Afghan Girls Find New Educational Horizons in Rwanda 1,000 Days After School Ban

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SOLA students are escorted by IOM staff members to ensure their safety during travel. Photo: Robert Kovacs/IOM 2024
SOLA students are escorted by IOM staff members to ensure their safety during travel. Photo: Robert Kovacs/IOM 2024

Against the backdrop of a 1,000-day ban preventing Afghan girls from attending secondary school, a beacon of hope shines in Rwanda, where over 40 Afghan girls have found refuge and education since early 2023.

This exodus from Afghanistan to Rwanda represents a partnership between the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), facilitating their journey to continue their studies.

Ash Carl, Chief of Mission for IOM in Rwanda, highlighted the significance of this educational journey, stating, “The resilience of these girls amidst adversity underscores the transformative power of education, even under the most challenging circumstances.”

Founded in solidarity against educational oppression in Afghanistan, SOLA remains steadfast in its mission to empower Afghan women and girls through education. Co-founder Shabana Basij-Rasikh emphasized SOLA’s role as a sanctuary for learning and hope, reshaping the narrative of oppression into one of empowerment and resilience.

Reflecting on their experiences, the students shared poignant insights into their journey of adaptation and growth at SOLA. “Joining SOLA was a transformative experience,” remarked one student. “The community embraced me with love and support, fostering an environment where young women thrive and aspire to learn.”

The pioneering group of over 100 Afghan female scholars who arrived in 2021 has become a cornerstone of support at SOLA, mentoring new students and nurturing a supportive network. Their dedication exemplifies SOLA’s ethos of mutual upliftment and leadership development, setting a powerful precedent for the next generation of scholars.

As applications surge for the incoming class of 2024, SOLA continues to stand as a beacon of hope for Afghan girls denied their fundamental right to education. With over 2,000 applications received, the demand underscores the urgent need to expand educational opportunities for Afghan women amidst increasing restrictions in their homeland.

The partnership between SOLA and IOM reaffirms their commitment to providing pathways for educational migration, empowering Afghan girls with opportunities to realize their full potential and contribute as future leaders in their communities and beyond.

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