2024 Signature Speaker

Shabana Basij-Rasikh

Co-Founder & President of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA)

Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the co-founder and president of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA). SOLA is the first and only boarding school for Afghan girls, operating in Kabul from 2016 through the summer of 2021 and the Taliban’s return to power.

That August, Shabana led the evacuation of her entire school community from Afghanistan to Rwanda, where SOLA has reestablished its operations and its students have resumed their studies. Shabana is a magna cum laude graduate of Middlebury College and earned her Master in Public Policy from Oxford University; she also holds honorary doctorates from SOAS University of London and Cedar Crest College.

In 2019, Forbes named her to their 30 Under 30 Asia list as a social entrepreneur; in 2021, she joined the Washington Post’s Global Opinions page as a contributing columnist; and in 2023, she received the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year award from the National Geographic Society.