Until very recently, the girls living in Deh’Subz, a district in Afghanistan, faced serious disadvantages when it came to education. This was due to a combination of poverty, location, and Taliban rule. But it wasn’t always that way.
Before the 80s, Afghanistan was a very different country, one where women could—and did—hold prestigious jobs.
Razia Jan knew, and was raised in that world. She herself was highly educated, having moved to the United States in 1970 to study at Harvard.
After the 9/11 attacks, however, Razia turned her eyes back to her home country — she returned the following year. It was there that she decided to create a school for girls only — a private, tuition-free K-12 school. Thus, the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation was born.
The building she needed was already present: the Zabuli Education Center, which was meant to be a school for boys. It just needed to be rebuilt. However, the people wanted it to remain a boys’ school, claiming that men were Afghanistan’s “backbone.”
Razia retorted, “Well, you know, the women are the eyesight of Afghanistan. And unfortunately, you all are blind.”
So the people stepped back and watched as the Zabuli Education Center taught 91 girls in 2008. As their daughters and sisters learned to read and write, the residents slowly, slowly began to support Razia’s efforts.
The result was exactly what the Taliban feared: the girls began to recognize their humanity, and opposed sexist practices like child marriage in favor of an knowledge.
The Zabuli Education Center has been such a success that Razia is opening a two-year college in the spring, teaching November’s seven graduates subjects like midwifery, engineering, nursing, literature, and education.
And Deh’Subz is right behind them. “If anyone tries to do anything at the schools,” said one shopkeeper, referring to the Taliban, “they’ll have to put a bullet through me first.”
The Zabuli Education Center has already done so many incredible things for local girls, but now they have a chance to do even more: teach science with high-caliber equipment, like textbooks, microscopes, and beakers — tools that Western countries often take for granted. This opportunity they have is virtually unprecedented. However, they need help to make it happen.