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Successful Refugees and Immigrants Leading the Way, Part 17 of a Multi-part Series: Shabana Basij-Rasikh – Bringing Afghan Girls the Treasure of Education

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Today, we would like to share with you a story about a brave and exceptional Afghan lady, Ms. Shabana Basij-Rasikh, who is an educator and philanthropist. She co-founded the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), the first boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. She is also the founder of HELA, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Afghan women through education.

While studying at Middlebury College in Vermont, USA, she was awarded a Davis Peace Prize and received US$10,000, which she used to build nine wells to supply clean drinking water to communities in Kabul. After Shabana graduated from college, her achievements were further broadly recognized. She was named one of CNN International's Leading Women of 2014 and one of National Geographic's 2014 Emerging Explorers. In 2018, she was awarded the Malalai Medal by the Afghan government to honor her work in promoting girls’ education. In 2019, she was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in the social entrepreneurship sector.

Shabana was born in 1990 in Kabul, Afghanistan. When she was six, the Taliban came to power. Due to the ban by the Taliban, Shabana and other girls had no choice but to risk their lives to attend secret schools. Her early experiences around schooling have profoundly influenced her life.

Being one of the lucky ones to have had schooling, Shabana feels privileged and obligated to make a positive difference in the lives of Afghan girls and women. In 2008, during her second year of studying at Middlebury College, she co-founded the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA) in Kabul when she was just 18 years old. The reputation of SOLA is growing, and throughout its history, it has provided a secure learning environment for girls.

“If there’s one thing I ask of the world, it is this: do not avert your eyes from Afghanistan. My commitment to the women and girls of my country, just like my commitment to my students, is unwavering. They are the fires that will never go out. Finally, I want to thank you all for the outpouring of love and support.”
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