A Local Individual

It was a different Monday morning.

I could not sleep the night before.

Why? I did not know.

My heart was in pain.


I was scrolling through Twitter.

Nine words caught my eyes.

“We all know Muslims are behind Las Vegas shooting!”


What happened last night?

When I was trying to sleep, what happened?

I felt strange and broken,

Finding about sad news when the fingers were pointing at me.


As I learned more about it, I felt worse.

The shooter was not Muslim.

“He was not a terrorist,” said police.

He was a “Local Individual”.


I shook in terror because I know

This could happen in my locale

And as a Muslim, I wouldn’t know who to turn to.

You see, I am never a “Local Individual”.

My headscarf, my skin, my accent, my passport,

None of them qualify me to be a “Local Individual”.

The terror I fear is never called “terrorism”.


“A mass shooting took 58 lives”

Sounds passive.

A man, a terrorist, took 58 lives.


He closed many eyes.

He broke many hearts.

He stopped many lips from kissing ever again,

Many bodies from waking up ever again,

Many human beings from ever feeling whole again.

And if that is not terror, what is?


A member of Free Women Writers, Zahra is a sophomore in high school who loves writing and poetry. Zahra cares deeply about girls’ education and empowerment.

International Day of Peace 2014

In Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize lecture, he compared the tremendous scientific achievements the world had made by the 1960s to the values we held as a society.

We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.

He went on to say, ‘This problem of spiritual and moral lag…expresses itself in three larger problems…Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war.’

This year’s International Day of Peace takes place when peace looks impossible to reach. Lately, the news has been discouraging. News of war, famine, violence and disease can be seen daily and for me, and I am sure for others, the news is frightening. Last week, Pope Francis remarked that the world’s many conflicts amount to piecemeal World War Three.

I think Martin Luther King’s words sadly ring true 40 years later.

The recent headlines include some of the most tragic events our history has seen including:

  • The shooting down of flight MH17, with its links to the unrest in Ukraine.
  • The conflict in Syria has amounted to more deaths and refugees than the genocide in Rwanda.
  • The beheading of journalist James Foley by ISIS and a few days later, Steven Sotloff, heroes who wanted to bring awareness to injustice.
  • The kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram.
  • Overcrowded boats of migrants capsizing trying to escape poverty.
  • A shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.

Despite the complexity and confusion that surrounds these tragic situations, I think our society can overcome them. Even though we are not the ones in positions of power, we can not forget we have a voice. We live in a time where social media allows us to gain knowledge of global events more quickly and gives us the opportunity to raise our voice. Social media is a tool to understand  these issues affect everyone.

Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

Girls’ Globe utilizes social media to track the progress of the Millennium Development Goals as they relate to women and children. The eight goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental stability, and promote global partnership for development. Despite various barriers to achieving the goals, the one thing that would prevent any of them from occurring is the absence of peace. As Martin Luther King alluded to, racial injustice, poverty, and war, are still the major underlying factors preventing peace today.

Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

The founder of Girls’ Globe, Julia Wiklander recently wrote about how women and children are the most vulnerable in times of conflict. Women are raped at higher rates, experience trauma, and newborns and pregnant women lack critical healthcare and nutrition. Education opportunities are minimized, and infectious diseases can spread more quickly in places without healthcare infrastructures.

The overflowing Syrian refugee camps are becoming places where sexual exploitation of displaced women and girls is common place. Women are objectified, bought and sold or kidnapped, and presented as gifts to leaders of some of these terrorists sects.

Despite how angry or scared we might feel about the horrifying events happening in the news, we must not think that perpetuating violence is the answer.  Let’s ask our leaders to promote policies for social and racial justice and peace. In this way we will more easily achieve the MDGs and protect those most vulnerable in times of war and conflict.

As Martin Luther King went on, he remarked on the nonviolent progress the US had made for civil rights in the years preceding, and the hope he had for a peaceful future.

Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born.

We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.

If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. -Martin Luther King Jr.

Want to take action?

Visit the UN’s International Day of Peace website to learn what others are doing to promote peace.

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

Misogynist Ideology of Nigerian Kidnapping

Written by Zainab Khan and Paula Kweskin

Eighteen-year-old Deborah Sanya went to school to take her final exams before graduation. She never expected what happened next: a mass kidnapping of her and over 200 of her fellow students. Deborah and her three friends are some of the lucky ones; they bravely ran when one of the kidnappers wasn’t looking, found refuge in a local village, and eventually made it home.

Four weeks later, there is no trace of her friends.

Islamic militants known, as Boko Haram, are believed to be behind the kidnapping of the girls from their school in Chibok. The literal translation of this radical, extremist terrorist group means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language.

The group is fueled by the ideology that Western influences have corrupted their society and a pure Islamic state can restore the country of Nigeria. The group wants to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in Africa’s most populous and economically developing country.

Boko Haram is one of the most dangerous manifestations of the global resurgence of radical Islam. It utilizes brutal, violent, inhumane tactics to force a skewed, political ideology upon innocent people.

Since 2002, it has claimed thousands of lives through attacks on Christians, school children, and government targets.

The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau, warned in a video obtained in March that all students should leave universities and girls are to drop out of school to get married.

“In Islam, it is allowed to take infidel women as slaves,” Shekau said. “In due course, we will start taking women away.”

And this is precisely what was done.

Civilian victims targeted by these insurgents are frequently women and girls. The concept of “Western education” being deemed as dangerous is nothing new because the education of women and girls is an affront to the twisted ideologies of these terrorists.

Malala Yousufzai, the poster child for girls’ education globally, was shot on October 9th, 2012 by the Taliban en route to school. She, like her sisters, in Nigeria,‘dared’ to demand an education and to lift herself out of poverty.


For these terrorists, there is nothing more intimidating.

Educated women and girls are the agents of change in their communities and an indicator of progress and enlightenment. As such, they are the first targets for extremist groups.

Reports have indicated some of the abducted girls have been sold as brides to soldiers for $12, and some were forcefully converted to Islam.

It is horrifying to imagine what these innocent girls are undergoing. They have been captured and sold into sexual slavery in a practice reminiscent of the Middle Ages.

The Nigerian people are now on the battleground of two ideologies: one which views their women and girls as seeds of peace and harbingers of a better future; and the other, an extreme ideology of hate and oppression which views women as chattel to be sold and used, abused and discarded at will.

After the girls were taken in Chibok, Nigeria, their school was burned to the ground. The flames consumed their books, papers, and end of year exams. Their actions were clear: education, especially of girls, should be destroyed.

How will our voices respond?

Learn more about the oppression women face in honor-based societies. Watch Honor Diaries, a film featuring Zainab Khan and eight other courageous women’s rights advocates in a dialogue about gender inequality in Muslim majority countries.

Cover Photo Credit: Michael Fleshman, Flickr Creative Commons

Remembering the Female Heroes of 9/11

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Image Courtesy of Katie Killary on Flickr (Creative Commons).

Growing up in America, I would often hear adults recall “where they were” the moment President John F. Kennedy got assassinated. I could never relate. How I wish that was still the case. For my generation, we remember where we were when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and The Pentagon.

After finishing an early morning dentist appointment, I noticed that the entire waiting room was stunned silent as they watched the horrifying events unfold on the office’s television. The moment I saw the live news footage of the World Trade Center towers, I understood why. A feeling of emptiness, shock, and awe enveloped me as never in my lifetime, or ever for that matter, had America suffered from such a significant and deadly attack on our soil. I did not know what to do next so, like everyone else in that room, I watched in horror. But what I could not know at the time was that out of the horror would come stories of unimaginable courage.

Of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks, 412 were emergency workers – firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics.

On 9/11, the world watched as our firefighters bravely climbed up the stairs when everyone else ran down; as police officers remained calm as survivors fled the scene; as paramedics and EMTs helped the wounded without giving a second’s thought to their own safety.

Although the aforementioned careers are predominantly male-dominated, women too proudly served and protected on that fateful day – a fact all too often overlooked.

I don’t think there was any task that was performed down there by men that were not performed by women.” ~ Terri Tobin, Deputy Inspector of the New York Police Department

In 2011, CNN produced the documentary Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11 to emphasize women’s roles as first responders. In the film, female firefighters, police officers, and an EMT recall their experiences.

Image Courtesy of Mike Shade on Flickr (Creative Commons).

One featured story depicts that of the late NYPD police officer Moira Smith. Moira prevented mass hysteria and crowded exits by ‘directing traffic’ with a flashlight at the ground floor of World Trade Center Tower Two. Today, survivors remember ‘the woman with the flashlight’ with extreme gratitude and appreciation, for her service not only undoubtedly saved thousands of lives, but also restored some semblance of order and control in the midst of complete and utter chaos.

However, we must not forget that Moira’s story is only one of thousands in which women (and men) displayed superhuman courage.

Instead of associating today with terror and fear, we must remember all those – including women – who stood valiantly in the face of danger in an effort to save the lives of others. Stories like Moira’s, although a tragic reminder of our female heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice, now evoke emotions of hope and strength of the human spirit – and for that we will be forever thankful.

For more information about the female heroes of 9/11, please see the following:

Cover Image Courtesy of Mark Garbowski on Flickr (Creative Commons).