Co-founder of SOLA, a leadership school in Afghanistan
Shabana Basij-Rasikh is co-founder and president of School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA)—nonprofit that helps young Afghan women access education worldwide and jobs back home—and the only girls' boarding school in Afghanistan. Founded in 2008, SOLA means "peace" in Pashto, one of the official languages of Afghanistan.
Born and raised in Kabul, Shabana finished high school in the U.S. through the State Department's Youth Exchange Studies program. She later attended Middlebury and graduated magna cum laude in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies in 2011. Prior to coming to the United States, Shabana says she had no concept of what American life was like. Having grown up without electricity, she couldn't fathom what elevators were or what it would be like to receive an education without it being forbidden. When she was a young girl, Shabana's parents sent her and her sisters to a "secret school" hidden from the Taliban. Her father, an Army general who speaks four languages, defied his country's ban on educating women, telling his daughters, "It would be a shame if my children only spoke four languages." Shabana now speaks five languages, having recently learned Arabic at Middlebury.
In 2010, Shabana was selected as one of Glamour® Magazine's Top 10 College Women, and in 2011-2012, she was National Gender Mainstreaming Advisor at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Kabul. She was also the speaker for the Girl Rising campaign and participated as a speaker at the UN Conference on status of women in Geneva. Shabana now focuses her attention on giving Afghan girls the chance to have a voice since as she told the Suffield community, only 6% of Afghan women have a college degree. SOLA, a tuition-free boarding school educating girls ages 12-19, has already helped 34 students from 13 provinces obtain scholarships. Shabana's plan is to turn SOLA into an internationally accredited boarding school within the next five years. To see her TED talk, visit: http://tinyurl.com/shabanaBR