Shabana Basij-Rasikh ’11
Shabana is co-founder and president of SOLA (School of Leadership Afghanistan), a nonprofit that helps exceptional young Afghan women access education worldwide and jobs back home. SOLA is also the first, and perhaps the only, girls’ boarding school in Afghanistan.
Born and raised in Kabul, Shabana finished high school in the U.S. through the State Department’s Youth Exchange Studies program. She went on to attend Middlebury College, graduating in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies in 2011.
While at Middlebury, she founded HELA, a non-profit to empower Afghan women through education. She also raised funds across the U.S. to build a high school for girls in her ancestral village and wells in the outskirts of Kabul. Shabana was selected as one of Glamour® Magazine’s Top 10 College Women in 2010, and received the Vermont Campus Compact 2011 award for outstanding public service. In 2011–12 Shabana was the National Gender Mainstreaming Advisor at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Kabul.
Shabana co-founded SOLA in 2008 with four students. Today, 32 students attend SOLA’s preparatory program in Kabul. They range in age from 11 to 19 and represent all of Afghanistan’s major ethnic groups, tribes, and religious sects and 14 of its 34 provinces. Thirty-six SOLA scholars attend boarding schools, colleges and graduate programs in the U.S. and around the world; in the U.S. these include Loomis Chaffee and Northfield Mt. Hermon, and Bates, Middlebury, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith. The combined value of the directly awarded scholarships is an estimated $6.3 million.
SOLA’s mission is to provide these future leaders of Afghanistan with global educational opportunities so that they can return to develop Afghan solutions to Afghan problems. Shabana’s vision for advancing Afghanistan, relying on the school she founded and on her personal experiences, have propelled her onto the world stage.
David Bornstein is a journalist and author who focuses on social innovation. He co-authors the Fixes column in The New York Times Opinionator section, which explores and analyzes potential solutions to major social problems. He is the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports journalists who report on constructive responses to social problems.
His books include How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank, and Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know. He is currently completing a book on social innovation in the U.S. and Canada. He lives in New York.