Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the co-founder and president of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), a nonprofi t organisation dedicated to giving young Afghan women access to quality education in Afghanistan and abroad. Born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, she completed high school in the U.S. through the State Department’s Youth Exchange Studies program. She went on to attend Middlebury College in Vermont, graduating magna cum laude in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies in 2011.
During her time at Middlebury, she was awarded the Davis Peace Prize to build wells on the outskirts of Kabul and was selected as one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women of 2010 for building a school for girls in eastern Afghanistan. She also received the Vermont Campus Compact 2011 Madeleine Kunin Public Service Award for outstanding leadership and service to others. Her greatest achievement came in 2008 when she co-founded SOLA.
Upon graduating, she returned to Kabul to establish SOLA as Afghanistan’s fi rst boarding school for girls. SOLA is paving the way by providing quality education to an underserved and underrepresented population, helping graduates enter universities worldwide. Not only is the school unique, but SOLA’s students are as well. The students range from ages 11-19 and represent all major ethnic groups and religious sects. SOLA’s graduates have gone on to attend 45 di erent schools and colleges in six countries.
She is widely recognized as a leading advocate for girls’ education. She is an ambassador for Girl Rising, a global campaign for girls’ education, and was recently named one of National Geographic’s 2014 Emerging Explorers as well as one of CNN International’s Leading Women of 2014.
When she is not home in Kabul, Shabana Basij-Rasikh is often travelling abroad to gain support and further SOLA’s message as well as advocating for investment in girls’ education globally.