SALAAM School founder and women’s rights campaigner dies from injuries

Founder of SALAAM School, well-known women’s and youth rights campaigner and Minivan News columnist, Aminath Arif ‘Anthu’, died yesterday afternoon from burn injuries suffered in an accident at a family barbecue on June 5.

Anthu and her sister were burned while attempting to extinguish an Indian man after a large container of flammable liquid he had been using to tend the barbecue caught fire and burst.

The Indian man suffered burns to 90 percent of his body and died on June 17 while being treated in India, while Anthu’s sister sustained burns to her hands.

Anthu herself suffered burns to 55 percent of her body and was airlifted to Sri Lanka for emergency medical treatment.

As a Swiss citizen, she was evacuated to Zurich University Hospital in Switzerland where she underwent multiple operations to try and save her life. Minivan News understands that she died ahead of a major skin graft operation.

Her three children launched an appeal on Facebook, ‘Help my Mum’, to try and raise money to cover the costs of her evacuation and medical expenses.

Anthu, who is the daughter of local historian Abdul Hakeem Hussain Manik, contested the 2009 parliamentary elections as a candidate for the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP).

Anthu was a passionate and outspoken advocate both of education for the young and disadvantaged, and of women’s involvement in all aspects of society, particularly business.

Anthu lived in Switzerland for over 20 years and could speak fluent German, and in 1999 founded SALAAM School in Male’, an educational foundation providing training and life-skills coaching to young men and women. She was a highly-respected figure in NGO circles in the Maldives.

Anthu celebrated her 50th birthday in April, and is survived by her three children.

Writing for Minivan News

On the impact of a society of powerless women:

The powerless women are those who deny their own needs of physical, spiritual and psychological development, do not seek financial independence and do not accept the responsibility of their own well-being. Their financial dependence is self construed and often subject to tribal influences. The powerless women are fearful of stepping out of their familiar disempowering environment; are emotionally dependent, fearful of the unknown; the terror of dislocation and disconnection; scared of predators; devalue themselves; behave like second class citizens; panic about responsibility for their children’s under-performance, and fear of being unable to spare their children from suffering.

Unable to escape their circumstance; insecure about their own role in her life and lastly, refusing to claim their constitutional rights and use whatever structural, institutional or regulatory tools that are available for her to fight for herself. Powerless women weigh down the social and economical growth of Maldives. Women are poorer than men, carry family responsibilities of children’s upbringing irrespective of the circumstance, and make up half of the Maldivian population. Women head 47 percent of households either as single (when husband remarries or leaves the island to work somewhere else) or divorced parent. The social cost of disempowered women is high.

On democracy and Maldivian politics:

There is no individualism in Maldivian society except for those in control. Individual’s needs are not validated and only the overall function of society is important. The Maldivian society is thus a singular being – something that can be manipulated and changed as a whole and poverty and inequality are just valid parts of society, so are juvenile delinquency, crime and domestic violence.

Democracy is a threat to Maldivian politicians, businessmen and religious leaders because it calls for sharing or wealth and privileges, position and power. Democracy dilutes society as a entity, through its principles promoting equality, fairness and tolerance where the individual and minority are validated and majority will is respected.

On setting parental example and the impact of divorce:

A child’s behavior reflects their experiences at home. When there is hostility or fighting among parents, this creates a lot of anxiety. When parents are rude and abusive towards each other, children experience insecurity. A cycle of competition, jealousy, rivalry, disrespect and forms of abuse starts amidst confusion and nervousness and thus creates the dysfunctional family. Dysfunctional families disconnect and neglect each other.

The Maldives has one of the world’s highest divorce rates. Many parents do not handle their separation maturely and can be seen to act with bitterness and revenge controlling their behavior. An unfair burden is placed upon the child during the divorce.

Children replay what they observe and experience. Children experience the feeling of loss, betrayal and being cast aside while parents tangle with resentment, sense of failure and blame, leading to self-victimisation and succumbing to revenge or silence and resignation.

On the vicious cycle of youth unemployment and alienation:

Instead of seeing youth as an asset to social development, social reality is a growing population of unemployed youth being the victim of social disorder. The problem occurs in a vicious circle where poverty, unemployment, crime, drugs, poor schooling, inadequate housing, broken and dysfunctional families, etc, where each one is the cause and each one is the effect. The future is explosive and a serious threat to social equilibrium as Maldives fails to give hope and social assurance to its youth.

Today the youth in Maldives is seen a liability, a major stumbling block in the transitional democracy, and looked upon as a social burden, their energy and vibrancy diminishing at an increasing rate. Who should be the creator of the conditions that will turn youth into assets? The government is no doubt the caretaker and has a very tough responsibility to fulfill. The pressure of this responsibility is to make the youth of this country economically independent and self-reliant.

On the need for arts in the Maldives:

The Maldives needs a comprehensive and high quality arts education. The passivity we see in children, the nonparticipation in our youth and the lack of ability to bridge difference and solve conflicts in our adults can be caused by the lack of a most significant vehicle in our society: arts to “express the inexpressible and the unbearable”.

On the limited aspirations and opportunities for young people in the Maldives:

Many young men join our classes because it is the only opportunity to walk through an open door. Young men and women’s motivation to get married early is evidently the results of nothing else to do in the community.

Boys are expected to have future employment and young women have limited aspirations for their future lives and work. With such limited personal aspirations and goals, marriage may appear to be an attractive option for these young women. Being a wife gives a young woman a role and often a deceptive one. Unfortunately being a husband does not change much for a young man who has not understood the responsibilities and commitments that go along with marriage. Young people cross the threshold to adult life without having experienced youth.

On her school being attacked after allegations of “spreading Christianity”:

Today there are factions of Maldivians who believe that artists should not be encouraged and there are stories of confrontations, threats and attacks. This happened to SALAAM School in 2000.

The school was vandalised in October 2000. Paint was thrown into the corridors, liquid soap onto the walls and the petals of the fans bent so that they touch each other at the tips. The school was under attack and labeled in the media as ‘spreading Christianity’. Miadhu explicitly wrote on April 22, 2010: “Anyone who has studied in the Arabian Peninsula should know that missionaries have been using the word “Salaam” to spread Christianity. After six months when the cat was out of the bag, Maumoon had no choice but to close the school which he opened with his very own hands.”

Was it the word “SALAAM” or the teaching of arts that was the measure to identify Christian missionaries? The reason behind the vandalism will never be known. Was it political or was it the believers of the new Islamic movement? There was every attempt to stop anything that brought people together, and SALAAM School was attracting many young people to one place.

On conservative gender politics in the Maldives:

“While Maldives is under pressure to mainstream gender issues, the onslaught of conservative religious preachers is confining more and more women to the four walls of their homes.

Within this isolation, women succumb to a resigned lifestyle removing them from social and professional live, stripping them of their self worth and self confidence over time. It hits hard when the husband starts an extra-marital affair and soon deserts his prime family to start another life with the new woman. In many instances, family and friends joins the deserting husband to re-instate that the man left the woman for reasons such as failing to fulfill the needs of the man, further victimising the woman. Left alone and without love and care, the blamed woman has no one to turn to, within her family or otherwise.”

On standing up for women in business:

Women tend to devalue their skills, abilities and experience more than men do. Women must value their offerings in order for customers and prospects to value them. The ability to be compensated well for the value a woman provides lies squarely on her ability to look the customer/prospect in the eye and state, with confidence, that it’s worth the price she is charging. So my fees remain… discounts come only after quotation.

On the first Maldives Hay Festival:

It gave people the opportunity to participate and fill in the gaps in knowledge of the Maldivian heritage and culture. It gave people the opportunity to contribute to important issues and understand the Maldivian contexts in Maldivian literature and play a participatory role in the evolving Maldivian story.

It took ‘Maldivian’ beyond food, music and dance and rituals. It helped people enter and explore the depths of the Maldivian heritage blending common global issues that affects Maldivians and will impact the Maldivian lives and help reflect on where we came from and where we are going. The broader participation will enrich our culture and help the nation to grow.

Read Anthu’s collected articles for Minivan News

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31 thoughts on “SALAAM School founder and women’s rights campaigner dies from injuries”

  1. Very sad. Will feel cold without her words and inspiration, they were a warm flame burning for justice and peace.

    But one who burns so brightly never truly dies. Her Spirit burns on in the inspiration her words and work continues to be for others. Our essence is our Love, this, for me, is the meaning of our "soul..." Our love lives on in those it was directed towards. Aminath lives on, in our hearts and minds, through her love for Maldivian people and her hope for their Peace and Justice.

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  2. Big lesson to be learnt here people!
    Well fire is dangerous! fact! just because you have a little sliver of a balcony/ terrace , it really isn't safe to BBQ using fuel oils carelessly. You need space to do these kind of stuff. So happy the building didn't burnt down.
    Condolences to the family of this woman, who was brave enough to try to help someone else burning.

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  3. Very sad news. May Allah rest her soul in peace. We have lost an intelligent person from our society.

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  4. An inspirational woman, an outspoken woman, a brave woman. A woman who will be dearly missed by all those that knew her and worked with her. A woman who gave so much to the country that she loved.
    Condolences to her family. Rest in peace Anthu.

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  5. My sincere condolences to the bereaved family on this tragedy. Ainthu has always been a dear friend.

    She had a passion about the social issues facing this country and a special interest in promoting women's rights and their role in business to enable women be more self-sufficient.

    May Allah grant Ainthu eternal peace and strength to her family.

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  6. keep remembering the fire of day of judgment..more than 70% hotter than this universe fire

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  7. imran, have you been paid by someone to damage your people's love of Islam man, because you are doing a damned good job of destroying any hope of many turning to Islam...

    Even Prophet (SAW) showed some respect for his dead enemies man... Joined funeral respects even for a Jew!

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  8. Please, Ben, or whoever you are, let it be and do not turn this one article into a forum on religion.

    My respects to Ms. Arif. She was truly an asset to society and a colorful and intelligent figure like her father before her.

    She will be remembered.

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  9. Huge loss for Maldives. My sincere condolences to her children and family. May she rest in peace.

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  10. A terrible loss to the country and especially for young women of Maldives. I have known Anthu for over 30 years and she was always Maldivian first. She always spoke of solutions and gave every hope. She wants things to improve and never lost hope. She envisioned this day of democracy breeding and wanted to bring change for the better. She was kind hospital and "Swiss auntie" for many young people. Even when she was in danger she tried her best to help others. That is the Anthu I always saw in her. We will miss her. May Allah give her the highest place in Jannah. Ameen.

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  11. Ismail Saadiq on Your comment is awaiting moderation. Sun, 10th Jul 2011 7:30 AM 
    A terrible loss to the country and especially for young women of Maldives. I have known Anthu for over 30 years and she was always Maldivian first. She always spoke of solutions and gave everyone hope. She always insisted that things are going to improve and never gave up even when we thought it was impossible. She envisioned this day of democracy breeding and wanted to bring change and dreamed of better days. She was kind, hospitable and “Swiss auntie” for many young people. Even when she was in danger she tried her best to help others. That is the Anthu I always saw in her. We will miss her. May Allah give her the highest place in Jannah. Ameen.

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  12. Thank you for all you have done for Maldivian women, this is a great loss to our country...

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  13. @Tsk Tsk: I was not going to. I just felt enraged by the lack of respect shown above me. My motive was out of respect for the Family.

    She will be missed by all, my condoloscences to her Family.

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  14. @Lives - What brilliance you have to be using the following words/phrases in this case. Deserving of the "Brain Fart of the Year" Award, LOL:

    "Will feel cold without her words and inspiration, they were a warm flame burning for justice and peace.
    But one who burns so brightly never truly dies. Her Spirit burns on..."

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  15. "To Him we belong,to Him we shall return" Rest in peace Ainthu..

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  16. Ainth died as she lived..in service of others. A visionary leader who touched so many of us with her vision, her courage, her commitment to empowering others and making a difference to the the country she loved so much. She lived her life with passion dedicated to the service of others not afraid to speak the truth and not afraid to live the truth. Its a tragic loss to our nation. Let us commit, those left behind to carry on in her memory the work she did to empower women and our young people to live lives of dignity, abundance and joy.

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  17. @ben please..keep remembering the fire of day of judgment..more than 70% hotter than this universe fire..its good to you...

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  18. @Ben Plewright , as you and I both know, it is futile trying to have a reasoned debate with a religious fanatic (such as imran in this case.

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  19. @Lives
    very bad choice of words considering how she died.
    the word burns appears three times in your tribute to the deceased.

    "Will feel cold without her words and inspiration, they were a warm flame burning for justice and peace.
    But one who burns so brightly never truly dies. Her Spirit burns"

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  20. i really ask Minivan news what their editorial policy is on posting some of the comments above that are derogatory for the bereaved and her family!

    the family is going through a great tragedy and why does Minivan news make this a forum to give a voice to disrespectful and insensitive comments that are nothing but hurtful??

    Anthu died while trying to save the Indian man, how many maldivians, given the rampant xenophobia in the country, would do that?

    it sickens me to read some of the comments.

    I plead with Minivan to be a bit more sensitive to feelings of the bereaved family.

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  21. Minivan so sorry, please remove my comment under the pseudonym lives and replace it with this one in the following comment...

    Very sad. Will feel empty without her words and inspiration, they were a bright star shining for justice and peace.

    But one who shines so brightly never truly dies. Her Spirit shines on in the inspiration her words and work continues to be for others. Our essence is our Love, this, for me, is the meaning of our “soul…” Our love lives on in those it was directed towards. Aminath lives on, in our hearts and minds, through her love for Maldivian people and her hope for their Peace and Justice.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  22. Very sad. Will feel empty without her words and inspiration, they were a bright star shining for justice and peace.

    But one who shines so brightly never truly dies. Her Spirit shines on in the inspiration her words and work continues to be for others. Our essence is our Love, this, for me, is the meaning of our “soul…” Our love lives on in those it was directed towards. Aminath lives on, in our hearts and minds, through her love for Maldivian people and her hope for their Peace and Justice.

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  23. My deepest condonlences for the family and my sincere prayers for Ainthu Arif, who has always been a strong advocate for women's and youth rights 🙂 She will always be remembered...

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  24. @shafeea....I could not have used better words to describe Anthu.
    Loved and respected her like no other, I have not met anyone else who could motivate someone with such kind words. I remember her asking me to hold a foam ball that she carried in her bag... 'Hold this dear! You know... this tiny thing has travelled around this country and touched the hands of many great women whom I have had the chance to meet. I'm sure this must have travelled to each atoll in Maldives."
    I feel that, that yellow ball with the happy face on it was Anthu's own heart...
    Thanks to Minivan for sharing her collection of articles with us. I will treasure her words forever.

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