Geneva/ Rwanda – The International Organization for Migration (IOM), is supporting the relocation of Afghan girls to Rwanda to continue their education, following the decision by the de facto authorities to ban women and girls from secondary and tertiary education in Afghanistan.
The girls are among the first overseas students to be admitted to the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), an Afghan all-girls boarding school originally based in Kabul, before it was forced to relocate to Rwanda following the ban.
As the first and only school of its kind, SOLA provides a safe space for Afghan girls to receive a secondary level education, with a vision of creating a generation of female leaders.
“The dedication and strength of Afghan women and girls in the face of such adversity inspires and humbles us every day,” says IOM Director General António Vitorino.
“This initiative fills me with hope and resolve to continue our advocacy alongside women and girls in the country, for an Afghanistan that acknowledges, promotes, and builds on the contributions of its women, and invests in its girls.”
The arrival of the girls in Rwanda follows an agreement between IOM and SOLA to assist with safe travel arrangements and relocation of its students - already outside Afghanistan - from their current countries of residence to the SOLA campus in Rwanda.
The students who have arrived so far were assisted and escorted to the SOLA campus by IOM staff.
“The students were very excited to be travelling to their school. During the flight, the youngest girl was given a pilot’s hat and sunglasses. She was so excited and happy; she wore her hat the entire journey and told me she wants to be a pilot when she grows up,” said an IOM staff escorting the students.
Reflecting on the agreement between IOM and SOLA, SOLA’s Founder, Shabana Basij-Rasikh said: “March 2023 marks one year since the Taliban closed the doors of girls’ schools in Afghanistan, denying Afghan girls the right to study past 6th grade. It is incredibly meaningful to me that they are now arriving in Rwanda to pursue their education, and I am endlessly grateful to IOM for helping facilitate their safe travel to our school where they will grow to become members of a generation of leaders who one day will help rebuild Afghanistan.”
The new students will join their classmates at SOLA, who were welcomed by the Rwandan Government back in August 2021. IOM will be continuing to help with the relocation of more Afghan students to SOLA.