October 17, 2018

Former student raises awareness for child abuse in Pakistan

The Kasur case scandal left more than three hundred children victimized by pornography in Pakistan. With no action being taken on the issue, Noor Rashid became inspired. She ended her time at Webster for the fall semester to start an organization called Quwat e Uraan to raise awareness on the child sexual abuse problem in Pakistan.

“I could not see innocent children falling into hands of sexual predators just because of lack of awareness,” Rashid said. “I started this organization with the mission to eradicate child abuse from Pakistan. It might take years to achieve this goal, but I always tell my team that even if we save one child, all the hard work would be worth it.”

The Kasur case is a series of the child sexual abuses that happened two years ago in Hussain Khanwala in Kasur District, Punjab, Pakistan. Rashid said after the case was publicized in 2015, she started to do research on child sexual abuse in Pakistan. A year later, she had organized a team and started the project. Her group of 5 has grown into a group of 30 in just two years.

The name Quwat means power and Uraan means flight. Quwat e Uraan is the power to fly.

“The philosophy behind it was that we want to empower the children and give them a chance to chase their dreams and reach horizons,” Rashid said.

In Pakistani law, a pedophile is entitled to imprisonment from less than a year up to seven years. She said some children will not get justice because of the politics that are involved, but she believes small actions can contribute towards bringing a huge change.

“Sometimes parents are hesitant to file cases as they do not want to put their child into further trauma. So we try to find the best way to fight for justice for children who are abused,” Rashid said.

Quwat e Uraan has three long terms goals. One is to have a child abuse preventive methods in the syllabus at elementary and middle school. The second is to establish a 24/7 helpline for victims to call anytime, they can send them help immediately and the psychologist will be available anytime. The last goal, Rashid said, she wants to start an orphanage/shelter home for children who do not have parents or guardians and who are more prone to child abuse. She said she enjoys serving the community, seeing the smiles on the children’s faces that she talks to and being able to spend time with them.

“I have seen many people around me becoming comfortable in talking about child sexual abuse. I have seen it becoming less tabooed,” Rashid said. “I expect through this project we can also pressurize the courts. I want to see predators receiving the punishment they deserve.”

Muhammad Sikandar Ali Chaudary, vice-president of Quwat e Uraan and the younger brother of Noor Rashid writes awareness articles, reports about events and the social media specialist. He said she is brave for raising awareness for an issue like child abuse because they live in a conservative society where people do not want to talk about it.

“When she proposed an idea for this organization, many people in her close circle didn’t like it,” Chaudary said. “They told her not to start the process because it is very risky and it will bring her a lot of problems, especially [when it comes] with child abuse.”

Chaudary said that in the beginning, it was hard because they didn’t have a team, but that Rashid knew that child abuse would be a hard topic to discuss in Pakistan. When it comes with discussing plans in detail, Chaudary said she listens to the group when they have an idea, and as a leader she gets everything done in a perfect way so she can get the best results.

The plans including having more workshops on child sexual awareness in areas that are economically deprived and areas that are not educated on child abuse. Rashid’s team members also volunteer at an orphanage regularly to take the children on field trips, teaching art classes to students.

Chaudary said she is a good democratic leader. He said she listens to people, sits with them and works on different ideas by accepting constructive criticism. He believes she is not afraid to step up first and take initiative.

“We went to a homeless community, and no one wants to step in to help because the area was not clean, the house was not well maintained and it was stinking,” Chaudary said. “Noor was the first person to step into that area and she keeps telling us ‘you are here to work, you are here to change a life, it’s not whether we like this area or whether we don’t like it, it’s about giving something back to the community’ and [after that] we all followed her.”

Quwat e Uraan has visited more than 50 organizations and planned five awareness events that are open to the public. They started an awareness campaign in slums and rural areas of Rashid’s city of Lahore. She said children who live in an economically depressed status are more likely to be abused. Her team visited 60 different slums, and have workshops with parents to teach them the importance of educating children to protect themselves from abusive situations. This also includes teaching the benefits of speaking out on the issue.

Vladimir Radojkovic, a senior at Webster said his friendship with Rashid started when they were in the same class. Radojkovic said Rashid is very hardworking, noble, has no fear in what she does but a strong desire to achieve and accomplish.

“She has that drive, she never stops. There was always something that is going on in her life at Webster,” Radojkovic said.

Rashid and her team in Quwat e Uraan raising awareness to people in Pakistan by preparing booklets for children, which Rashid said it is because the booklets are animated and the children learn fast. Through research and surveys, she said it became easy to convince the school’s authorities and the parents about letting them  talk to children about child sexual abuse. When they go to schools to lecture about the awareness of child abuse, they invite the children’s parents and have a separate session for them to discuss the issue and to answer any questions they have.

Other than doing work for child abuse awareness, Rashid said her organization works towards other issues as well. Quwat e Uraan annually hosts an open mic on feminism and equal rights. They also had planned a campaign during Ramadan, which is a fasting period for Muslims to promote acceptance amongst the communities in Pakistan.

Rashid said they served the transgender communities and made a documentary on how they deserve equal rights. She said Quwat e Uraan is participating in the national environmental project called “Green Revolution” by planting trees across the city. She said that they are doing small projects as well as like getting medicines for the elders in the nursing home or providing shoes for children at the orphanage.

“Raising awareness is not a risk. Apart from convincing authorities at schools and getting all the paperwork done, it is pretty easy. Child abuse awareness is just one way to make sure that children have a safe and healthy environment to learn and grow,” Rashid said.

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