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1,000 Days After School Ban, Afghan Girls Defy Odds and Thrive in Rwanda

By IOM Press
Rwanda SOLA students are escorted by IOM staff members to ensure their safety during travel. Photo: Robert Kovacs/IOM 2024
FRI, 14 JUN 2024 LISTEN
SOLA students are escorted by IOM staff members to ensure their safety during travel. Photo: Robert Kovacs/IOM 2024

Geneva/ Rwanda, 14 June – 1,000 days since the ban by de facto authorities on Afghan girls from attending secondary school, over a million girls are left without access to education. Since the  18 September 2021 ban, more than 40 Afghan girls have moved to Rwanda to continue their schooling since the start of 2023. 

“The journey of these girls is a beacon of hope, demonstrating that with the right support, education for youth can flourish even during the most challenging circumstances,” says Ash Carl, IOM Chief of Mission in Rwanda. 

Over one year has passed since the first group of students arrived in Rwanda under the partnership between the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The agreement signed in 2023 between IOM and SOLA, ensures newly admitted students receive travel assistance to Rwanda from outside Afghanistan to further their education at SOLA’s campus. 

“In the face of adversity and the denial of education for girls in Afghanistan, SOLA remains a sanctuary of learning and hope. We are not just countering the narrative of oppression; we are rewriting it with every girl who learns, leads, and dreams of a peaceful Afghanistan,” says Shabana Basij-Rasikh, SOLA’s Co-Founder, stressing on the importance of continuing to invest in Afghan women and girls. 

While the journey and transition can be an emotional rollercoaster, IOM staff escorting the students and the SOLA community do everything possible to ease the transition. Reflecting on the past year, one of the students shares what the transition was like for her. “Joining SOLA was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. They welcomed me into a community of love and support, built by amazing young women who are keen to learn.” 

As the SOLA community in Rwanda grows, the pioneering group of over 100 Afghan female scholars who arrived in 2021 are now playing a crucial role in welcoming and mentoring the new students. These trailblazers have become the backbone of a supportive network, guiding their peers through the transition and sharing their own experiences of adapting to a new life and academic challenges in Rwanda.  

The original cohort’s dedication to supporting the next wave of scholars exemplifies the spirit of SOLA, where every student is committed to lifting each other up. Their journey symbolizes not just a physical transition, but a transformative educational experience that continues to underpin their growth as future leaders. They have not only adapted to their new academic environment but have also flourished, showcasing their resilience and dedication to learning. 

As restrictions to women’s rights in Afghanistan intensify, more Afghan girls remain in need of education. So far, SOLA has already received over 2,000 applications for the incoming class of 2024 as more girls strive to access a fundamental human right so far denied. 

IOM’s remains committed to supporting regular pathways for migration, reaffirming both organizations’ commitment to education and opportunity for Afghan girls. 

Notes to Editors 
SOLA welcomes applications from Afghan girls who are passionate about leadership and education and wish to be a part of Afghanistan’s next generation of female leaders. 15 June 2024 marks the final day to apply for the incoming class of 2024.  

Prospective students and their families can learn more about the application process and requirements by visiting the SOLA website. 

In addition to SOLA's campus in Rwanda, SOLA’s new digital platform SOLAx, offers free education for Afghan girls through self-paced coursework, which requires only a smartphone and basic internet to access. 

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024

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