Razia Jan

by Evelyn from San Diego

"These girls need to get educated. Knowledge is something nobody can steal from them." -Razia Jan
Razia Jan; my hero ( ())
Razia Jan; my hero ( ())

Only eighteen percent of girls over fifteen in Afghanistan know how to read. Only forty percent of females attend school.  The startlingly low number of women with no education results in disadvantages for Afghan women.  They are abused, mentally, physically, and sexually.  Many females are forced into arranged marriage, and even go as far as to set themselves on fire to escape this fate.  This is where Razia Jan comes to help.   Born in Afghanistan, Jan experienced some of the sexism herself.  She was fortunate enough to move to the United States when she was thirty and received an education.  After continually hearing about the statistics of Afghan girls not receiving education getting worse and worse, Razia Jan decided to step up and make a change.  Razia Jan's strength, determination, and courage shown on her journey to open an all-girl's school makes her a true heroine.

Students of Razia Jan ( (CNN))
Students of Razia Jan ( (CNN))

Although sixty-seven years old, Razia Jan demonstrates exceptional strength.  She has experienced many hardships in her life such as moving from Afghanistan to the United States and rebuilding her life. Those hardships caused wear and tear on her now frail and weak body.  Despite that, she still found the strength to open her all-girl's school.  She singlehandedly raised about 150,000 dollars from donations and fundraisers to cover the cost of building the school. She got the money from donations to her non profit organization "Razia's Rays of Hope" as well as some sponsors.  Even after the school was built and funded for, there were still more obstacles.  One day, before the opening of the school, four men came in to demand and threaten Jan to turn her school into a boy's school.  She dismissed them like it was nothing:  "'You can't be afraid of people,' she said. 'You have to be able to say 'no.' Maybe because I'm old, the men are kind of scared of me, and they don't argue with me,'" (qtd. in "Acid attacks").   She showed more strength than the powerful men threatening her.  Her confidence and demeanor inspire us to stand up for what we believe in and back it up with all the strength we can.  If Jan didn't have the determination and passion she does for her school, she would have been dead a long time ago. Jan says, "'every day, I can see a difference. I have a lot of fun; that's what's keeping me alive.  'Otherwise, I would have been gone a long time ago,'" (qtd. in "AFGHAN GIRLS' SCHOOL").  Her strength and passion is what keeps her alive and inspires many.   

In order to achieve her goals, Razia Jan had to overcome many obstacles.   Before she found inspiration to make a difference, Razia Jan had a nice life.  She was very fortunate to be able to leave Afghanistan and go to America to get an education.  There, she went to college, had a son, became an American citizen, and opened a small tailoring business in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  She had a perfectly stable, normal life. However, one huge tragedy occurred, completely changing Jan's mindset about life, and caused her determination to make a difference soar high. This incident was the infamous 9/11 tragedy.  Jan says, "'I so admired those men,'. 'I thought: this is the courage needed to make a difference in the world.' So, like the firefighters she so admired, Jan ran towards the flames of war, at a time when most Afghans were running the other way,'" (qtd. in Khan).  She saw the firefighters as heroes, and decided she wanted to be one too.  Her determination is what made her return back to Afghanistan when it was most dangerous. She also showed determination when many people told her to stop doing what she was doing:  "'Excuse me. The women are the eyesight of Afghanistan, and unfortunately you all are blind. And I really want to give you some sight,'" (qtd. in Khan). She was determined to educate Afghan girls and not even big scary men could stop her from doing just that.  Razia Jan's determination is what led her to keep pursuing her goals.  

One classroom in her school ( (CNN))
One classroom in her school ( (CNN))

Lastly, Jan's courage is what made her stand out the most.  Not many people would willingly return to a corrupt, dangerous country after having escaped it years before.  "The terrorists who attacked were not Afghans, [but] the cancer was in Afghanistan. With all this chaos and things that happen, there is still a lot of lawlessness, corruption. But I can see hope in these things," ("AFGHAN GIRLS' SCHOOL").  Not only does she return to her dangerous homeland, she creates an all girl's school, against the consent of the people there, risking her life.  Her courage helped hundreds of girls get better lives.  Returning to the country takes courage, and running a school there takes even more courage. "Every day, you hear that somebody's thrown acid at a girl's face ... or they poison their water. There were at least 185 documented attacks on schools and hospitals in Afghanistan last year, according to the United Nations. The majority were attributed to armed groups opposed to girls' education.Despite the threat of violence, Jan continues to open the doors of her Zabuli Education Center, a two-story, 14-room building where 354 area girls are receiving a free education," ("Acid attacks").  Her courage is astounding and inspiring.


By showing strength, determination, and courage, Razia Jan showed true heroic qualities.  Throughout her journey to building and running the school, Jan didn't only make a huge difference in Afghanistan, but also inspired many people along the way.  "Jan, who takes no money for her work with the school, believes the education her students receive will benefit not only future generations of Afghan women but the country as a whole," ("Acid attacks").   She made a school that will hopefully last for at least one hundred years. Her school is one of the few all girl schools in Afghanistan and a very successful one, yet she takes no money for her hard work.  This shows that Razia Jan is running this school solely because she believes it is necessary for women to have education and get equal rights.  Her work comes from the heart, and expects nothing in return but the good results. All of her hard work definitely paid off.  There were over 400 graduates from her school.  One graduate says, "'I am so happy that I can read and write, Laila Hossaindad, one of Arzu's weavers, told Ms. Jan not long ago. It makes me powerful,'" (qtd. in "Afghan women; Opportunities Expand").  Razia Jan is a true inspiration and heroine.

Works Cited

"Acid attacks, poison: What Afghan girls risk by going to school." CNN Wire 20 Sept. 2012. Student Resources in Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

"AFGHAN GIRLS' SCHOOL FOUNDER VISITS HEIDELBERG." States News Service 7 Nov. 2012. Biography in Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

"Afghan women; Opportunities expand despite threats of violence." Washington Times [Washington, DC] 30 Aug. 2009: M04. Biography in Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Khan, Adnan. "Afghan Women's Activist Razia Jan Points the Way for Girls | The National."Afghan Women's Activist Razia Jan Points the Way for Girls | The National. The National, 10 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. <>.

Page created on 1/25/2014 1:01:45 PM

Last edited 1/25/2014 1:01:45 PM

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Related Links

Razia's Rays of Hope - My hero's foundation
CNN Heroes - Razia Jan on CNN Heroes, Learn more about her
Article about Razia Jan - More information here!
MY HERO Celebrates Human Rights Heroes