Last to Eat, Last to Learn: My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women (Hardcover)

Last to Eat, Last to Learn: My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women By Pashtana Durrani, Tamara Bralo Cover Image
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(Biography / Autobiography)


From young Afghani activist and Amnesty International Global Youth Ambassador Pashtana Durrani, a deeply inspiring memoir about the power of learning and the value of educators in their many forms – from teachers, mentors, and role models, to fathers, mothers, and any one of us with the drive to stand against ignorance…

A Ms. Magazine Pick for Most Anticipated Feminist Books

“Pashtana’s story highlights the resourcefulness and bravery of young women in Afghanistan. I hope readers will be inspired by her mission to give every girl the education she deserves and the opportunity to pursue her dreams.”—Malala Yousafzai

Inspired by generations of her family’s unwavering belief in the power of education, Pashtana Durrani recognized her calling early in life: to educate Afghanistan’s girls and young women, raised in a society where learning is forbidden. In a country devastated by war and violence, where girls are often married off before reaching their teenage years and prohibited from leaving their homes, heeding that call seemed both impossible and dangerous.

Pashtana was raised in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan where her father, a tribal leader, founded a community school for girls within their home. Fueled by his insistence that despite being a girl, she mattered and deserved an education, Pashtana was sixteen when, against impossible odds, she was granted a path out of the refugee camp: admittance to a preparatory program at Oxford. Unthinkably and to her parents’ horror, she chose a different path. She chose Afghanistan.

Pashtana founded the nonprofit LEARN and developed a program for getting educational materials directly into the hands of girls in remote areas of the country, training teachers in digital literacy. Her commitment to education has made her a target of the Taliban. Still, she continues to fight for women’s education and autonomy in Afghanistan and beyond.

Courageous and inspiring, Last to Eat, Last to Learn is the story of how just one person can transform a family, a tribe, a country. It reminds us of the emancipatory power of learning and the transformational potential that lies within each of us.

A portion of proceeds from Last to Eat, Last to Learn will be donated to LEARN (, the NGO dedicated to providing quality education and healthcare to communities in conflict zones.

About the Author

Pashtana Durrani is an Afghan education advocate, founder of the NGO LEARN, Malala’s Fund Education Champion, UN’s Youth Envoy, and Amnesty International Global Youth Collective representative. After the fall of Kandahar, and later the rest of the country, Pashtana became a face of disappearing women’s rights in Afghanistan, appearing regularly in national press and on all major US networks. She currently lives in Boston, where she is a visiting fellow at the Wellesley Centers for Women and continues her work to support the education and health of Afghan women and girls. Learn more at

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. An advocate for safety of journalists, and a first woman in charge of High-Risk Deployments for any major network; she currently works as a media consultant for safety and investigative reporting; and for Undivided, an NGO promoting women’s perspectives and narratives of war. Tamara spent an inordinate amount of time covering Afghanistan over the years. She holds an MA from Syracuse University in International Relations, and lives in Washington DC.

Praise For…

Praise for Last to Eat, Last to Learn

“Durrani’s autobiography… provides an absorbing portrait. It depicts Durrani’s upbringing as a third-generation Afghan refugee in Pakistan, her admittance to the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, and the passion with which she overcame initial challenges as an activist. It’s heartbreaking at times, too, but overall the book reads like a love letter to her community. There are beautiful possibilities to be found in Afghanistan, if one simply engages the right perspective.” The Christian Science Monitor

"By turns heart-rending and heart-warming, terrifying and humorous, disheartening and inspiring." The Banner 

“A lovingly narrated, sharply nuanced memoir from a talented activist. Durrani’s voice sparkles with humor and grit, and she is a gifted storyteller, equally comfortable analyzing Afghanistan’s gender inequity and defending the strengths of the oft-underestimated culture and country she loves.” Kirkus Reviews
“Durrani offers a persuasive road map for pursuing gender equality while honoring Afghanistan’s religious and cultural traditions. It’s an inspiring portrait of a change-maker in action.” Publishers Weekly
“This memoir is the fascinating story of her seemingly impossible journey to achieving her goal. Witness to war, hunger, and many other hardships, Pashtana defied all odds, including attempts on her life, to become an Amnesty International Global Youth Ambassador, a United Nations Youth Envoy, and a successful tribal leader. She never ceased speaking her mind and following her heart and continues to do so today.”  —The Gloss

“Pashtana’s story highlights the resourcefulness and bravery of young women in Afghanistan. I hope readers will be inspired by her mission to give every girl the education she deserves and the opportunity to pursue her dreams.” —Malala Yousafzai
“Pashtana’s voice is once-in-a-generation. A born leader who took her own dreams and broke them into a thousand pieces to share with others. Her story is an inspiration. Her work, a mission—more necessary now than ever. Pashtana Durrani came to live out loud. And we should all be listening.” —Amna Nawaz, co-anchor PBS NewsHour
“As an American, I meet many who know little and feel no likeness to the land where so many of our sons and daughters gave their lives. Idealistic yet logical, Pashtana serves as a portal between two seemingly divergent worlds, illuminating the shared human values that connect us. The relevance of her story has no bounds. It belongs in the hands of the politician as much as the soldier, the parent, or the child. While we may characterize Pashtana as an activist, or educator, let us first characterize her as a leader.” —Major Jessica Yahn, Cultural Support Team, U.S. Army Special Operations Command
“Riveting . . . .[Pashtana] is an exceptional role model for girls around the world, exemplifying the power of determination and passion in achieving the nearly impossible.” —Mursel Sabir, Founder, Afghans Empowered
“Uplifting and optimistic . . . [Pashtana’s] story is testimony to how one determined leader, with irrational passion and a deep commitment to educating young girls, can make a lasting difference.” —Alan Stoga, Chairman, Tällberg Foundation
“The breathtaking story of a young Afghan activist who will make history. . . Pashtana shares an acute and clever insight. . . She understands Afghanistan and Pashtun society as well as Western culture. She brings an enlightened view of these two worlds that do not understand each other.” —Marina Wutholen, Director of and Founder Young Activists Summit

“Pashtana's story is not only one of gender empowerment, it is one of communal pragmatism and realization that together, men and women in Afghanistan, for the sake of their community, can transcend barriers and transform their society for long-term prosperity and peace.” —Dr. Victoria C. Fontan, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the American University of Afghanistan.
“With a spirit that echoes through these pages and a voice that rises above the din, Pashtana Durrani shares her compelling story and mission to empower women in Afghanistan. Having worked with Pashtana, I am in awe of her consistent drive towards bringing innovative learning solutions to women and girls in Afghanistan, despite socio-political instability in the country. This book is a reflection of her spirit--bright, passionate, driven." —Tanya Qadir, Director of Partner Success, Rumie Initiative
Product Details
ISBN: 9780806542447
ISBN-10: 0806542446
Publisher: Citadel
Publication Date: February 20th, 2024
Pages: 224
Language: English