This 22-year-old is risking it so that kids can receive an education.
A 22-year-old man in Afghanistan, Matiullah Wesa, is standing up for a girl’s right to education by making it his primary goal to make educational materials more accessible to them.
Afghanistan has a female literacy rate of just 20%, which is a result of most girls not being allowed to attend school for a variety of reasons. School is typically seen as a right for boys only, so about half of the schools don’t have the resources or space to admit girls as well. Even for those that have the resources, it’s dangerous for both the girls and the school to allow the females to attend because of threats from the Taliban.
A law was previously passed that banned girls above the age of 8 from receiving education, which crippled the education system but was put in place to supposedly prevent cross-gender contact. Terror ensued as the Taliban enforced the decree and killed anyone that disobeyed. Over a hundred girls schools were blown up and it became clear that this was more about sexism and keeping women oppressed. Wesa told Global Citizen,
“I hope that one day all Afghan girls will get the equal opportunity of a good education because I believe that the gift of knowledge is every human being’s right and should be pursued by everyone. Education is humanity’s best tool as it allows us to give more freedom, and brings peace, prosperity, and a better future to the people of war-torn countries.”
This is exactly what the Taliban doesn’t want, and that’s why what Wesa does is so dangerous and courageous. He faces the threat of death and violence because of his advocacy for girls’ education and women’s rights. Despite this danger, Wesa continues to fight for equality without being discreet about his intentions.
In the past eight years, he has opened libraries and given out tens of thousands of books to girls to encourage them to learn.
His decision to help children receive an education started when the Taliban destroyed his local schools when he was younger. Though he was fortunate enough to move to the city to continue his education, he knew the children in the surrounding villages were not as lucky. He made it his mission to build schools, reopen banned schools, and promote learning.
His seven volunteer-run libraries spread throughout the country are focused in villages rather than the cities because the cities have seen the most recovery in their education system. The villages have suffered dramatically and have not regained their footing.
Wesa ran a national book drive last year and collected about 20,000 books for his libraries and to hand out to children. He has even posted photos and videos of him handing out backpacks to girls. Though the backpacks are empty, they are filled with so much potential and opportunities not usually extended to females in the war-torn country.
As for what he’s asking of the global community, he said,
“[Children in Afghanistan] would like nothing more than to be able to go to school like other kids, to learn how to read and write, but unfortunately, there are either no schools for them to attend or they do not have any school materials to learn with.
“I would like to ask the international community to help us reset the education system here in Afghanistan and help me build new schools, libraries, and education centers so our children can learn and prosper.”
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