Alumni Updates

Watch Ted Talk From YES Alumna: Dare to Educate Afghan Girls

January 18, 2018
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"When I was 11, I remember waking up one morning to the sound of joy in my house. My father was listening to BBC News on his small, gray radio. There was a big smile on his face, which was unusual then, because the news mostly depressed him. "The Taliban are gone!" my father shouted. I didn't know what it meant, but I could see that my father was very, very happy."

DARE TO EDUCATE EXCERPT:

When I was 11, I remember waking up one morning to the sound of joy in my house. My father was listening to BBC News on his small, gray radio. There was a big smile on his face, which was unusual then, because the news mostly depressed him.

"The Taliban are gone!" my father shouted.

I didn't know what it meant, but I could see that my father was very, very happy.

"You can go to a real school now," he said.

YES program alumna Shabana Basij-Rasikh ('05) is a founder and managing director of SOLA (School of Leadership, Afghanistan), an educational nonprofit that encourages leadership and creates educational opportunities for Afghan girls and women.

Shabana, who was born and raised in Kabul, grew up under the Taliban in a society where education was out of bounds for most girls and women. In Afghanistan, about 85 percent of women receive no formal education. Shabana and her older sister were fortunate enough to have a father who supported their need for an education. However, this belief was uncommon as well as dangerous. As a child, Shabana dressed as a boy to escort her older sister to a secret school.

Life, however, changed dramatically for Shabana when, as a teenager, she received a scholarship to attend high school and live with an American host family in the US as a participant of the YES Program. While living and studying in the American Midwest, she learned about American society and values, as well as the considerable lack of understanding about ordinary life in Afghanistan. Shabana's time in the US inspired her to do something to foster a modern, outward-looking Afghanistan. Shabana went on to attend Middlebury College in the US at the same time forming a nonprofit dedicated toward empowering women in Afghanistan through educations before returning to Afghanistan to build SOLA.

The organization provides Afghan girls and women with lessons on government and international relations, and opportunities for its students to visit courts, attend round-table debates, listen to radio programs on current affairs, and Skype with overseas experts. SOLA's mission is to create a new generation of Afghan women through its educational and leadership initiative.

Watch Shabana's TED talk.
Learn about the YES program.