enter. I’ll tell you what’s the percentage that completes. What will happen to our country? I’m convinced it will go backward, both economically and socially, and in many other ways. Fewer than one in five girls in all of sub-Saharan Africa complete secondary school, which means 20% of the girls complete secondary school. Only 20%. Eighty percent do not. And there are millions more girls worldwide who will never go beyond primary school. Research has found the following reasons to be among the major factors for not sending girls to school. One, poor households choose to send boys to school rather than girls because poor families cannot afford to send all their children to school, and because they believe the boy is the head of the household, when often it’s not the case. I’m not saying the majority of the times, but again research has found out that 33% of the households worldwide are headed by women, not by men. So she, the woman who is heading the household, is the major bread earner, bread winner. So, we cannot say because the boy is the bread winner, we have to send him to school, and the girl is not a bread winner. That is not true. And I said head of the household. In the other percentage, the, the woman often is the secondary bread winner, but she is a bread winner. It’s not only the man. So we need to take that into consideration. However, the perception is, and the tradition is, that because the boy is the bread winner, we send him to school. Second reason, lack of running water and lack of fuel. In many rural regions of the developing countries, translates into girls spending hours to go fetch water and to go gather firewood for the home. I don’t know if you can imagine that. Many, many, many, many homes, huts I should say, that I visited in Africa and in other parts of the world, in rural Yemen, in rural Morocco and Atlas, do not have running water. It’s the girl’s job to go and fetch the water. She can’t go to school. She has to fetch water and wood. Third reason, societal norms that dictate that girls’ labor is needed at home and in the field. Fourth, distance to school poses safety and security issues for girls, more than for boys. Fifth, early marriages are a norm in many cultures. In Niger, a father told me in a meeting with parent, the girl is born to be married and I will marry her at the age of 11. She doesn’t need to go to school. In Yemen, a father told me, I’ll marry her at the age of 10. She doesn’t need to go to school. So these are norms. And we cannot blame the cultures. We need to work with those cultures. Sixth, school infrastructures do not accommodate girls. I’ll give you an example. If there are no latrines in the school, it’s easy for the boy, he can run to the bush. The girl cannot, especially after puberty. She will dropout. Seven, social norms influencing the dropout of girls from school at puberty. Eight, misinterpretation of religion. And if we have time, I’ll give you a very specific example of that. Nine, patriarchal societies that define gender rules in traditional and inflexible ways. And ten, absence of women role models. And, I’ll stop at that, there are many more reasons. However, when girls are sent to school, the impact of their education becomes one of the most transformative powers in the society. Perhaps, this is why Boko Haram and other religious extremists oppose girls’ education. They’re very aware that once they get educated, they will transform the society. When a high percentage of girls participate in, or even better complete, secondary education, their life expectations undergo significant changes as does their behavior. For girls in particular, there are at least ten positive outcomes of a secondary education that we should note. One, the percentage of girls who are married off at the age of 11, 12, 13, or 14 will decrease, and the age at which they marry will be delayed if they complete secondary education. The World Bank says in one of its reports, some 65% of women with primary education or less, globally, are married as children. Sixty-five percent. If they don’t go beyond primary education, they’re married as children. These girls, or young women, suffer wife beating more than those with secondary education, and accept it. They think it’s normal. Second benefit, an educated young woman who marries, often has a say in how many pregnancies she and her husband should have and has greater understanding of her sexual health. Couples that include educated women, have a lesser number of pregnancies and children. In some rural areas in northern Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Somalia, and Afghanistan, the number of pregnancies per uneducated woman is often eight, nine, or ten. That number decreases when women are educated. Third benefit, educated mothers worldwide with functional and analytic literacy have lower infant mortality. To me, that reason alone, that benefit alone, is the necessary condition, or the necessary reason, to educate all the girls. Infant mortality drops because of the education of the mother. You should ask me why, and I can explain why. Four, educated mothers with functional and analytic literacy and with fewer pregnancies also have lower percentages of maternal mortality. Five, educated women are empowered to access additional opportunities and are almost always more engaged in the activities of their communities. Six, educated women assume more responsibility in the decision-making process within their households, which has a positive effect on their communities, as well. For example, research has noted improved environmental factors. Seven, educated women are not limited to traditional labor, that is often unpaid labor. They look for and find paying jobs and sometimes run their own small businesses. Eight, educated women tend to use their income to lift their families from poverty. Nine, women with more education have more decision power over their own earnings. And lastly, number ten, by completing secondary education, the vulnerability of girls and young women is reduced as are abuses and gender-based violence at home and within their societies. And before I summarize, I’d like to give you one, if I can be brief about it, brief example about how misinterpretation of religion becomes the reason why we don’t send girls to school. And I cited that example a few times. I re-cite it today because I think of it as a very important example. I was asked by USAID to go to Peshawar, a city on the frontiers of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This was 1993. And I was, I was asked to study why is it that they’re not sending girls to school, or sending a very small number of girls to school. So, to make a long story short, I decided to meet with the Shadow Ministry for Education. In 1993, we need to remember, we thought of Mujahideen, we Americans, thought of the Mujahideen as our allies because they were fighting the Soviets. Also we need to remember this became the Taliban. So, I asked to meet with the Ministry Shadow of Education. Originally, they said no. I’m a woman. They’re not going to meet with me. Forget it. But, to make a long story short, after a lot of negotiations, I was able to convince them to meet with me, and they met with me, and I was trying to understand why is it that they’re not sending their girls to school. And I used a, a statistic that I got from their own Ministry of Education. I used their own reports, their statistics, and I said–and the, the statistic said that there were, in 1991, I was there in 93. The statistics of education takes two years, normally. That’s normal everywhere. To, to be collected and, and verified and so on. So, in 1991, there was only 2.7 percentage of girls going to school. This was the lowest figure I ever saw in my life. In my whole work, I haven’t never seen any figure lower than that. So I thought I might help them out by saying maybe there is a typo. And this is, this should be 27%. I thought I’m saving their face. And I said, do you mind letting me know if this is a typo. I think it’s a typo in your statistics, it’s 27%, right? Even though it’s so low. And they looked at me, and they were totally surprised, and they felt like what am I asking. They said no, it’s 2.7. And I said then, can you explain to me why is it that low? Why is it 2.7? And this is where I’ll make the long story short. It took me three days of meetings and discussions with them to understand why it’s 2.7. They gave me all kinds of reasons. Absolutely all kinds of reasons. To me, those reasons were not convincing. I’ll give you one example that they gave me. The example was, the Soviets are fighting us and, what, when they fight us, they throw bombs and the bombs can fall on our school and they kill the children. And I said, oh. So, you send the boys to the schools? At that time, the percentage of boys, 1991 in Afghanistan, was 41%. The girls was 2.7. I said, so it’s okay for the boys to die, and not the girls? You value the girls more than the boys? That’s when they understood that they’re not going to convince me with, with answers of that nature. And for three days, they gave me answers, and I wasn’t convinced. And finally, one of them said, I’ll give you the real reason. And I said, yes, please. And he said, our Munla [phonetic] tells us not to send the girls to school because our religion does not allow us to send girls to school. I thought about it, and then I said, would you allow me to write on the blackboard? In the room we were meeting, there was a blackboard. He said, yes. I said, I’m going to write in classical Arabic and I’ll translate it into English. And he said, fine. And I wrote a sentence, I’ll say it in Arabic, and then I’ll translate it, [foreign language], and I said this is from the Hadees Sharif, and I said it translates into, education is the responsibility of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman. And I said, Prophet Muhammad, I think, that’s my interpretation, was deliberate by saying every Muslim woman. He could have stopped at every Muslim man, but he didn’t want anybody to misinterpret him. He, he deliberately said, and every Muslim woman. So if you follow your prophet, you should teach girls and women. I don’t know who’s more important to you, the Munla, or the prophet. That was the only way I could convince them. I was really banging my head for three days straight, not being able to convince them to educate the girls. And when I quoted Hadees Sharif, then they accepted. And as a result of that, we designed a program that I called, Homeschools, and it’s a, the details are not necessary now, except if you’re interested later on. And it was funded by USAID to educate children in Afghanistan, including the girls. We educated boys and girls. And that program continued until 9/11. That’s when it was stopped. And we educated girls and the percentage of girls rose from 2.7 to 24% during those years because of that program. The evaluation of that program gave us those results. So, in conclusion, in summary, a girl that completes secondary education is empowered in very practical ways, tends to assert herself and to play a constructive role in the social and economic decisions of her home, her family, and her community. This is what extremists like Boko Haram, the Taliban, and ISIS seek to end. Empowered women with minds of their own and women who want to help determine their, and their families’ futures as equal partners, are not acceptable to such extremists. Educated women are far less likely to accept subjugation and oppression that is imposed on them and their communities. The voices of educated women can and will become a transformative factor in very traditional societies where extremists dominate. The book, “Cultures Without Borders,” finds the common ground and the common solutions to stubborn problems facing our global village. It is an account about bridges that link different populations together. It is in particular an account of steps in human development and expansive possibilities. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
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> Okay. We open the floor for any questions, but please May, repeat the question so everybody can know it what you…
> I will. I will. I will. Yes Seham, let’s start with you. And I will repeat the questions, go ahead.
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> Yes. Thank you for the quest–yes. Seham is asking, and she said she heard reactions to the book, that the book is very timely. And she’s asking me, how do I see the timeliness of this book? What’s my sense about that? Thanks for the question, Seham. Seham is from State Department. When I started writing the book, two and a half years ago, it took me 19 months, 20 months to write it, and the rest of the time was to publish it. I had no idea that the Middle East, for example, will go through what it’s going today. ISIS didn’t exist at that time. Even, I know about Boko Haram, because I, I would work in Nigeria. I had projects in Nigeria. We were aware totally that Boko Haram was opposing our project. But, by then they had not kidnapped girls. It so happened, while my book was being published, that six or seven or eight months, I can’t remember now, when it was being published. These activities of the extremists were happening, and girls’ education became more and more the topic, the priority topic, and the topic on the agenda, a priority, a priority topic on the agenda of many. Including, for example, that Malala got the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is an advocate for girls’ education. It, to me it was amazing how this coincidence happened. While my book is being published, all of the issues of girls’ education were surfacing. So yes, in many ways it is very timely. I said at the beginning that I started working on girls’ education in 1979, when nobody, at that time, or nobody is, is not accurate. When only a very, very few people, Elizabeth King at the World Bank and myself, and maybe one or two people, ’79, decided to focus on girls’ education. Now, it’s the topic of the day. It’s a priority. So thank you for your question. Yes.
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> It’s a very good question, and the word, is it as affective. Let me repeat the question because I was asked by Nawal to do that. Our colleague here said, in Madagascar she saw an example where women go and educate girls and women in the home as, as a small group. Is this as effective as going into the school? My answer would be the following. As a starting point, it’s a good point. We cannot continue maybe educating them only in that fashion because we need to check the quality of education. And we need them to become part of a system of education, and we need them to join that system so we can evaluate and we can measure and we can acknowledge quality and relevance. But, to start them off, it’s like a head start. That’s a good solution to the problem of girls’ education. That’s what we’ve done in Afghanistan. Home schooling. Yep. Yes.
[ Inaudible ]
> Yes. Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you for the question. The question was, I mentioned that if we complete, if the girl, completes secondary education it impacts infant mortality why? And, you’re going to allow me to give you an example, a very specific example, and then I can give you statistics if you want. But let me give you the example. This happened in Mali, I worked extensively in Mali, and I was, I meet often with groups of parents. And I was meeting with the groups of parents and I said exactly that, that if the girl is educated when she becomes a mother, infant mortality drops. And one tall, Malian, handsome, powerful man, who was nearly the chief kind of leading that community meeting, looked at me and he said, what are you saying? You mean an illiterate mother does not love her children as much as a, as a literate mother? My mother is illiterate. And I said you know what? You’re totally right. An illiterate mother and a literate mother love their children equally. And then I said but it’s not about love, what I’m talking about. It’s about reading and writing. And he looked at me, he said, explain to me. And I said, just imagine with me, two Malian women from your village here. We were in a village somewhere, not Timbuktu, but close. I mean, in the north, in the north. Really far from away Bamako, the capitol. I said, from your village, two mothers, one illiterate and one who hopefully completed secondary education. Both have a child, boy, girl. Doesn’t matter. Their child is three, four, five, six months old. Doesn’t matter. The child gets sick. They don’t take him to the basic health clinic, they don’t have time, they have nine children, or eight, or seven, each one of them, they don’t have time. The child gets sicker and sicker and sicker and by the fourth, fifth, fifth, sixth day, they might decide I’ll take the child to the clinic because they’re afraid the child might die. They walk to the clinic. They carry the child on their back and they walk to the clinic. They walk three or four or five hours. There is no clinic in their village. The clinic is far away in a town somewhere. They arrive to the clinic. There they’re received by nurses. They, the nurses examine the two children. And they tell each mother, this is child is sick because of this and this child is sick because of that, and they’re dehydrated, and they’re, they have diarrhea, and they’re vomiting, whatever. They tell them the whole story, and then they say, okay for this child, I’m the mother, I’m the illiterate mother, right. For this child, you take those ten pills, and you give your child a, a pill every three hours, and they wrap it in an old newspaper. And then you take those 20 pills, and you give him one every eight hours and they wrap it in an old newspaper. And then they say, these are two vaccinations. Take it with you. Maybe in your village you have a mid-wife, maybe she can give it to him, and you give him that once a day. And then, they talk to this other woman, Nawal, she’s the literate one, and they tell her the same thing. Nawal is writing down everything. These pills are every two hours, these pills are every eight hours, these vaccinations once a day in the morning, whatever they tell her. And then each one takes the child, puts her on her back and walks back. The illiterate woman is totally intimidated, doesn’t know what to do, might forget what she was told, arrives home, the pills look alike, they’re both white, they’re both the same size, both wrapped in old newspapers, nothing is written on them. The other woman, the literate mother, knows everything. She’ll treat her child exactly based on what she was told. The illiterate woman might be able to do it, and might make mistakes. The number of mistakes for the illiterate woman is higher than the number of mistakes for the literate woman. Simple. The child of the literate woman survives more than–the children, I should say. The percentage is higher. Simple. Then he told me, if you are right, we should educate our girls. Yes, in the back.
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[ Inaudible ]
What’s my feeling about the Khan Academy?
> Yes, yes, yes.
> Yes, yes. I think the Khan Academy is great. However, it doesn’t reach everybody. I, I’m totally for the Khan Academy and I read a lot about it and I learnt a lot about it. However, I’m talking more about those that are hard to reach. And those that are hard to reach often are either in shanty towns in the cities, or out there in remote, remote, rural areas. In remote rural areas, there is no electricity. Khan Academy can’t reach them. There is no way they can reach them. They don’t have running water, they don’t have fuel, they don’t have electricity, they can’t reach them. We need other methods. The Khan Academy is good for certain populations, but not other populations. Other. Yes.
[ Inaudible ]
> Very good question, and a tough one, a very tough one. But I’ll try. I do believe that the, amongst the most effective, not the only, amongst the most effective strategies–Hello, Mary-Jane Deep. [Laughter]
> You’re welcome. You’re welcome. I know you had another very important engagement, but you’re welcome to be with us.
> Yeah. The question was. Sorry. Nawal is reminding me I have to repeat the questions. The question was, what are the most effective norms, or strategies rather, strategies, to change some societal norms? And I said it’s a very good question and a tough one. And I’ll give some strategies, and I wouldn’t claim they’re the only ones. I believe amongst the most important ones is to absolutely engage the society, the community. We cannot change social norms by telling them what’s right and what’s wrong, by imposing, by dictating, by thinking on our own, we foreigners, we, even local leaders, not just foreigner, the leaders, the elite, by thinking that’s the strategy and we should tell them what to do. It will not happen. We have to engage them. They have to participate in decision-making. They have to participate in first diagnosing the problem; second, finding the solutions to the problem; and third, implementing the solution of the problem; and hopefully, fourth, learning the lesson. If we do that, and we did it in Malawi, and we called our project, Social Mobilization Campaign funded by USAID, for five years. It got renewed for another five, so we did it over ten years, and I am proud. I admit it that I’m proud to say that we changed totally the percentages of girls’ education in Malawi because of that project. It’s called GABLE, Girls Advancing Basic Literacy and Education. We engaged them in so many different ways. We, we basically worked with a grass root, basically worked village to village to village to village to town to town to town, through grass root meetings and discussions and what we called grass root theater. You’d be surprised that we did that. We, we picked topics–they picked them, we didn’t. We facilitated those meetings. They picked topics. Security for girls walking to school, and they created a play and we invited the whole village. And the village had the right to discuss what’s happening in the play, to say you’re wrong, you’re right, no change it this way. It was very interactive. That’s how we changed it. Yes.
[ Inaudible ]
Thank you. The question is, if I can describe my book to say if it’s biographical, biographical or fictional. It’s really totally biographical, totally. It’s an autobiography, 100%. As a matter of fact, I put years, I put statistics, I put citations from newspapers, I, I quote reports. It is so, I tried to be as, I tried to be as accurate as I can be by quoting a lot of reports and statistics and, and, and what the newspapers said about projects that we were implementing, what the Minister of Education said in Morocco for example. I quote him, the Minister. What the parents said, what the, the teachers said. It’s very, it’s an autobiography, it’s a memoir. Yes, in the back, and I’ll come back here. In the back, yes, Swad [phonetic].
[ Inaudible ]
> Thank you. The question is, why I talk about the “golden age” in Lebanon in the book? And the first maybe 100 or maybe 150, possibly 30 or 50 pages of the book, are really about Lebanon. And the question is, why do I call that period that I talk about, the “golden age”? Thank you for asking me that question. I’m happy to answer. I grew up in Lebanon, and I studied in Lebanon, and I went to AUB in Lebanon. And I started really my work in Lebanon, and then I moved to France, and then the U.S., and as a result, worldwide. So those years in Lebanon, from the early ’50s when I remember as a little child to ’75, these were really, really the “golden years.” Why do I call them this way? Lebanon had freedoms that were incredible in those years. I remember, as a university student at AUB, the demonstrations we had. I remember the articles that used to be published in newspapers in Lebanon that were critical of the President of Lebanon, of the Ministers of Lebanon. And as I said, nobody went to jail. I remember the, the freedoms of the publishing in Lebanon. I know that, for example, my professor, Sadak Lasem [phonetic], a professor of philosophy, who was Syrian, could not publish his book anywhere in the Arab world, but published it in Lebanon. Why? Because it was about God, and maybe had few questions that were not acceptable to everybody. So nobody published him. He had to publish in Lebanon. I remember a poet in Lebanon, his name is [foreign name], he wrote a book of poetry called Jasad, Jasad. Nobody published him.
> Which means?
> Which means body, the body. Nobody published him, but Lebanon; Beirut. Beirut became the capitol of publishing. I remember the freedom of speech, the freedom of gathering, the freedom of, at AUB we had Hyde Park, like the British Hyde Park. We were willing to criticize Abdel Nasser, Camille Chamoun, the Pope, the President of the U.S. It doesn’t matter. Anybody. We were free. Freedoms were valued and respected, acknowledged, and respected, and valued. That’s why it was a “golden age.” I will go here, and then back there, yes.
> Two more, two more questions.
> Two more, okay, two more. Yes.
[ Inaudible ]
> Yes, very good question, absolutely yes, to everything you asked. But let me elaborate a little bit on it. The question was, when you faced the, the, the, the responsibles of the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan, and after three days of meetings I was able to convince them why they should send their girls to school. And then when we implemented the program, did we continue facing resistance, or obstacles, or mentalities or norms that wouldn’t allow us to really implement in a full way, yes. Many community leaders didn’t accept the idea. Many men who thought that their religion does not allow them to send girls to school did not accept. Many, even men teachers, did not accept. You would be surprised, and I’m going to say it, and, and many women teachers thought that girls, okay, educate them for four years and them send them home. That’s enough. So, yes, there was resistance, and it wasn’t easy. But, while we were implementing the first year, and the first year and a half, nearly, part of the implementation was community engagement again. What I talked about in Malawi, we did the same thing in, in Afghanistan without the theater. They didn’t allow us to do that. But it was more discussions, more meetings. Women separate, and men separate, and the facilitators who meet with the women should be women, of course, and the facilitators who meet with the men should be men. So total separation, total–but we had to do that to be able to convince the communities, not just the responsibles of the Ministry of Education, to implement that program which we called, Homeschool, which basically was, let’s find an educated woman in the village and let’s agree on a home that you, the village accept. A home of somebody you respect, an elderly woman, or an elderly couple, where there is a room in that house where we educate the girls, so they don’t have to walk long distance, there would be a woman teacher, and so on. We had to explain that in detail for every single community and get their permission and their acceptance. It wasn’t easy to implement, no. But because we had a number of years, as I said from 1993 until 9/11, that number of years. The first year and a half were extremely difficult. We could have pulled out because we could have felt like, it’s not going to work. But, as you used a word that is extremely important in international development, and that is, patience. And I would add to it, listening. We have to listen to the other. We cannot condemn them or judge them as wrong. If we judge them and their culture as wrong, we close the door. We have to open doors, listen carefully, and find ways to find solutions together. And, if, you allow me a few more questions, yes, Abderrahim. Yes.
[ Inaudible ]
> Yes, very, very good question. Absolutely, good question. I’m asked always to repeat the question so everybody can hear it. Abderrahim Foukara from Al-Jazeera, if I may say, the Chief of Al-Jazeera in New York and Washington, D.C. I’m happy you’re here. Asked first that, yes there was a “golden age” in Lebanon, and also in Egypt, and also in Iraq, absolutely correct. But given that it’s my autobiography, I wrote in particular about Lebanon. But yes. And given that today we nearly lost all of that and given that us may be some intellectuals in the Arab world, we want to hold onto that “golden age” and talk about it and, and remind ourselves maybe more than anybody else that it existed so we can believe in it and recreate it if we can. How credible is all of that? Is that the question?
[ Inaudible ]
> Especially to us Arabs. Especially to us Arabs. Absolutely. Absolutely. Especially to us Arabs. I’m totally with you. And my answer is a bit complex if I may put it this way. Yes and no. I say yes because again, the more we open that dialogue with Arabs, and possibly starting with the intellectuals themselves because some intellectuals don’t believe anymore in it, that we are capable of reliving “golden ages,” that we are capable of having societies that are possibly secular, or where equality exists, or where human rights are the basic human rights for both men and women, for minorities and majorities. Some are not anymore convinced that we can do that. I am one of those who is totally convinced that we can do it again. Totally. I have no doubt in my mind. None. Whatsoever. And the reason is that we’re the same culture, Arab culture, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Lebanon, that we’re able to create that “golden age” and live it fully. Yes, we have extremists now that are fighting us. But I, I think they are the minority and we are the silent majority. They are a vocal minority. They are a powerful minority. They’re a minority that has arms and money, but we are still the majority. The moderate Arabs are still the majority. The you and I, and the [foreign name] of the world and, and the [foreign name] of the world. I give examples for the Arabs to know, and I gave them from different parts, Jordanian, Lebanese, a Moroccan, are still the majority. And like all cultures of the world, we go through ups and downs. Europe went through that. Europe went through that. What, what do we call the Middle Ages in Europe? They were fighting each other. There is a war that was called the “100 Years War.” I’m not saying because Europe went through that, it’s okay for us to go through it. No. I’m not saying that. I hope we can end it tomorrow. But I’m saying we cannot lose hope. Yes, we can relive our “golden ages.” We still have excellent universities. We still have a very vibrant civil society. Extremely vibrant civil society. NGOs, women’s organizations, youth organizations, that are fighting for rights, and they will continue fighting for rights. The youth organizations are extremely power–in your country, in Morocco. Women’s organizations, I mean, you are the example, and Moudawana [phonetic] in Morocco is an amazing example, and a very positive example. So, there are, there is light. There are pockets of darkness, pockets of darkness, like ISIS, but there is light also.
[ Inaudible ]
Yeah, but you know what? Abderrahim, there are many people like you and me in the, in the Arab world. Many, many, many voices that are powerful voices in the Arab world. I can cite–in my book, I did on purpose. I cited a list of names, Muslims, Muslims and Christians, of voices that are fighting for basic rights, human rights, for freedoms. I cited them. It’s in, towards the end, towards the end, one of the last chapters, just to say these voices are there despite all the extremism. They’re there. They’re more credible than you and I, because we live here. They’re more credible. If I may, the lady in the back, and then maybe one last question. That’s it, because I cannot ask for more than that. Yes. Yes.
> Hi May.
> Hi. Hi. You’re here? Oh my goodness. Stephanie Funk, USAID, we worked together in Malawi and the GABLE project that I talked about was in Malawi, she was USAID. And may I announce, don’t tell me no. She’ll be soon, the Mission Director in Zimbabwe. Welcome. I, I don’t see you. [Applause] I, yes, I don’t see well from far away. Yes, Stephanie.
> Hi. Well first of all, I want to say thank you for all your great work on Girls’ education. I mean, we, much of your work was funded by USAID, but you led us rather than us leading you. [Inaudible]
> Oh, thank you. Thank you.
> Secondly, you talk about that in 1979, there were just a handful of people working just at UNICEF, and here we are 35 years later, and there are many more people that I think [inaudible]. So, if you had a crystal ball, where would be 35 years from now? Where do you hope we can be, and where do you think we’ll be at that point?
> Wow. Whoa. A good questions maybe to end the discussion. I hope. I’ll start with my hope, but I’ll tell you what in reality where I think we will be. My hope is that for every single girl and boy on this planet, in our global village; I really believe we are a global village, truly, honestly; complete at least secondary. That’s my hope. Every girl and every boy, there is no excuse. There is absolutely no excuse not to have every girl and every boy complete secondary. Then, they can do whatever they want. They don’t all have to go to universities, they can do other things. But that is a foundational education. It’s foundational. Where we would be? I don’t think that would happen in 25 years. I think there will still be pockets in remote areas in Africa and the Middle East and in Asia. It’s not just Africa and the Middle East, Asia also, where we have girls that are not yet completing secondary, and where we have boys in, in the Caribbean where they are not completing secondary, and in exceptional countries in Africa, such as Lushoto [phonetic], where they’re not completing secondary. There are reasons for all of that. We need to work on overcoming these obstacles because I don’t think it is fair, just, or acceptable to have girls, or boys not complete secondary, and it is their basic human right. And we are responsible. They are not. It’s our responsibility to educate all the girls and all the boys of our global village. So, on that note…
> On that note, we end our program.
[ Applause ]
> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at www.loc.gov.
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