Too often in our world today we see hate accomplish its objective of dividing people and creating more hate. Few have the sheer nerve to stand in defiance against the forces of hate, and fewer still in places where that hate has created a whirlwind of violence and injustice that reaches every aspect of life. Nangyalai Attal is one of those few.
Attal began his journey in education more than 15 years ago as a young student in a rural valley outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. When he was growing up, the Taliban came to control almost 90% of the country, and he witnessed firsthand the restrictions on the rights of young women in his village. As he himself learned to read and write, his mother brought girls from the community into their home and after she gave them religious lessons orally Attal would instruct them in reading and writing the same lessons. The following year, they registered the home school as one of the first girls schools in the entire valley, and with efforts from local elders and international organizations this led to the establishment of the first official school for girls.
Those girls, much like the ones he continues to help today, were not allowed to attend school under the strict and oppressive traditions of the Taliban and earlier under the mujahedeen regime. After a U.S.-led offensive scattered the Taliban into rural regions in 2002, the militant group began to target people for simply speaking English, but Attal continued to learn and teach even with this constant threat.
This unrelenting spirit has taken him around the world as a Fulbright Scholar and a Development Fellow for the Asia Foundation, but his true passion remains to make the dream of an education a reality for Afghan girls. In 2015, he founded the Hode Educational and Social Services Organization (HESSO) to promote education for children, particularly girls, in rural Afghanistan where conflict, tribal traditions, and economic factors have deprived them of that right.