One Man’s Efforts to Educate Afghan Girls
April 27, 2016
Below is an excerpt from a profile of 2016 Asia Foundation Development Fellow, Nangyalai Attal, which appeared this week in HuffPost Women. Attal’s work focuses on Afghan girls and young women. The article comes from a new book from the George W. Bush Institute, with an introduction by former First Lady Laura Bush, “We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope.” Mrs. Bush will deliver a special video tribute to Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani, who will be honored by The Asia Foundation at its sixth annual Lotus Leadership Awards Gala in New York City on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Read more about the Gala and honorees.
Afghanistan has always been a patriarchal society. Some Afghan women still need a male relative’s permission to pursue an education, to work, or to travel. It is often male relatives who choose when and to whom a girl marries. A father or a brother can decree that a girl is no longer permitted to attend school. A husband can require his wife to stay at home. And the country has long struggled with an embedded culture of violence against women.
“We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope” is a book about women, but men play an important role in their individual lives, and in the best of cases overwhelmingly for good. Many of the women who speak in the pages have fathers who have encouraged their education or husbands who have supported them in their business or professional pursuits. Parliamentarian Naheed Farid would not be in Afghanistan’s Parliament without the steadfast support of her husband and her father-in-law. As Zainularab Miri, the beekeeper of Ghazni, says of her father in the opening story, “He and my mother gave me all the same chances that my brothers had.” Other women tell how their education or their success has helped to change attitudes of the men in their families. Many, though, say that their father or their husband or their brother is “not like other Afghan men.”
Nang Attal is one example. He has devoted his life to girls’ education. The sole male voice in “We Are Afghan Women,” Nang tells of his own brave efforts to work on behalf of Afghan girls and young women. We are honored to share part of his story.
Nang grew up in the Khawat Valley, about 60 miles from Kabul, in a tribal region. Both of his parents were illiterate.
“Under the Taliban there was no girls’ education and also earlier during the mujahedeen time, there was no girls’ education in the countryside. After I started going to high school, my mom asked me to teach the girls in our valley how to read and write. I had about five girls sitting in my mother’s mud-brick kitchen to start and from there that number grew. My mom would teach them to say the religious prayers and after I would teach them the basics of reading and writing.
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