Advocate for a girl’s right to education under the Taliban’s presence and you are surely going to put your life at risk. The case of Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old Pakistani girl who was shot just because she spoke out for women’s right to education, is a recent example. A 2011 UN report suggests that there were around 185 attacks on schools in Afghanistan. Both educators and students have been living under the constant threat of violence in this part of the world.
However, even these extremely trying and life threatening circumstances haven’t seemed to faze the brave Razia Jan, who’s been running a girls’ school in Deh’Subz Afghanistan for the past four years. The school is now imparting education to 354 local girls, who would have otherwise received none.
Born in Afghanistan, she fled the country during Soviet invasion in the year 1979. She moved to the U.S. and went on to get a degree from the Massachusetts University then eventually became a U.S. citizen. She always chose to remain active in her Massachusetts community. She also remained actively involved in helping people and rescuing workers during the 9/11 attacks in New York. Moreover, she successfully organized a blanket drive in her own community and sent around 400 blankets to the workers at Ground Zero. But, she did not stop there, Razia went on to organize a shoe drive and sent more than 300 boxes of shoes to the children in Afghanistan.
However, her life transforming moment arrived in the 2002 when she made a trip to her homeland. It was the plight of the girls in Afghanistan that broke her heart. The oppression and sufferings of women shook her deep inside and she decided to relinquish her life of comfort in the U.S. and was resolved to do something about it. It did take her quite a few years, but it was sheer grit and determination that helped her buy a piece of land, on which she is now successfully running a school and a foundation called Razia’s Ray of Hope. The school is entirely ran on donations and costs around $300 to educate one girl for the entire year.
As expected, repeated attempts were made to discourage her from opening the school. The day before the school opened, four men showed up and threatened to drop the idea, telling her that boys are the real backbone of Afghanistan. However, they got a prompt and blunt reply from Razia, “The women are the eyesight of Afghanistan, and unfortunately you all are blind and I really want to give you some sight.”
She continued to witness and hear stories of schools being attacked with grenades and water being poised to kill female students in the nearby schools. She realized that it was important to pay as much attention to the security of the girls in her school. Therefore, you will find stone walls being erected around her school, guards who not only inspect every single visitor, but also check the water tank to ensure that it hasn’t been poisoned. Moreover, girls have been prohibited from drinking tap water and the guards check the rooms each morning to ensure that there is no poisonous gas.
Razia strongly believes that is the education which will bring peace and harmony in the world. She views girls as the pillars of the society and feels that by educating them, change will come. She is also trying to establish relationships with the local communites, whose support is very crucial for the success of this mission. She has now chosen to live in Afghanistan, dedicating the rest of her life to this mission.
In her words, “I hope that one day these girls … will come back and teach, because I’m not going to be there all my life. I want to make this school something that will last 100 years from now.” [CNN]
It is people like Razia Jan who make us believe that if we have the will and the right intentions to bring a change to this world, then nothing can stop us!