Julia Bolz is a women’s rights activist providing social guidance to countries in the Middle East, Africa, Central America, and Central Asia. She founded the Journey with an Afghan School program after 9/11 to help bridge the cultural divide between the U.S. and Afghanistan particularly by increasing the educational opportunities afforded to young women. Before joining the grassroots movement for gender equality, she worked at one of Seattle’s most prestigious law firms, Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland. She received Seattle’s Tom C. Wales Citizenship Award for her combined humanitarian efforts. Bolz graduated from Smith College.
Julia Bolz: I actually am very inspired by many of the people that I work with overseas. Let me just tell you in addition to this nine year old little girl who has been etched in my heart, there is a principal that I met when I first went over. Her name is Cobra. She’s about 55 years old. She was the second wife to a ________ warrior who was killed during the time of the Soviets. But Cobra was an educator. And during the time of the Taliban, she held an underground school. And you can just imagine her everyday life trucking off or going off to teach these girls; putting the books underneath her burqa. She could have been shot. And I think if anyone had found out about her, she could have been turned in. But despite all of that she continued. And it’s women like Cobra, to me, that have made such an impact on these countries. She literally went to every house in her community knocking on the doors to get girls in school; and talking to fathers and brothers to get women teachers and the girls into school. And it’s women like that who, to me, are just amazing. Even today, she . . . Many of these principals have been threatened and persecuted. And despite all odds, they’re out there every day. They earn about $50 a month when they get paid, so it’s certainly not because of money. But they are my heroes, and Cobra is at the top of my list.