The remarkable memoir of Pashtana Durrani, a 23-year-old Afghan woman, who has pursued her passion for educating the “disappearing girls” of the remote, contested rural tribal regions amidst all the turmoil, violence and oppression that has enveloped her country – and her family – over a generation
LAST TO EAT, LAST TO LEARN
by Pashtana Durrani
with Tamara Bralo
Kensington, TBD 2023
(via The Martell agency)
Pashtana Durrani was the first recipient of a grant from Malala’s Fund, and the founder of Learn NGO, an organization that was ruthlessly targeted by the Taliban. She conceived and developed a brilliant program for getting educational materials directly into the hands of girls and young women in the form of solar-powered tablets preloaded with lessons for grades K-12.
Pashtana escaped from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover and will soon be in the U.S., with a two-year residency at Smith College to continue her critical work for girls’ education. Malala wrote one of two letters to the U.S. government to petition for Pashatana’s safe evacuation to the U.S. Pashtana is a highly sought-after expert in the on-going international advocacy struggles, a figure of hope and promise for all those determined not to cede ground in the battle for women’s education and autonomy in Afghanistan and beyond. To get an idea of her passionate engagement and resilience in the face of despair, please watch this clip of an interview the weekend after the fall of Kandahar, which was her base, on UK’s Channel 4 (the same day she was also interviewed by CNN, BBC, NBC, ABC, the LA Times and Washington Post):
The New York Times has reached out to her twice to write an op-ed, which she will be doing shortly. For quite some time Pashtana has been a go-to person for almost every major media outlet. Her work has been recognized by Amnesty International and the UN.
Just as Malala proved, the young women of Afghanistan – and the world – will be the fiercest, most effective fighters in this just cause and Pashtana is one of their most determined and articulate voices. She has been working on educating young women since she was 7 years old (turning down a full scholarship to Cambridge, so she could so she wouldn’t be cut off from her girls for several years was an inspired, albeit shocking, decision). Her story and her students’ stories are heartbreaking and inspirational and offer essential lessons about the realities of the world beyond our borders and how meaningful lives can be led amidst stunning adversity. And the critical issues regarding the (non)education of women in Afghanistan and across the globe are not going away soon. We will never be able to shed too much light on this brutal situation.
The co-writer on the project, Tamara Bralo, is an award-winning journalist who worked for BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera English, and spent years covering war zones around the world, including Iraq, Libya, and Syria.