BOSTON (CBS) – Their goal is nothing short of changing the future for girls in a war zone halfway around the world. This is the story of a woman who mobilized resources and built a school where there had never been one before.
Her name is Razia Jan, born in Afghanistan, but she’s lived in Massachusetts since the 70’s. After September 11th and America’s attack on terrorism in Afghanistan, Razia wanted to go back to her native country and do something that was impossible during the reign of the Taliban; build a school for girls.
“Education is something that nobody can steal from you,” she says. But under the Taliban they tried, forbidding girls from going to school, and they haven’t given up.
“Wherever there is the influence of Taliban, either they throw acid on the girls, or they kidnap them or they burn the school. They’re doing everything to stop women and girls from getting educated,” says Jan.
But with hard work and great generosity, especially from Rotary Clubs in Mass., Razia and others opened the Zabuli school in rural Afghanistan, about 30 miles from the capital of Kabul.
Four years ago about one hundred girls enrolled. Today, 350 girls from 7 villages attend.
“We need it because the core of this trouble and terrorism is ignorance,” says Jan. Patti Quigley from Wellesley lost her husband, Patrick on Sept. 11. She wanted to do something to heal the wounds and create a bridge to Afghan women. Today she’s the Executive Director of Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, dedicated to supporting and expanding the girls’ school.
“I think it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come and how excited they are to be in a school,” she says.
Razia is spending this week in Massachusetts. She visited the Sharon Middle School to talk to the 7th graders there. That class has decided to become partners with the Afghan girls’ school.
“It’s really cool that we can learn a little bit more about them and become closer to them,” says 7th grader Dan Ward. Sreya Bommaraju adds, “I just hope more girls in Afghanistan get to go to school and learn more. Just like people here.”
And that’s the goal.
“The reason for my struggle is that I know that there is hope. And one day these girls can stand for themselves,” says Razia.
Razia Jan has been nominated as one of CNN’s Heroes of 2012. If she get the most votes from the public she’ll receive $250,000, which is enough to operate her school for 3 years.
To learn more about the school: http://www.raziasrayofhope.org/
To learn about the CNN Heroes of 2012: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/index.html