Sultana was forced to end her formal education at the age of 11 after men threatened to burn her face with acid.
Sadly, these threats were far from hallow; in fact, acid-burning is a common attack for women pursuing education in conservative parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the age of 13, Sultana decided she would not be confined to a life of ignorance. She began by teaching herself English from a newspaper.
After she learned English, Sultana could access education through websites like Khan Academy and Coursera. She discovered her love of Physics and Calculus, and decided she wanted to become a physicist to study dark matter. She was especially interested in String Theory and the work of Dr. Lawrence Krauss, who she was able to meet via Skype in December.
Sultana's journey of self-education is a testament to the power of marginalized women with access to the internet, but also an embodiment of the challenges of a higher education system with admission based on high school transcripts and standardized test scores.
Sultana demonstrates the burqa she must wear when outside her compound
Sultana faced countless challenges in attempting to apply to US higher education institutions:
- She does not have high school transcripts and there is no GED testing center within 20 hours of her hometown
- There are no ACT or SAT testing centers in Afghanistan nor arrangement-based testing options
- Sultana's only option for testing was to make the dangerous trip 20 hours to Karachi, Pakistan
- She needed a passport to take the test, but it had not yet been approved by the time she left for the trip
-Once her passport was approved, it had to be smuggled across the border to Pakistan so it could be sent to her; Afghanistan has no mail system
-By the time she was able to successfully cross the border, the SAT test spots were full (thanks to the kindness of management at College Board, she was able get off the waitlist and into the test)
Now, here she is. Sultana has applied to several schools and has high enough scores to gain admission... if she can prove she has enough funding to attend.
This is where you come in. For the last seven years, Sultana has fought to achieve her dream of becoming a physicist. Now, we need you to fight with her.
Please contribute whatever you can-- in the form of financial contributions or words of encouragement-- to help Sultana make the final steps to realize this dream.
***A quick note on Sultana, Emily, and the disbursement of funds: As many of you know, Sultana and I met through a Skype-based language exchange program and became instant best friends/sisters. We've had a crazy ride through the college application process, through which I've acted as a defacto guidance counselor. The funds will be collected in a special savings account set up for Sultana in my name. Once she arrives in the US, we will set up a bank account in her name and have the funds transferred to that account, from which she will pay for tuition and education-related expenses. All donors will receive monthly updates and photos of Sultana and her educational/cultural adjustment progress. Thank you for your support!