Met the Next Malala: Neelam

Neelam see creativity as a way of teaching children to ‘build’ and ‘construct’ rather than ‘distroy’.

Sabtu, 25 Jul 2015 12:00 WIB

Neelam held a meeting for women whose husbands have gone missing due to the war between the Taliban

Neelam held a meeting for women whose husbands have gone missing due to the war between the Taliban militants and the government. (Photo: Mudassar Shah)

Neelam Ibrar Chattan makes breakfast for her mother and younger brother.
She serves them and rushing out the door without eating anything.

As she leaves her mother Mariam Bibi rants Quranic versus after her in the hope of protecting her.  Her husband died of heart attack some twelve years ago.

“I encouraged Neelam because it was her father’s dream to be a social work. I want my daughter to play her role for the people of the area and also fulfill the dream of her father. I know people don’t like her going out of the house and working in the community but I don’t care.  I trust my daughter,” she said.

She earns around 60 US dollars a month sewing cloths and gives half of that to her daughter to pay drawing material for her workshops which she has called:  “Peace for a New Generation”.

21-year-old Neelam Ibrar Chattan runs conflict resolution workshops for children from families who have joint Taliban militant groups who are fighting the government.

She holds these sessions fifteen times a month in different areas.

“I have seen children as young as 12 and 13 in my village joined Taliban militants just so they can get some money or have guns so that other people are afraid of them. I decided to work to save my generation from terrorism and educate them about peace,” she said.

In 2013 Neelam Ibrar Chattan was awarded the European Union-Paiman Trust Gold Award for her endeavors for peace.

Twice a month she holds a meeting for women whose husbands have gone missing due to the war between the Taliban militants and the government.  

42 year old Khalida rarely misses one of Neelam’s workshops.  She comes from a family who traditionally supports the Taliban militants.

Her husband jointed the Taliban and never returned home.

“Neelam encouraged me to live a happy life and to sent my children in school and to keep my children away from the weapons and terrorism,” she said.

After talking with the women Neelam leaves to go to another workshop.

This time it’s a drawing one for children on the outskirts of Mingora.

The children do not get opportunity to learn drawing and painting in schools.

Neelam see creativity as a way of teaching children to ‘build’ and ‘construct’ rather than ‘distroy’.

11-year-old Saad Ali who has a broken hand playing toy guns has painted two scenes of his village using green and grey color pencils.

“This is the place of peace where there is no terrorism and fight and this is peaceful and beautiful place and here is a place where fight has been and that is not so nice,” he said.

After the Peshawar school massacre on the 16th of December last year the government allowed teachers to carry guns.

It’s something Neelam thinks was big mistake.

In June a teenage student was killed when his teacher accidently shot him when he was checking his gun.

Sardar Ali is the grieving father.

“I request all parents and government officials to ban weapons in schools. I am afraid other children might die tomorrow like my son was killed. School is a place of learning and education and we should not allow weapons there,” he said.

It’s one of many battles Neelam is fighting to create a peaceful Swat Valley.

“Most people say that women can’t do anything positive in our society. It encourages me to prove these people wrong since I work for the basic rights of children like the Right of life right of education. I have reached over 500 children so far who are directly or indirectly affected of terrorism. At least, these families live a better life because of my efforts,” she said.


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