"Educating Girls: Breaking Down the Barriers in Afghanistan" was the title of a lecture given by Razia Jan, who was chosen by CNN as a top 10 hero for 2012.
Held in the lecture hall of the new science and mathematics center, the event drew an audience of more than a hundred and was the second installment of the recently inaugurated John Quincy Adams Foreign Affairs Distinguished Speaker Series, which is sponsored by the Dr. Edward Minnock Center for International Engagement.
Kathleen Reddy-Smith, a veteran foreign service officer who is BSU's diplomat-in-residence, opened the program by introducing Ms. Jan as the founder of the Zabuli Education Center in Afghanistan, a school in rural Afghanistan that provides free education to 400 girls.
Ms. Jan was described by Ms. Reddy-Smith as "a teacher of the forgotten girls of Afghanistan" because she has persevered in her mission despite threats and overt violence in a culture where females are often forbidden from pursuing an education.
"It's a miracle for me to be here," said Ms. Jan. "Education is so important, as we all know, and so many of the young women in Afghanistan, where I was born, are so underprivileged and have no chance of accomplishing anything of significance in their lives."
Ms. Jan has lived in the U.S. since 1970. She said she was inspired to become active on behalf of women and children in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, and among her accomplishments is the gathering of donations that resulted in 30,000 pairs of shoes being sent to the poor in that country.
"I founded Razia's Ray of Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in Afghanistan through community-based education," she explained. "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."
Ms. Jan's presentation included a segment from CNN highlighting her work. "The school is giving young women hope and encouragement and the tools to be successful," Ms. Jan explained. "There is, among some in Afghanistan, very strong opposition to educating women and girls but we are not deterred. With help and support from many friends around the world, the work continues."
Frederick Clark Jr., Esq., executive vice president and vice president for external relations, presented Ms. Jan with a gift from the university at the conclusion of her remarks and a check for $5,000 for her foundation from BSU president Dr. Dana Mohler-Faria. (Story and photo by David K. Wilson, '71, Office of University Advancement)