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The Fight to Educate Afghan Women


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Pashtana Durrani is an Afghan human rights activist and community development expert focusing on girls’ education. She’s the founder of LEARN Afghan, a grassroots organization established to safely and securely provide education to girls through a distributed network of tablets using an offline platform.

In this episode of Motivational Mondays, she shares where her passion to educate Afghan women stems from.

Pashtana’s LEARN Afghan Program

One of the reasons Pashtana’s platform is designed to work offline is that Afghanistan doesn’t have a lot of electricity. If you’re in a mountainous region and you don’t have consistent access to the internet, offline learning is important.

The LEARN program offers a hybrid model where students meet in the same space and teachers teach via Google Meet. When the kids go home, they can access the platform. Each student learns differently, so the lessons can be adjusted to account for their learning style.

Pashtana’s curriculum has more than 80 teachers facilitating the digital programs and has reached 7,000 boys and girls in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Why Pashtana Began Teaching English

Afghan men are characterized as controlling with no desire for their daughters to learn. But Pashtana’s father taught her that her only ticket to freedom was an education. She studied during the day and evening, and held classes for older girls who had to do house chores during the day.

She shares that “If you’re privileged enough to be able to afford private school, you should be sharing that knowledge.” Her father stood up against their social norms so Pashtana—and every girl—could get an education.

Striving to Make a Difference

Why is it necessary to fight for women to receive an education? Because of the current Afghan regime, girls can attend school from ages 4-12. But once they turn 13, they aren’t allowed to go to school.

Women don’t have the autonomy to make informed decisions and aren’t allowed to work or study. The goal of the current regime is to instill fear in people so they don’t fight for their rights. Women and human rights are still being abused.

Pashtana was obsessed with attending a prestigious college and when she was 16, she was offered admittance to a prep school for Oxford—but she didn’t go. She felt called to stay and educate girls in Afghanistan. She loves her home more than anything and it will always be her priority. She didn’t want to wait to attend college to make a difference.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

[0:32] The LEARN Afghan program
[3:34] How and when Pashtana began teaching English
[7:56] Afghani cultural expectations
[9:27] Why girls eat last in many Afghan homes
[13:30] America’s struggles with misogyny and sexism
[16:32] Why women are oppressed under Taliban rule
[24:47] Why we can’t ignore the oppression around us
[27:50] Pashtana’s decision to turn down prep school

Listen to the bonus episode to hear Pashtana recall the importance of her father’s school and her pride in her efforts to educate Afghan women.