Pakistani Women Counter Country’s Violence With Textbooks, TV Shows

BY Larisa Epatko  May 22, 2012 at 1:46 PM EDT

Pakistan is experiencing a surge in many types of violence, and some of the women working to counteract it place some of the blame on the country’s schools.

Naziha Ali, a journalist and documentary filmmaker in Karachi, Pakistan, said the violence in her home city has increased of late. (Read more about Karachi’s challenges.) “The violence there is of all kinds: ethnic violence, sectarian violence, political violence,” Ali said. “And I know there are many people who will not step out of their homes every day before checking the news because they don’t know what is happening where.”

Part of the problem stems from what children are taught in some schools, said Bushra Hyder, director of the Qadims Lumiere School and College in Peshawar in northern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.

The students learn a misinterpretation of Islamic concepts, she said, and are taught derogatory things about other religions. “When they’re only hearing about people from other religions in a negative way, they are becoming more intolerant [and] more aggressive towards the other groups and other religions,” Hyder said.

The two women, who are part of the Amn-o-Nisa (Women and Peace) Coalition, said their group is working on making television programs that will demonstrate the impact of extremism on women and children and how school curricula can be changed to counteract it.

Hyder encouraged countries that want to help, including the United States, to work with women in Pakistan, which is known to have a patriarchal society. “It may sound contradictory to what everybody assumes, but women do have very subtle and a very, very far reaching impact within families,” she said. “So you must talk to women who are working on peace and working on moderating extremism.” (Read a profile of a group helping to empower women in Pakistan.)

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