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
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.
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.
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.
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.