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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • When I was 11,

  • I remember waking up one morning to the sound of joy in my house.

  • My father was listening to BBC News

  • on his small, gray radio.

  • There was a big smile on his face which was unusual then,

  • because the news mostly depressed him.

  • "The Taliban are gone!" my father shouted.

  • I didn't know what it meant,

  • but I could see that my father was very, very happy.

  • "You can go to a real school now," he said.

  • A morning that I will never forget.

  • A real school.

  • You see, I was six when the Taliban took over Afghanistan

  • and made it illegal for girls to go to school.

  • So for the next five years, I dressed as a boy

  • to escort my older sister, who was no longer allowed

  • to be outside alone, to a secret school.

  • It was the only way we both could be educated.

  • Each day, we took a different route

  • so that no one would suspect where we were going.

  • We would cover our books in grocery bags

  • so it would seem we were just out shopping.

  • The school was in a house,

  • more than 100 of us packed in one small living room.

  • It was cozy in winter but extremely hot in summer.

  • We all knew we were risking our lives --

  • the teacher, the students and our parents.

  • From time to time, the school would suddenly be canceled

  • for a week because Taliban were suspicious.

  • We always wondered what they knew about us.

  • Were we being followed?

  • Do they know where we live?

  • We were scared,

  • but still, school was where we wanted to be.

  • I was very lucky to grow up in a family

  • where education was prized and daughters were treasured.

  • My grandfather was an extraordinary man for his time.

  • A total maverick from a remote province of Afghanistan,

  • he insisted that his daughter, my mom,

  • go to school, and for that he was disowned by his father.

  • But my educated mother became a teacher.

  • There she is.

  • She retired two years ago, only to turn our house

  • into a school for girls and women in our neighborhood.

  • And my father -- that's him --

  • he was the first ever in his family to receive an education.

  • There was no question that his children

  • would receive an education, including his daughters,

  • despite the Taliban, despite the risks.

  • To him, there was greater risk in not educating his children.

  • During Taliban years, I remember

  • there were times I would get so frustrated by our life

  • and always being scared and not seeing a future.

  • I would want to quit,

  • but my father,

  • he would say,

  • "Listen, my daughter,

  • you can lose everything you own in your life.

  • Your money can be stolen. You can be forced to leave your home during a war.

  • But the one thing that will always remain with you

  • is what is here,

  • and if we have to sell our blood to pay your school fees,

  • we will.

  • So do you still not want to continue?"

  • Today I am 22.

  • I was raised in a country that has been destroyed

  • by decades of war.

  • Fewer than six percent of women my age have made it beyond high school,

  • and had my family not been so committed to my education,

  • I would be one of them.

  • Instead, I stand here a proud graduate of Middlebury College.

  • (Applause)

  • When I returned to Afghanistan, my grandfather,

  • the one exiled from his home for daring to educate his daughters,

  • was among the first to congratulate me.

  • He not only brags about my college degree,

  • but also that I was the first woman,

  • and that I am the first woman

  • to drive him through the streets of Kabul.

  • (Applause)

  • My family believes in me.

  • I dream big, but my family dreams even bigger for me.

  • That's why I am a global ambassador for 10x10,

  • a global campaign to educate women.

  • That's why I cofounded SOLA,

  • the first and perhaps only boarding school

  • for girls in Afghanistan,

  • a country where it's still risky for girls to go to school.

  • The exciting thing is that I see students at my school

  • with ambition grabbing at opportunity.

  • And I see their parents and their fathers

  • who, like my own, advocate for them,

  • despite and even in the face of daunting opposition.

  • Like Ahmed. That's not his real name,

  • and I cannot show you his face,

  • but Ahmed is the father of one of my students.

  • Less than a month ago, he and his daughter

  • were on their way from SOLA to their village,

  • and they literally missed being killed

  • by a roadside bomb by minutes.

  • As he arrived home, the phone rang,

  • a voice warning him

  • that if he sent his daughter back to school,

  • they would try again.

  • "Kill me now, if you wish," he said,

  • "but I will not ruin my daughter's future

  • because of your old and backward ideas."

  • What I've come to realize about Afghanistan,

  • and this is something that is often dismissed in the West,

  • that behind most of us who succeed

  • is a father who recognizes the value in his daughter

  • and who sees that her success is his success.

  • It's not to say that our mothers aren't key in our success.

  • In fact, they're often the initial and convincing negotiators

  • of a bright future for their daughters,

  • but in the context of a society like in Afghanistan,

  • we must have the support of men.

  • Under the Taliban, girls who went to school

  • numbered in the hundreds --

  • remember, it was illegal.

  • But today, more than three million girls are in school in Afghanistan.

  • (Applause)

  • Afghanistan looks so different from here in America.

  • I find that Americans see the fragility in changes.

  • I fear that these changes will not last

  • much beyond the U.S. troops' withdrawal.

  • But when I am back in Afghanistan,

  • when I see the students in my school

  • and their parents who advocate for them,

  • who encourage them, I see a promising future

  • and lasting change.

  • To me, Afghanistan is a country of hope and boundless possibilities,

  • and every single day

  • the girls of SOLA remind me of that.

  • Like me, they are dreaming big.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

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【TED】Dare to Educate Afghan Girls | Shabana Basij-Rasikh | TED Talks

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