Shabana Basij-Rasikh

In 2008, as a student at Middlebury, Shabana co-founded SOLA with the mission of providing access to quality education for girls across her homeland. SOLA remained a priority throughout her college years, and became her lifelong commitment upon graduating Middlebury magna cum laude in 2011 with a degree in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies. Shabana has since earned a Master in Public Policy degree from Oxford University and has received honorary doctorates from SOAS University of London (2016) and Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania (2019).

At Middlebury, Shabana was awarded a Davis Peace Prize with which she built wells outside of Kabul; was selected as one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women of 2010; and received the Vermont Campus Compact 2011 Madeline Kunin Public Service Award for leadership and service to others.

In 2014, Shabana was named one of CNN International’s Leading Women and one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers. She is a global ambassador for Girl Rising, a call to action seeking investment in girls’ education worldwide.

In 2018, Shabana was awarded the Malalai Medal, one of Afghanistan’s highest national honors, for her work in promoting girls’ access to education. In 2019, she was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in the social entrepreneurship sector; in 2021, The Washington Post named her a contributor to their Global Opinions section; and in 2023, she received the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year award from the National Geographic Society.


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