Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the President of SOLA: the school she co-founded while still a teenager. Born and raised in Kabul, Basij-Rasikh finished high school in the U.S. through the State Department's Youth Exchange Studies program. She then enrolled at Middlebury College in Vermont. It was in 2008, as a student at Middlebury, that Shabana co-founded SOLA, with the mission of providing access to quality education for girls across her homeland.
Basij-Rasikh is a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Middlebury College with a degree in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies, and she holds a Master in Public Policy degree from Oxford University. In 2016, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from SOAS University of London; in 2019, she received an honorary doctorate from Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania.
While at Middlebury, Basij-Rasikh was awarded a Davis Peace Prize, with which she built wells outside of Kabul; was selected as one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women of 2010; and received the Vermont Campus Compact 2011 Madeline Kunin Public Service Award for outstanding leadership and service to others.
Basij-Rasikh was named one of CNN International's Leading Women of 2014 and one of National Geographic's 2014 Emerging Explorers. She is a global ambassador for Girl Rising, a call to action seeking investment in girls' education worldwide. In 2018, Basij-Rasikh was awarded the Malalai Medal, one of Afghanistan's highest national honors, for her work in promoting girls' access to education. In 2019, she was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in the social entrepreneurship sector; in 2021, The Washington Post named her a contributor to their Global Opinions section.
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