Published May 6, 2009
St. Louis-Post Dispatch covered Meredith May's visit to a high school in Missouri, where she talked about the Pulitzer Center project "Olga's Girls."
From the story:
The idea behind showing students a brief documentary at Soldan International Studies High School was to heighten their awareness of global conflicts.
As they watched the film about kamlaris, or Nepalese girls sold into servitude, the students were transported to a different part of the world thousands of miles away.
What they didn't know was that a girl in their own class had a similar story to share about her childhood in Afghanistan.
The film was part of a program sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which seeks to expose American high school students to global issues such as poverty, domestic abuse and child violence. But rather than lecturing students on those distant hardships, the program puts students face to face with the reporters who have dug up the stories firsthand.
So when San Francisco Chronicle reporter Meredith May told Soldan students about the kam-laris in Nepal, she spoke from authority. For nine days, May was in Nepal, documenting the adversities faced by women and children.
"Oftentimes they're beaten and abused, raped ... they don't have their own room, they have to sleep on the floor, and this treatment has to do with the caste system," May said to the 13 students, their desks arranged in a semicircle around her. "Do you know what the caste system is?"
They nodded their heads, along with Gulmakai Zulmai, who may know better than anyone else.
Gulmakai grew up in Afghanistan with her parents and four siblings. When she was about 5 years old, she was coming home from a cousin's funeral with her family on a bus when civil war broke out and gunshots were fired. Five people on the crowded bus survived, including Gulmakai's family. But she was shot in the leg and it had to be amputated. Six months later, her father died and her mother remarried.