Defeating the Taliban, One Educated Girl at a Time / Pashtana Durrani

Apr 4, 2024

Terrorists and Afghanistan were back in the headlines because of the recent murderous ISIS-K attack on a concert in Moscow. No one should be surprised, since terrorism seems to be one of that benighted country’s few reliable exports. But, shouldn’t we all be worried that once again the Taliban seem to be hosting terrorists who can strike far outside their borders? And shouldn’t someone be trying to do something about the underlying problems of a failed state?

The good news is that someone is: Pashtana Durrani, a formidable Afghan woman, is deeply devoted to bringing her country into the 21st century, one empowered woman and one educated girl at a time. Through Learn, an organization that educates high school girls in their home villages, she might be one of the bigger threats to Afghan fundamentalism in the long run. Needless to say, the Taliban aren’t happy with her, which is why she works from exile.

Pashtana recently published “Last to Eat, Last to Learn” describing her journey so far. The book and this conversation aren’t just optimistic, they are proof points that individuals can make a difference, if they are stubborn and have good ideas. Ms Durrani, who was honored in 2021 as a Tällberg-SNF-Eliasson Global Leadership Prize winner in the Emerging Leader category, has both.

Moreover, she may be right: educated girls might just be to the Taliban what kryptonite was to Superman. Tell us what you think and comment below.

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LAST TO EAT, LAST TO LEARN: My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women (Feb. 20, 2024)
Pashtana Durrani has spent her life continually resisting expectations. In a society where men have more opportunities than women, her father told her she could be anything she chose to be.

The book reminds us that in her home country, women come last in nearly every aspect of society. Here she shares the arresting, often shocking story of her journey from refugee to activist and catalyst for global change

Pashtana Durrani (Boston, MA) is an Afghan human rights activist and community development expert whose focus is girls’ education. Durrani is the founder of LEARN Afghanistan (@LearnAfg), a grassroots organization established to safely and securely provide education to girls through a distributed network of tablet computers using an offline platform. Through LEARN, she has educated 7,000 girls and boys in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and trained more than 80 teachers in digital literacy. LEARN also focuses on girls’ health, and has trained 700 girls in menstrual hygiene management.

Durrani was named an Education Champion by the Malala Fund for her outstanding work to advance Afghan girls’ education. She was a global youth representative for Amnesty International and a board member of the steering committee for the Global Environment Facility, an international partnership to address pressing environmental concerns. She is also a winner of the 2021 Tällberg-SNF-Eliasson Global Leadership Prize,  Emerging Leader category, which recognizes leaders who have addressed complex global challenges in innovative ways. Her outstanding work placed into The BBC’s 2021 Most Influential Women list, as well as the 2021 #Times100talks.

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