"I have a country to build,
and I will fight,
and I will take what is mine"

-Pashtana Durrani

How Pashtana began her struggle for education in Afghanistan — and how she continues to do so despite the taliban takeover through LEARN


Escaping civil war and the Taliban

In the 1990s, my family fled Afghanistan to escape the civil war and the Taliban control happening at the time.  I was born as a refugee in 1997 in Pakistan and was in a camp till 2016, when we were finally allowed to return back to Afghanistan. 

My first School

We had no means of education in our refugee camp. The closest school was 10 miles and we had no means of transportation. In 2001, my father, who was a tribal leader previously, opened a school for girls in our refugee camp. My mom and dad were teachers at this school and emphasized the need for educating girls and giving them every opportunity to become educated. Till date, 2022, the school is running and it educates 70 girls.


My Afghanistan

When I was born in 1997 the Taliban was in power. No one could imagine Afghanistan free from Taliban. Yet it happened. Today, again the Taliban took control. But I am hopeful this is not permanent. We cannot let the return of the Taliban extinguish our vision for our homeland as a place where all are free to learn and pursue their ambitions.

My Mission

I am on a mission to improve the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan. I grew up in a house where learning was normal. My parents started a school when we were in Refugee camp in Pishin Pashtunkhuwa. ,I never thought outside those walls education was so difficult to access. We grew up thinking education means access to learning.No matter whatBut it was all challenged when I first set foot in Afghanistan.I saw my own cousin unable to access education.Because there was no school in Spin Boldak.Durdana became my first student her hard work and passion pushed me to advocate for  girls access to education through digital literacy. In 2018 I founded LEARN Afghanistan, a nonprofit that works to expand educational opportunities in Afghanistan, and has educated thousands of Afghan boys, girls, and women, and trained dozens of teachers in digital literacy. At its peak, LEARN was operating 18 digital schools in cities and rural regions across southern Afghanistan, but when the Taliban retook the country last fall, the organization was forced to shutter almost all of its programs and shift its activities underground.

My Activism

I see elements of my father’s courage and my mother’s dedication in my advocacy work. I never thought I would take up the path of both of my parents. My mother taught and my father led. Today, I do both. Now I think children are the mirror of their parents’ actions. I still think to myself that the fact I am loud and I talk with a loud voice is because of my mother, and the fact that I’m always going to place aside my differences with someone to work on a bigger picture is because of my father.I sometimes am grateful to my father for teaching me about strong Afghan women. I was most influenced as kid by Zarghona Ana and Gawharshad Begum. Both of them strong courageous Afghan women whose stories says how much impact a woman can make if given the right opportunities.  I think it’s less about masculinity and femininity. It’s more about taking the good and putting it to use for any human. 

My Hopes

While many have been afraid to speak out, fearing retribution. Now is the time we take our space, we raise our voices, we make sure that we are heard. If the Taliban stops us, we have to evolve, we have to come up with different strategies. If they don’t let us have physical classes, we will go with online ones. Everything has a solution, and we are going to work on it.

End on a hopeful note that “Afghanistan may seem a conflict zone to you but its my home and home requires commitment and rebuilding post conflict, and requires people to support it”... I need your help. I hope you will join me on this journey of renewing Afghanistan.