Sana Khader from India is learning about the world through letters.
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7 February 2019 | Volume 1, Issue 15
  A note from our editor:
Sometimes we plan for “theme” issues of Assembly, like our green issue on young environmental activists or our Full Force issue centred around Malala Fund’s campaign to prepare girls for the future of work with quality education. This wasn’t supposed to be one of those issues. But as I read over today’s Assembly, I realised that the subject of connectivity comes up in every piece.
  • Maddison Miller describes her job as an archaeologist in Australia — she learns about her Aboriginal ancestors’ way of life and then applies that knowledge to modern contexts.
  • We honour children’s literature pioneer María Elena Walsh from Argentina, who captured the imaginations of a generation of students with characters like Manuelita the turtle and Mono Liso the monkey.
  • 23-year-old Sana Khader from India tells us that although she isn’t able to travel the world, she feels like she has with her 56 penpals from 32 countries.
  • In our reader spotlight, 15-year-old Mia from South Africa shares that she likes reading this publication because we “bridge the gap” between different parts of the world.
  • Ahead of Nigeria’s upcoming presidential election, 33 girls across the country discuss what issues they want their next leader to address.
Division might be a popular topic on news outlets, but in this issue, we’re celebrating the things that bring us together. Modern science allows Maddison to see how her ancestors lived thousands of years ago. Words enable María Elena Walsh to continue to educate and inspire new readers. Through pen and paper, Sana discovers cultures different from her own. Technology helps Mia learn about the lives of other young women around the world. And hope for the future unites girls in Nigeria as they prepare to elect their next president.

I hope you enjoy this issue — just one more thing that connects us all.

Career profile
Digging through Australia’s past for a better future
Maddi Miller
  A typical day at the office for Maddison “Maddi” Miller involves digging through dirt and earth to uncover artifacts that haven’t been touched for thousands of years. “It’s very Indiana Jones,” she says with a laugh.

Maddi is an archaeologist at Heritage Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. It is her job to visit sites around the Australian state of Victoria and assess them for their heritage significance. Recently, Maddi excavated a prisoner of war camp and the headquarters of a native police force. Part-scientist, part-detective and part-historian, Maddi tells the stories of people in the past and their way of life.

Before arriving at a dig, Maddi conducts research. A LOT of research. She considers why people would have been at that location in the past: “Maybe it’s a cave site so it’s about shelter. Maybe it’s a riverside so you understand people might have been there accessing the resources.” She learns as much as possible before going out into the field. Once there, Maddi must carefully record the site before she begins digging — this involves detailed photographing, mapping and note-taking. Archaeology is destruction, Maddi explains. Once you dig, you can’t get it back so it is important to keep comprehensive records.

Read more.
This Moment in History
Celebrating María Elena Walsh, renowned Argentine poet and singer
February 1, 1930 — January 10, 2011

María Elena Walsh was a poet, novelist, musician, playwright, writer and composer from Argentina. A pioneer in children’s literature, her songs and books are beloved by generations — her most popular characters include Manuelita the turtle and Mono Liso the monkey.

María was one of the few activists to challenge the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina. She created popular political songs like “El País del Nomeacuerdo” (The Country of Idontremember) and “Venceremos” (We Shall Overcome).
Sana Khader is learning about the world through letters
Sana Khader
  Sana Khader has seen the hills of Ireland, the wildlife of Alaska and the skyscrapers of Malaysia — through letters that is. Sana is a prolific penpaller. She has 56 penpals from 32 countries. She isn’t able to travel the world, but through her penpals, Sana feels like she has.

While most of us are busy checking our emails, texts, WhatsApps, iMessages, Slacks and DMs (the list goes on and on), Sana looks to the postman to bring news from her friends. She began penpalling because she wanted to learn about cultures outside her home country of India. She finds writing letters to be one of the most honest and personal ways of communicating.

I spoke to Sana about her penpalling hobby, why she thinks letters are important in a digital age and how you can begin penpalling.

Tess Thomas (TT): How many penpals are you currently in correspondence with? How do you keep track of them?
Sana Khader (SK): I have 56 penpals from 32 different countries. I have a journal where I note down the details of each letter I sent and received. I keep track of them by assigning pages for everyone in my penpal list. I also paste a photograph below their names so that I know how they look when they receive mine!

TT: What benefit do you think physical letters have over communicating electronically?
SK: Letters do tell stories. They're real. They don't hide feelings. Penning down our thoughts on a piece of paper is an emotion. I don't feel the same about the text messages we get on daily basis! No technology can beat it.

Read more.
Reader spotlight
“I like reading Assembly because not only does it bridge the gap between many people in the world, it is also an amazing way for me to keep updated about different movements and actions and how they are happening.”
— Mia, 15, South Africa
We love meeting our readers and hearing from members of our community. Tell us about yourself or about your ideas for Assembly using our submission form — and you could be featured in a future issue!
Sound off!
Ahead of Nigeria’s election, 33 girls share their hopes for the next president
Nigeria elections
  As Nigerian voters register in record numbers, we spoke to 33 girls and young women around the country to hear their hopes for the next president.

The election — to be held on February 16, 2019 — will decide who leads Africa’s largest economy and biggest population for the next four years. It is the country’s sixth election since the military handed over power to a democratically-elected civilian government in 1999.

While they are not all old enough to vote — the minimum age to vote in Nigeria is 18 — each girl we spoke to is invested in the outcome of the election and the future of their country. Here’s what they had to say:
“The next president of Nigeria should address the issue of education first. I hope the quality of education in my country improves after the election. The next president should also improve the security in Nigeria — people are running away from their homes because of the lack of safety, which is very bad.”
— Grace, 16, Edo State

"I hope that after this election, Nigeria will have a leader who will work hard towards ensuring that every Nigerian girl — irrespective of her tribe or religion — receives not just education, but quality education.”
— Ruth, 17, Enugu State

“The 2019 elections saw the rise of six female presidential aspirants, who should be lauded for their bravery in contesting. However, they will remain aspirants because the sad reality in Nigeria is many people won’t vote for a woman presidential candidate.”
— Abigail, 19, Kebbi State

Read more.
Get published in Assembly!
  Assembly publishes original work by girls, for girls. And we would love to include your voice! Send us your ideas and you could be featured in the next issue.
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