Hello, my name is Pashtana Durrani. I am a social and political rights Activists. I love writing, I love spending time with my mother in the evening and above all, I love working in rural Afghanistan.
I work for LEARN Afghanistan. We work to make education and healthcare more accessible through smart solutions in rural Afghanistan.
What inspired you to pursue this career? What path did you take to obtain this role?
I am an autodidact, which means I love learning on my own. When I was young, I thought education is free and accessible to any girl. Growing up I saw that even things like period or a lack of water supply can stop a girl from learning. This inspired me to ensure that girls around me don't miss out on opportunities to learn due to a lack of resources.
Who are your role models?
Gawhar Shad Begum
Malalai of Maiwand
And the list goes on and on! I can even add Queen Elizabeth the first. Good god, she was a force of Nature.
What cause or project is most important to you right now?
Project Soraya will always be near my heart. Education and literacy are important. I believe in an education that helps you become a responsible citizen and an independent adult.
Our education system needs to focus on freeing the minds but instead, there is always a box for students to fill in or fit into. I want to challenge that notion. All young girls should have leadership opportunities. If they do not, then we are probably doing something wrong and we need to make it right for them to claim their leadership.
What was the biggest challenge/roadblock for you in your career?
I get uncomfortable talking about this but with time I have accepted it. I think the biggest challenge for any person is to believe in yourself and your goals. I remember the days when nobody believed in me except my parents. Today I have friends and family who support my cause and are keen on pushing it further.
Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you rise from it? What did you learn?
I make mistakes all the time (like unhealthy eating habits or lack of exercise - well, I guess that's applicable to the majority of Gen Z today!). I would say the biggest mistake I made was taking up too many responsibilities that I thought I could handle, but instead it led to burn out. I have learned that I need downtime in order to function efficiently and normally. I take a day or two off just to catch up with myself: I go out on walks, I read, I process the week.
What skills are you working on? What is something you would like to be better at doing?
I would like to learn how to manage my finances better. Leadership requires a lot of finance management and I am not good at finances. I have started learning more about it. I also learn from Rumie bytes every now and then to better understand how the finance world works.
Can you share an example of a time you changed your mind?
My family has been in the grapes growing business for over 150 years, and this year we changed the direction towards wheat. I know this doesn't directly answer your question, but sometimes in business, leadership, or management, you needs to make tough decisions even if it is something near your heart and you grew up thinking that this can never change. Well, sometimes changing your mind and direction is exactly the thing you need.
What advice would you give young people today? Women? Men?
If you think you have a solution to a problem, believe in it. Believe in yourself for making it happen for yourself first, then others. I strongly believe in order for one to thrive they should always be around people who are focused on the solution and not the problem. For women especially, there may be one or two individuals in your life who bring negative energy. Block them out, you don't need them. Be around smiling faces.
What was the most influential career advice you have been given?
To slow down. I am a fast learner, and I move fast. I want to digitalize all villages in one day... if only there were resources! The majority of the people I look up to tell me to slow down. I have been told that I am not running a marathon. I have communities whose needs are much different from that of other countries and maybe that is why all those leaders are more successful because they know this truth. I now believe in slowing down and knowing the context and the person who I work with rather than the numbers I present. I want to celebrate even one girl going to school and learning something from the Rumie library.