Jan Speaks on Educating in the Face of Opposition at 5th Annual Dorothy Day Lecture
Just moments before Razia Jan stepped up to the podium to deliver Sunday’s Dorothy Day Lecture, news was trickling in that a suicide bomber outside a voter registration center in her native Afghanistan killed nearly 60 people and wounded more than 100.
"You don't know what tomorrow brings," Jan said. "We have to keep going and hoping for a better day."
That belief has fueled Jan's advocacy for those in Afghanistan for more than a decade. In January 2002, in the wake of the American-led invasion of her home country following the September 11 attacks, Jan returned to Afghanistan after nearly 40 years in the United States. The war-torn country was nearly unrecognizable following the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s and the Taliban occupation of the 1990s. Taliban law had stripped women of their right to work or seek an education without threat of execution.
Jan set out to change their fate, in the form of a destroyed former boys' school in the Afghan village of Deh'Subz. In 2008, she opened the Zabuli Education Center, a tuition-free K-12 girls' school. Zabuli opened with 101 girls, and now educates more than 625 through a rich curriculum of math, science, computer literacy and four different languages, including English.
Though the school is thriving, Jan has long faced detractors. Just before Zabuli opened its doors, she was approached by several men who argued that the village instead needed to rebuild the boys' school, as men are the backbone of Afghanistan.
"I looked him in the eye and said, 'I'm sorry, brother, but you know, women are the eyesight of Afghanistan, and unfortunately you all are blind."
Jan's strength and wit have earned her respect from men in her country. "I know the languages, I know the traditions, and I know how far I can go," she said. "Sometimes I go too far, but I just ask for forgiveness."
More important, Jan said, is changing men's attitudes toward educating their daughters, for good. One of the first things young girls do at Zabuli is learn to write their fathers' names—a great source of pride for their families. She also knows that educating women will set off a ripple effect in Afghanistan, with their knowledge, skills and employability breaking the cycle of poverty, hunger and malnutrition for their families.
"When I see a graduate who is working on becoming a better person, mother or daughter, it brings me so much joy," she said.
Jan's efforts to empower women doesn't stop when they graduate from Zabuli. In March 2017, she opened the Razia Jan Institute, the first women's post-secondary vocational school in rural Afghanistan. The Institute sits adjacent to Zabuli and includes a clinic where midwifery students train alongside doctors and midwives. Students graduate in two years with marketable, much-needed skills and the opportunity to pursue a career that benefits themselves, their families and their community-a severely medically underserved area with no district hospital.
About Razia Jan
Razia Jan has spoken on women and children's issues at venues around the world. She is a member of the Interfaith Council and No Place for Hate, and a member of the board of directors at Jordan Hospital. She has received many awards for her humanitarian work, including the 2007 Woman of Excellence award from Germaine Lawrence Inc., multiple Rotary Club International Peace Awards, and certificates of appreciation from the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Legion. In 2011, the Duxbury Rotary Club honored Jan with their inaugural Amazing Woman of the Year Award. In 2012, she was named a CNN Top 10 Hero and also received the 2013 Speak for Thyself Award from the Alden House Historic Site and the 2013 American Muslim Women's Empowerment Council Award. In 2014 she was named Social Innovator by the Lewis Institute at Babson College. In 2015, Rotary International honored Razia with a Global Woman of Action award at the United Nations in New York.
Razia's Ray of Hope Foundation is a nonprofit organization that empowers young women and girls in Afghanistan through community-based education in the district of Deh'Subz. Founded on the knowledge that education is key to positive, peaceful change for current and future generations, the foundation provides young Afghans with the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe, nurturing environment, so that they may work toward brighter futures-in their own villages and beyond. Visit Razia's Ray of Hope to learn more about this organization and support Jan's work.
About the Dorothy Day Lecture Series
The annual Dorothy Day Lecture Series was launched in 2013 by the Emmanuel College Class of 1971 to honor liberal arts as the foundation and inspiration for meaningful social action. The goal of the lecture series is to encourage ongoing engagement with issues of social justice among students, alumni and the general public. The Dorothy Day Lecture Series features speakers who are role models for contributing to positive social change. The series is named for Dorothy Day, a courageous 20th-century woman of faith who dedicated her life to the struggle for economic and social justice.
With the release of its 2018 rankings of the top U.S. nursing schools, Nursing Schools Almanac placed Emmanuel College among the top nursing schools in New England. Of the 3,000 institutions assessed by Nursing Schools Almanac's research team, only 15% made the list of top schools in each geographic region.
In a city known for innovation in healthcare, opportunities for Emmanuel students are bolstered by our location within the world-renowned Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA). With walking-distance access to cutting-edge scientific and medical institutions, ours is a neighborhood that stands hand-in-hand with the future.
History and secondary ed major Michael Rainha left Emmanuel prepared to succeed in a classroom of his own thanks to dedicated professors, supportive peers and a career-solidifying practicum at North Quincy High School.
Through the Colleges of the Fenway (COF) consortium, students share the best of both worlds: continuing to study and live in a small-college setting while enjoying the resources of a larger academic environment.
As early as her second year at Emmanuel College, Jolie Erlacher '19 discovered the power of networking, seeing firsthand how the connections she has made at Emmanuel-and then beyond-have affected the course of her academic and career trajectory, each opportunity opening a door to the next.
Dr. Rebecca Moryl is an Associate Professor of Economics at Emmanuel College. Professor Moryl teaches on subjects including microeconomics, economic relations, the politics of international economic relations and urban economics. She believes that understanding economics is critical to understanding the worlds-big and small-in which we live.
Professor Aren Gerdon is the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics and an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Emmanuel College. He leads his own chemistry research group, focusing on biomaterials, and works closely with other research groups across campus. Professor Gerdon is passionate about sharing his deep knowledge of chemistry with his students, guiding them from class work to practical, real-world lab experiments.
Petros Vamvakas is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Latin American Studies, Middle East Studies and Peace Studies Programs. His work focuses on security and democratization, as well as issues related to identity and race in politics throughout the Americas. As part of his teaching, he has escorted groups of students to Crete, Greece, and will be bringing a group of students to Cuba.