Shabana Basij-Rasikh is a resolute advocate for education, particularly for girls in Afghanistan. Her journey is a testament to the transformative power of education and its ability to change lives and societies. Through her unwavering commitment and visionary leadership, Shabana is reshaping the narrative surrounding Afghan girls’ education and empowering them to create a better future.


Shabana Basij-Rasikh Founder and President of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA)

The Foundation of Resilience
Growing up under the oppressive Taliban regime, Shabana experienced first-hand the perils of seeking education for girls in Afghanistan. During this time, she daringly disguised herself as a boy to attend a secret school, understanding the inherent risks of her actions. Her parents’ audacious commitment to her education, despite the risks, was a foundational experience that forged her resolve. As she put it, “…that was one of the first moments that, really, I had this experience in which I realized myself… without someone else telling me… what the power of education was like, especially for girls, and what that meant for me.”

Nurturing Dreams: SOLA’s Genesis
Upon witnessing the contrasting educational opportunities available to girls in the United States, Shabana co-founded the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), the first and only all-girls boarding school in Afghanistan. The goal was simple but profound: providing Afghan girls with the education and skills necessary for leadership and societal contribution. SOLA grew to become an educational haven, fostering not just academic excellence but also holistic development.

Navigating the Storm: Evacuation and Adaptation
The Taliban’s return in 2021 brought a shadow over SOLA’s mission, but Shabana’s determination remained steadfast. Forced to evacuate, she pivoted swiftly to protect her students and ensure their education’s continuity. Shabana recounts, “Our carefully planned study abroad program turned into an incredibly traumatic evacuation out of Afghanistan… but I immediately feel so grateful that everyone in our community who wanted to get out of Afghanistan during that time managed to get out and get out safely.” The relocation to Rwanda was arduous, but Shabana’s leadership ensured that SOLA continued to thrive in a new environment.

Engendering Empathy and Social Responsibility
One of Shabana’s guiding principles in education is to cultivate empathy and social responsibility. She believes that education should be a “ticket to freedom, to a life of dignity and independence.” By educating and empowering young girls, she envisions a ripple effect that extends from the individual to the community, and ultimately to the nation.

A Future Forged by Education
Shabana’s vision extends beyond immediate educational gains. She is acutely aware of education’s role in societal transformation, particularly in post-conflict rebuilding. As she explains, SOLA is an enterprise centered on educating the next generation of Afghan leaders, and its operations reflect that dedication. She affirms, “SOLA’s mission was, is, and always will be to educate Afghan girls. Nothing has changed that, and nothing ever will.”

Conclusion: An Invitation to Support Change
Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s story illuminates the power and necessity of education in building sustainable and inclusive societies. Through her relentless efforts, she is not only providing Afghan girls with the tools for personal emancipation but is actively laying the foundation for long-term societal transformation in Afghanistan. Shabana’s invitation to be part of the SOLA Global Village is not just a call for support but an opportunity for us to actively engage in change that transcends borders and enriches humanity as a whole. Through education, we can unlock the full potential of individuals and societies, and Shabana Basij-Rasikh is a beacon leading the way.

To listen to the full interview or read the transcript, just click here.

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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