In 2012, Razia Jan was named a CNN Top 10 Hero. While she won the award four years ago, the issue she deals with remains equally relevant today and cannot be forgotten: the importance of educating young girls in Afghanistan.
Over the last decade, Razia has continued to empower young girls in Afghanistan to receive an education. She knows that these girls face many obstacles – the same obstacles faced, and overcome, by women such as Malala Yousafzi in Pakistan. Afghan girls trying to receive an education have faced threats against their lives: they have been poisoned, they have been attacked by acid, and their schools have been burned and bombed to the ground. Despite all this, however, Razia Jan knows the value of educating girls, and so that is what she does.
Razia Jan was born in Afghanistan, but moved to the US in the 1970s. While living in Massachusetts, she worked for the Rotary Club of Duxbury – a service organization that aims to bring professionals together to provide humanitarian services. While working for the Rotary Club, she learned about a school in Afghanistan that had been nearly destroyed, and she began planning how to rebuild it.
In order to fundraise for her cause, Razia created the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower young Afghan women and girls by providing education – a ray of hope – within their community. Razia serves as the president of the organization, and she has board members and supporters who help her run the foundation. Together, they have been able to fundraise enough money to build a school for young girls, now called the Zabuli Education Center. In 2008, the Zabuli Education Center opened its doors in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Afghan girls trying to receive an education have faced threats against their lives: they have been poisoned, they have been attacked by acid, and their schools have been burned and bombed to the ground.
Most of the girls at the school live below the poverty line, so the Zabuli Education Center provides their students with free education, uniforms, and meals. Many of these girls, who have many chores at home such as taking care of younger siblings or helping their parents get by, had parents who were hesitant to send their daughters to school. For many families in Afghanistan, sending to daughters to schools is not a priority and comes with many dangers. As a result, in order to get girls to enroll in her school, Razia had to convince fathers that it was a worthwhile investment for girls to set aside their daily work and receive a formal education.
Ever since the school started, it has continued to grow and develop successfully. It now enrolls more than 400 Afghan girls, teaching classes from kindergarten to twelfth grade to students ranging from four to twenty-two years old. Students attend class for about five hours each day, and have access to a computer room and a science lab. Many of the finances that help support the Zabuli Education Center come from donations to the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation. One student’s yearly costs at the Zabuli Education Center is just $300 a year.
The foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower young Afghan women and girls by providing education – a ray of hope – within their community.
Khaled Hosseini, author of the popular book The Kite Runner, publicly supports Razia’s work. He says that the work like Razia’s is going to help change the culture of women’s rights and women’s education in Afghanistan. He speaks in high regard of Razia and her ability to stay assertive about her mission while also being very diplomatic and respectful of the local people’s culture. A 3-minute video of him speaking about Razia and her mission can be viewed here.
To learn more about Razia Jan, Razia’s Ray of Hope, and the Zabuli Education Center, check out the foundation’s website. To hear more from Razia about the issue at hand (including stories about the difficulties behind starting the school), check Razia’s CNN Hero Page.
(The video at the beginning of the article was found on CNN’s Youtube Channel)