Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Girls & Women

This Afghan Girl Is Defying the Taliban to Become an Astrophysicist

Flickr: World Bank Photo Collection

There is a brilliant budding astrophysicist sitting in a room alone devouring textbooks from Calculus and Physics to “A Brief History of Humankind -- which looks anything but brief.

Nicholas Kristof, author of Half the Sky and New York Times contributor recently spoke with her and calls her Sultana, leaving her last name and location anonymous.

After the Taliban threatened to sear her skin with acid if she continued school, her family (especially her father) devised a plan to allow her to learn.

At first, her education began with leftover articles written in English -- scraped up from her brother’s school lessons. Piece by piece she taught herself English prior to voraciously finishing textbooks she acquired. Then her father added something to the house that transformed her struggle -- the Internet.

Suddenly, a connection to a seemingly infinite world of education was found. Soon, Sultana was chatting with university professors, supporters, and accomplished authors such as Kristof.

One person Sultana met online is Emily, a student at University of Iowa, who is helping Sultana come to US to study. This move brings Sultana one step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a physics professor. And despite some of her family’s reservations, Sultana is no less determined.

“My mom said a lot of mouths will be open, a single girl going to the Christian world,” she told Kristof. “But I will die if they stop me.”

Taliban Destruction .jpgImage: DVIDSHUB

Sultana’s courage and determination is also the same thing the Taliban fears more than anything, something Kristof captured so well:

“Sultana reminds us that the greatest untapped resource around the globe isn’t gold or oil, but the female half of the population...The Taliban understand this: That’s why their fighters shot Malala Yousafzai in the head.”

Empowering girls and women to learn is the most powerful tool available to the world and it’s something which every person, government, and world leader should take all possible action to make happen.