At only 10 years-old, Alaina Podmorow of Kelowna, BC is proving that emerging generations of women are already becoming visionaries ahead of their time. After attending a lecture where journalist and human rights activist, Sally Armstrong, educated the audience about the blatant oppression of Afghan women and girls under Taliban rule, something all of a sudden clicked for the young girl.
Alaina couldn't believe that many Afghan girls had been denied an education under the strict religious laws. Even after the fall of the Taliban in Afganistan in 2001, many families still feared sending their daughters to school due to serious safety concerns. And since cultural norms dictated that girls be taught by female teachers, the shortage of this demographic within the work force stood as a further obstacle between Afghan girls and their rights to an education.
So from these new dark truths emerged Alaina's epiphany: "On the way home, I was telling my mom how moved I was and I decided I wanted to start my group, Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan." And so her movement was born...
Shortly after, Alaina organized a club of the same name at her elementary school. She successfully recruited 18 members, all young girls from her fifth grade class. Meeting every lunch hour to discuss group activities, the girls decided that Little Women for Little Women (LW4LW) would organize a series of fundraising campaigns in order to raise enough money to pay for the wages of female teachers in Afghanistan. According to this reasoning, educated Afghan women would become encouraged to become teachers if they commanded a higher salary.
During LW4LW's first fundraiser, Alaina's group raised $750 by selling donuts and recycling. This initial achievement motivated Alaina to strive for bigger and better things. She set her sights on raising even more funds through a community potluck. And after it was all said and done, all of the hard work paid off--LW4LW received $1500 in donations.
From these humble beginnings emerged and unstoppable movement. Alaina's original vision inspired Canadian girls nationwide, spawning other LW4LW chapters throughout the country. While the group has collectively raised $30,000 to date, this number was about to grow exponentially.
The Canadian government had heard Alaina's story and invited the young activist to a International Women's Day gala in Ottawa on March 6, 2008. Since her enormous contributions to the community and abroad have resulted in the employment of dozens of female teachers within Afghanistan, the federal government agreed to match all of LW4LW's earnings dollar for dollar.
In order to encourage other Canadian mothers and daughters to get involved with LW4LW, Alaina posted letters to Mum on the Women for Afghan Women website. I would like to leave you with one of her letters:
I would like you to take a moment and visualize a little girl in Afghanistan. In her heavy black dress, no shoes on her feet, she walks for 4 hours to get to school. She feels like she is being watched as she walks along the path. At any second somebody could attack her. She frantically looks behind her but she continues on because she has to get to school. She is not being forced to go - she would do anything to go. Now visualize her face. Now visualize your daughter is that girl. Isn’t that frightening? It is hard to imagine girls just like your daughters, are in danger. What’s the best thing you can do? Keep teaching. What’s the worst thing you can do? NOTHING!
I challenge all Moms to tell their daughters to make a difference. I would like to see little girls across this country go to meetings with their moms for women in Afghanistan. I have started Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan in my chapter of CW4WA in Kelowna BC. My dream would be to see little girls do the same across Canada. If your daughters want to start their own chapter in your area please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBC News--Video Featuring Alaina
Little Women for Little Women Official Site
Women for Afghan Women Official Site