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'A ray of hope' where girls didn't count

updated 3:46 PM EDT, Thu September 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

(CNN) -- Razia Jan is fighting to educate girls in rural Afghanistan, where terrorists will stop at nothing to keep them from learning.

Despite the threat of violence, Jan continues to open the doors of her Zabuli Education Center. She and her team are providing a free education to about 350 girls, many of whom would not normally have access to school.

CNN asked Jan for her thoughts on being chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012.

CNN: Where were you when you got the call that you'd been selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Razia Jan: I was in Bamiyan (an Afghan town northwest of Kabul) when I got a call in my room.

I could not believe my ears. I started to cry, then I felt a great joy, and I started to laugh. I started to jump up and down.

It is the greatest honor to be among these selfless human beings.

CNN: What do you hope this recognition will mean to the Zabuli Education Center?

Jan: It has given me more strength and determination to go forward to continue giving these girls an opportunity to get education and gain self-respect.

Razia Jan\'s school teaches math, science, religion and three languages: English, Farsi and Pashto.
Razia Jan's school teaches math, science, religion and three languages: English, Farsi and Pashto.

It has given me a lifetime opportunity, a golden chance to continue my struggle to break the vicious cycle of violence against women and girls by providing education in a country where women have no rights to exist as an equal.

I see a ray of hope that will shine all over the world and make them aware of a very small accomplishment that is changing the lives of these girls.

From the day I opened the doors of the Zabuli Education Center, my effort was and is to provide security and the best education for these girls. Hopefully, they will have a better future. ... I'm the luckiest person in the world to get this honor and to help these kids.

CNN: How will you use the $50,000 award that you receive for being selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Jan: All the money will go to the (Razia's Ray of Hope) foundation so we can continue to educate these girls.

We've never closed the school, even during the holidays, so the girls are there during the winter. I want to buy them boots and jackets; all of them walk to school. And I would like to buy a new van for the teachers to transport them.

My (big) goal is to build more classrooms. Every year I have 55 or 60 new girls, and space is really limited; they're small rooms. Also, I want to do adult education for the young women who have never been to school. I would like to start and help 20 to 25 women. Let's make their life a little better.

These are very small things, but I think each step will make things better for each woman and each girl. It's changing their world.

CNN: What do you want people to know most about your work?

Jan: All my life, I tried my best to be a helping hand to people and animals in need, even though what I have done was in the very small way that I could afford. It took a lot of determination and courage to build the first girls school in an area where the girls did not count. Now, with hard work, I have proven to the men of seven villages surrounding the school that this is the best thing that's happened for their daughters to get educated.

Read the full story on CNN Hero Razia Jan:
Acid attacks, poison: What Afghan girls risk by going to school

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