Pashtana Durrani at Harvard Book Store


Last to Eat, Last to Learn:
My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women

in conversation with LAYLI MAPARYAN


February 22, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes PASHTANA DURRANI—Afghan human rights activist and founder of the nonprofit LEARN Afghanistan —for a discussion of her new book Last to Eat, Last to Learn: My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women. She will be joined in conversation by LAYLI MAPARYAN—Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

About Last to Eat, Last to Learn

Inspired by generations of her family’s unwavering belief in the power of education, Pashtana Durrani recognized her calling early in life: to educate Afghanistan’s girls and young women, raised in a society where learning is forbidden. In a country devastated by war and violence, where girls are often married off before reaching their teenage years and prohibited from leaving their homes, heeding that call seemed both impossible and dangerous.

Pashtana was raised in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan where her father, a tribal leader, founded a community school for girls within their home. Fueled by his insistence that despite being a girl, she mattered and deserved an education, Pashtana was sixteen when, against impossible odds, she was granted a path out of the refugee camp: admittance to a preparatory program at Oxford. Unthinkably and to her parents’ horror, she chose a different path. She chose Afghanistan.

Pashtana founded the nonprofit LEARN and developed a program for getting educational materials directly into the hands of girls in remote areas of the country, training teachers in digital literacy. Her commitment to education has made her a target of the Taliban. Still, she continues to fight for women’s education and autonomy in Afghanistan and beyond.

Courageous and inspiring, Last to Eat, Last to Learn is the story of how just one person can transform a family, a tribe, a country. It reminds us of the emancipatory power of learning and the transformational potential that lies within each of us.

A portion of proceeds from Last to Eat, Last to Learn will be donated to LEARN (, the NGO dedicated to providing quality education and healthcare to communities in conflict zones.

Praise for Last to Eat, Last to Learn

“Pashtana’s story highlights the resourcefulness and bravery of young women in Afghanistan. I hope readers will be inspired by her mission to give every girl the education she deserves and the opportunity to pursue her dreams.” —Malala Yousafzai

“Pashtana’s voice is once-in-a-generation. A born leader who took her own dreams and broke them into a thousand pieces to share with others. Her story is an inspiration. Her work, a mission—more necessary now than ever. Pashtana Durrani came to live out loud. And we should all be listening.” —Amna Nawaz, co-anchor of PBS NewsHour

“As an American, I meet many who know little and feel no likeness to the land where so many of our sons and daughters gave their lives. Idealistic yet logical, Pashtana serves as a portal between two seemingly divergent worlds, illuminating the shared human values that connect us. The relevance of her story has no bounds. It belongs in the hands of the politician as much as the soldier, the parent, or the child. While we may characterize Pashtana as an activist, or educator, let us first characterize her as a leader.” —Major Jessica Yahn, Cultural Support Team, U.S. Army Special Operations Command

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Layli Maparyan
Layli Maparyan

Layli Maparyan

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College. She is the author/editor of four books: The Womanist Reader (Routledge, 2006), The Womanist Idea (Routledge, 2012), The Bahá'í Faith and African American Studies: Perspectives on Racial Justice (with Loni Bramson; Lexington, 2023), and Womanism Rising (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming Fall 2024). Currently, she also serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Fund for Women.

Pashtana Durrani
Pashtana Durrani

Pashtana Durrani

Pashtana Durrani is an Afghan human rights activist and community development expert whose focus is girls’ education. Durrani is the founder of LEARN Afghanistan (@LearnAfg), a grassroots organization established to safely and securely provide education to girls through a distributed network of tablet computers using an offline platform. Through LEARN, she has educated 7,000 girls and boys in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and trained more than 80 teachers in digital literacy. LEARN also focuses on girls’ health, and has trained 700 girls in menstrual hygiene management.

Photo Credit: George Kerrigan

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