Shabana Basij-Rasikh was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. Under the Taliban, she dressed as a boy to escort her older sister to a secret school — with dire consequences if they were caught. There were many times when she wanted to give up because of the fear and frustration she constantly felt as a young girl living in a country that did not support the education of women. Each time she told her father she wanted to stop attending class in the small room she shared with a hundred or so other girls he would remind her of the power of education: “No one can take that away from you,” he would say.
Basij-Rasikh obeyed her father’s wishes and continued her schooling. Later, she attended a high school in America under the YES exchange program, and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. During college, she founded HELA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Afghan women through education. She also raised funds through foundations and public talks across the US to build a high school for girls in her ancestral village, and to build wells on the outskirts of Kabul to give communities access to clean drinking water. Basij-Rasikh has also joined 10Ã—10 as a Global Ambassador, supporting a global action campaign that links nonprofits, corporations, philanthropists, policy leaders, global influencers and grassroots activists in a movement to support girls’ education. She is managing director of SOLA (School of Leadership, Afghanistan), a nonprofit that helps exceptional young Afghan women access education worldwide and jobs back home (Ted Talks).
To this day, Basij-Rasikh credits her father for her achievements She thanks her mother for also supporting her, but in a patriarchal society, such as Afghanistan, she would have never been able to see her education through without the love and determination of her father.
Watch her powerful and moving Ted Talk: Dare to Educate Afghan Girls here.
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Feature photo by isafmedia