Shabana Basij-Rasikh had to hide in every sense of the word to receive what most of us perceive as a fundamental right. The right to an education.
Shabana had to go to school disguised as a boy, taking different paths to avoid detection and covering her books to make them look like the Koran. She needed to do these things to evade the Taliban.
She was very fortunate to have understanding parents who supported her drive and ambition to get an education. Eventually, Shabana completed her studies in the United States through a program called Youth Exchange Study (YES).
Shabana Basij-Rasikh, now an adult is now on another mission: to make education attainable for all Afghan girls.
Afghanistan has seen many vast improvements in education. There are more than 14,000 educational institutions, and a national curriculum has been established after 30 years of conflict.
However, education does remain a challenge for girls and women in Afghanistan. Only 12 percent of Afghan women are literate. Among school-age children, 38 percent (4.2 million children, the majority of them girls) do not have access to schools. Violence, tradition, and poverty all conspire to make education for girls a nearly unattainable goal.
In 2008, Basij-Rasikh started a boarding school with four girls. Today, the school has 35 students and has helped 40 girls get scholarships to boarding schools and universities in five different countries, with scholarships amounting to $7.7 million.
‘In some parts of the country, once girls reach puberty, they don’t leave the house, says, Basij-Rasikh. If you take that girl from that household where all she does is cook and clean and put her in a boarding school, all of a sudden you buy several hours of her day that she can use to focus on herself and her personal development.’” — via Half the Sky
Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the President and Co-Founder of SOLA—School of Leadership, Afghanistan, a nonprofit organisation that helps exceptional young Afghan women access education worldwide and jobs back home.
At the TEDxWomen forum, Shabana spoke about her personal struggle for an education and how she plans to help even more girls follow their dreams through education. Also, National Geographic featured Shabana and her captivating story.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh is “A Woman To Admire.”
NOTE: This article was originally published in 2014 and has been re-published in 2016 with updated links.