Nadia Ghulam Dastgir is a renowned Afghan peace and human rights advocate, celebrated author, and social educator, recognized for founding Ponts per la Pau and her vocal advocacy for education rights.

Born in Kabul in 1985, Nadia’s life – like the ones of many Afghan women – has been marked by the consequences of a cruel civil war, poverty, and the oppressive Taliban regime.

At just eight years old, Nadia’s life was forever changed when a bomb destroyed her home in 1993, putting her in a coma for six months, and devastating her family’s livelihood. By age eleven, in a brave response to the Taliban’s prohibition on women working or attending school, she assumed her deceased brother’s identity, who died in the horrific civil war.

This decision enabled her to support her family for the next decade, working in various jobs while disguised as a man, despite the mortal risk of discovery. Throughout these trials, Nadia’s commitment to peace and education never wavered.

Portrait of Nadia
At 21, Nadia moved to Spain for medical care through an NGO, later gaining political asylum. She earned degrees in Social Education and International Relations from prestigious Spanish institutions. Nadia shared her journey in “The Secret of My Turban,” a critically acclaimed autobiography, and collaborated on several books highlighting Afghan resilience and stories of hope, including “Tales That Healed Me” and “The First Star of the Night.” Her children’s book “The Country of the Birds Without Wings,” inspired by her time in a refugee camp, empathizes with those seeking safety. Nadia’s story also comes to life in the successful documentary play “Nadia,” underscoring her enduring commitment to peace, education, and women’s rights amid Afghanistan’s ongoing challenges.

Beyond her roles as an author and storyteller, Nadia passionately leads Ponts per la Pau, a non-profit, non-denominational organization she established in 2016, dedicated to fostering peace and justice.

Translated from Catalan as “Bridges for Peace,” this volunteer-driven initiative is committed to instilling values and restoring dignity through education. Focused on aiding women and children in Afghanistan, and supporting refugees and immigrants in Barcelona with language and integration training, Ponts per la Pau aims to empower young individuals to become self-reliant and proactive agents of change.

With all contributions directly enhancing its educational programs in Catalonia and Kabul, the organization benefits from the support of partner institutions and individuals. As a terrible chapter in Afghanistan’s history is repeating itself, Nadia and her volunteers are working relentlessly, day and night, to assist both Afghan refugees and migrants from other countries that come to Europe as well as families on-site in Afghanistan that are fighting for their survival.

Photo of Nadia in the context of Ponts per la Pau © Martin Pabis
In addition to managing Ponts per la Pau, Nadia contributes as a social educator at the Spanish Foundation Fundesplai. Here, she raises awareness about peace, human rights, and education, with a particular focus on advancing the rights and full participation of girls and women. Through both her leadership of Ponts per la Pau and her work at Fundesplai, Nadia embodies her commitment to creating a better world through education and empowerment.
Nadia extends her influence beyond her direct work, actively engaging with a wider audience through public speaking at events and international conferences, such as the United Nations. With every opportunity, she uses her voice to enlighten others about the impacts of ignorance, war, terrorism, and violence. Nadia is dedicated to promoting peace, as well as the rights and education of women and children, tirelessly working to share her powerful message with the world.
Photo of Nadia speaking at a conference/event © IPU
Nadia’s impactful work has been widely recognized through several prestigious awards. In 2021, she was honored with the Women of the Year Award: Women of Peace by look! Magazine Vienna, acknowledging her dedication to peace initiatives. The Esplai Foundation awarded her in 2020 for Socio-Educational and E-Inclusive Action, celebrating her commitment to engaged citizenship. That same year, she received a special mention at the XXVI Premis Ones Mediterránia (Mare Terra) for her activism and peacebuilding efforts in Catalonia. In 2016, the Municipal Council of Women in Badalona recognized her with the Primis Trencant Invisibilitats award for her role in social transformation and challenging gender stereotypes. Earlier, her autobiography “El secret del meu turbante” earned her the Girona Literary Award: Prudenci Bertrana Prize in 2010, further testament to her remarkable contributions.
Photo of Nadia with an award © Elisabeth Lechner