Last to Eat, Last to Learn

Nuzhat Nisar Ahmed reviews Pashtana Durrani and Tamara Bralo's book on women's education in Afghanistan
Last to Eat, Last to Learn

Book Review

Last to Eat, Last to Learn

My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women


Pashtana Durrani; Tamara Bralo

Published by Kensington Books

Last to Eat, Last to Learn, My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women is a candid narrative from a girl who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Pakistan and defied everything to bridge the sense of belonging with Afghanistan but encountered discrimination on both sides of the borders.

For me, Pashtana Durrani is the face of contemporary Afghanistan. With years of oppression, alone in her predicament, she showed unparalleled perseverance and determination- to mainstream education, peace, and equal opportunities in the region rattled with war.

Pashtana Durrani weaves her narrative through the conflict, societal norms, hierarchy, and powerful tribal system, navigating the cultural heritage. All this while fully conscious that in her home country, women come last in every aspect of society. I cannot explain how inspiring it is to see her resist, fearless, and hell-bent on to revolt. Actually, through this book, Pashtana is reclaiming everything she holds dear and rightfully hers: the women’s right to education, their right to marry, vote, speak publicly, own property, own a business, or rule.

Last to Eat, Last to LearnHer perceptions about the society she is a part of, her resistance to tone-deaf policies, and her educational strategies, evolving with the needs and changing dynamics of the region are awe-inspiring. She is not only providing learning tools to help raise her fellow Afghan women and girls but she has a vision to make education accessible, and she is committed to it, even if that means defying logic, safety, and individual benefits.

Her tenacious disposition against all odds is rare to witness. I love how she reintroduces the legacy of her predecessors, determined to put women of the region into a historical context and to resurrect a period that lost its way in the crisis.

What initially attracted me to this book- Last to Eat, Last to Learn, My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Womenis the title. But it is so much more than that, it is about the courage and struggles of Afghan women, a never-failing, never-ending struggle to find their path, the significance of education, the value of educators, the resonating impact of community, and the resilience of the human spirit. I am glad I picked it up.

I recommend everyone to read this book. It will give you a perspective about Afghanistan you never knew you needed. Also, this book should be translated into regional languages, e.g. Urdu, Pashto, and Farsi (Persian). Highly recommended.

About the Authors:

Pashtana Durrani (Boston, MA) 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 organisation 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. Durrani was named an Education Champion by the Malala Fund for her outstanding work to advance Afghan girls’ education. She was a global youth representative for Amnesty International and a board member of the steering committee for the Global Environment Facility, an international partnership to address pressing environmental concerns. She is also a winner for the 2021 Tällberg-SNF-Eliasson Emerging Leader prize, which recognizes leaders who have addressed complex global challenges in innovative ways. Her outstanding work placed into The BBC’s 2021 Most Influential Women list, as well as the 2021 #Times100talks. Currently she is a visiting fellow at the Wellesley Centers for Women in Boston, MA. Learn more at

Follow her on Facebook: @pashtanadurrani.barak

Twitter: @BarakPashtana

Instagram: @afghania_barakzai

Tamara Bralo is an award-winning journalist who worked for BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera English, and spent years covering war zones around the world; including Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Image by Amber Clay from Pixabay

Ananke’s Editorial Manager Pakistan, Nuzhat Nisar is an academic writer, editor, and translator. With over ten years of editorial experience, she is currently associated with Paramount Books as an editor, working on school textbooks and curricula. She studied Urdu, Mass Communication, and Education at the University of Karachi and has a Master’s degree in Political Science. She believes in promoting regional languages and equal opportunities in education and an avid supporter of equal rights for women. She also contributes to digital platforms as an independent journalist.

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