Shabana Basij-Rasikh grew up in Afghanistan. She didn’t whine about school like American kids tend to do—under the Taliban, girls were denied access to education, so Shabana risked her life to attend the country’s illegal secret schools.
Understanding that education is a right, Shabana’s determination to provide education to Afghan girls grew stronger as she continued her schooling abroad. As a college student she set the foundation for SOLA, School of Leadership Afghanistan.
From inspiration to impact
When Shabana was a child, Afghanistan’s secret schools were the only way for girls to attain an education. But eventually, through the U.S. State Department's Youth Exchange Studies program, Shabana was able to attend a year of high school in the US. She later enrolled in Middlebury College in Vermont and went on to earn a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Oxford University.
While at Middlebury, Shabana co-founded SOLA with the mission of providing access to quality education for girls in Afghanistan. She continued to shape her vision throughout her college years and worked tirelessly upon graduating to build the organization.
In 2016, Afghanistan’s first and only all-girls boarding school opened its doors to 24 girls. By 2021, the school welcomed nearly 100 girls. And application numbers had tripled, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The struggle to educate Afghan girls is far from over, but Shabana and SOLA stand strong in their mission.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 threatened SOLA’s operation but not its soul. In defiance of political and security risks, the SOLA staff evacuated more than 200 students, staff, and family members from Afghanistan and established a new location in Rwanda.
Four days later, classes resumed.
SOLA continues to operate from Rwanda, and while its goals haven’t changed, its operations have evolved. In 2022 SOLA launched its first fully online admissions season, welcoming girls in the Afghan diaspora. Nixon Peabody is proud to partner with SOLA to help create a place of opportunity for the girls who can change the world.