For Narges Ghafary, who escaped her native Afghanistan just before the Taliban seized control, the downfall of her republic has been heartbreaking. But it’s also made her reflect on the beauty of her country, and strengthened her resolve to do whatever she can to improve things for the women, girls and children left behind.

As a child, fleeing to Iran to escape the war in Afghanistan was life-changing.

Iranians looked down on refugees—so much so that I hid my identity. But my mother, a proudly fierce Afghan, refused to. She would tell everyone that we were Afghans and that her daughter was a talented girl.

“She will become the person of whom we are most proud!” she would say.

I would blush. But hearing such positivity and vision at the age of nine gave me both the confidence and determination to realize my mother’s dreams.