Razia Jan, founder of the Ray of Hope Foundation in Afghanistan, was recentely Named Top 10 CNN Hero for 2012. Among these ten, the person with the most votes will be named “CNN Hero of the Year,” and receive a $250,000 grant to further his or work. If you want to support the Ray of Hope Foundation, please vote now, you can even vote several times a day! Online voting for “CNN Hero of the Year” runs through Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at Midnight PT:
Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in Afghanistan through community-based education. Focused on the Afghan village of Deh’Subz, the organization was founded on the belief that education is key to positive, peaceful change for current and future generations. The foundation strives to provide opportunities to learn and grow in a safe, nurturing environment, empowering girls and women through education and resources so that they may work toward brighter futures — in their own villages and beyond.
After four years of efforts, Razia Jan was finally able in 2008 to open a school in Afghanistan where girls can get a free education. The school has taken measures to protect the girls from would-be attackers. Many armed groups in the country oppose the idea of girls being educated. 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. The Zabuli Education Center teaches kindergarten through eighth grade. Without her school, Jan says, many of the students would not be able to receive an education. Seven small villages make up Deh’Subz, where the school is located. Though Deh’Subz is not Taliban-controlled, Jan has still found it difficult to change the deep-rooted stigma against women’s education.
On the evening before the school opened, four men paid her a visit. “They said, ‘This is your last chance … to change this school into a boys’ school, because the backbone of Afghanistan is our boys,’ ” Jan recalled. “I just turned around and I told them, ‘Excuse me. The women are the eyesight of Afghanistan, and unfortunately you all are blind. And I really want to give you some sight.’ ” Jan has not seen the men since. “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.”
“After five years now, (the men) are shoulder to shoulder with me, which is such a great thing,” Jan said. “It’s unbelievable how much they are proud of the girls.”
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. “My school is very small. It’s nothing big. But for this to start here, I think it’s like a fire. And I think it will grow,” she said. “I hope that one day these girls … will come back and teach, because I’m not going to be there all my life. I want to make this school something that will last 100 years from now.”
For more information, please visit Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation website: