Profiles: Nangyalai Attal

Nangyalai Attal

Nangyalai Attal


Development Fellow at The Asia Foundation

2014 United Nations Youth Courage Awardee

How did your background help you to earn a Fulbright scholarship?

I grew up in the countryside; however, I received my bachelor's degree in Literature (English language) from Kabul Education University before I began to work for the United Nations (Kabul). I believe my background and immense progress allowed me to qualify for The Fulbright scholarship. Overall, it is quite rare for a "country boy" to make such progress in the English language and education as I did.

What lead you to pursue your Master's in Human Resources at GGU?

While I was working for the United Nations, in particular with the International Labor Organization, I worked with a diverse team and that made me quite curious and interested in working with people from different cultures and social backgrounds. I decided that HR is where I should start a career.

We learned from our International office that you and your mother opened a school for girls in Afghanistan. What inspired you to open the school?

Yes, my mom and I established the first family school back in the countryside. Initially, my mom orally taught religious subjects that she learned from her father because she was unable to teach written materials. Girls from the immediate neighborhood were coming to our house to study with her and we realized a need for written education. We then started teaching in the family kitchen. Soon, we found that these girls were quite smart and attendance grew, so we asked the district principle (for government recognition) and after a very long struggle, it was officially recognized by the government. There are many reasons for the school, but the most important one is that our parents are illiterate. My mom was decisive about her children's education; she educated her sons and then we as brothers had to stand with our sisters and educate them. Along the road, it happened that we educated others by opening up the school.

How do you think your educational experience at GGU will help with the school in Afghanistan?

A school was burnt in 2005 by unknown people, potentially insurgents. HR would help capitalize on educating girls as they are smart and talented and could potentially help us grow local businesses and the economy, ultimately improving socio-economic indicators.

You recently flew to New York to receive the United Nations Youth Courage Award 2014. Can you tell us about that experience?

Yes, I did go to NYC to receive the award. It was one of the most exciting times of my life. I would always read about the struggle of Nelson Mandela and I was right there meeting his wife, Graca Machel, who was presenting at the award ceremony. I would have never imagined it would ever happened, but I was there. I received the award and the courage for making history as a young winner. Furthermore, I was there on the stage taking selfies with former prime minister of UK Gordon Brown. To be able to make your way from the mountainous valleys of Afghanistan, to the skyscrapers of NYC to receive an award and recognition from world leaders, to me, this is just the beginning.