Why an image of a young Afghan woman, holding a piece of paper, is going viral.

A young Afghani woman is pictured hunched over, sitting cross-legged in the dirt.

She has her head down, cradling a baby in her lap.

In her left hand, she holds a piece of paper.

The single image is being shared all over the world – because of the story it tells us about the unshakeable determination of a 25-year-old mother who will not let anything get in the way of an education.

In Afghanistan, according to a 2017 survey, 84 per cent of women are illiterate, and less than two per cent have access to higher education.

Jahantab Ahmadi, at the moment this picture was taken, was sitting an entrance exam for a social sciences program at Nasir Khusraw Higher Education Institute in central Afghanistan.

In order to sit the exam, it is believed she travelled 11 hours with her two-month-old baby, nine hours on public transport and two hours on foot.

According to an exam supervisor, once the test had commenced, her child – who was suffering from an earache – began to cry.

The mother of three stood up, and made her way to the back of the outdoor exam, so she could comfort her child while completing the paper.

She passed the test.

When Ahmadi discovered the photo had gone viral, she was confused, unaware the picture had even been taken. She was too busy caring for her baby while sitting an exam, she told a reporter.


“I don’t want to be deprived of my studies,” Ahmadi told AFP. “I want to work outside the house. I want to become a doctor, someone who serves women in my community or society.”

Since the picture surfaced, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up by the Afghan Youth Association to assist in paying for her university fees. So far, it has raised $14,000.

Ahmadi has now moved to the capital, Kabul, to study, thanks to Afghan women’s rights activist, Zahra Yagana.

We see in this picture, a glimpse into the future of Afghanistan.

The key to eliminating poverty, according to UNESCO, is increasing the literacy rates of women, because when mothers learn to read they are sure to teach their children.

This 25-year-old mother, who travelled along a bumpy road with a newborn, knew higher education has the power to change everything for her, her children, and her children’s children.

And the future of Afghanistan will be much brighter, because of the strength of women like her.

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