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Kabul women’s education advocate to deliver NMH address

April 18, 2013 - Washington DC.,  2013 World Bank / IMF Spring Meetings. Girl Rising: A Rally For Girls and Women. World Bank Group; Jim Yong.Kim, Ban Ki-moon, actress Freida Pinto, UK Sec. of State for Int'l Development Justine Greening join Girl Rising film's call for gender equality in education. Photo: Ryan Rayburn / World Bank

April 18, 2013 - Washington DC., 2013 World Bank / IMF Spring Meetings. Girl Rising: A Rally For Girls and Women. World Bank Group; Jim Yong.Kim, Ban Ki-moon, actress Freida Pinto, UK Sec. of State for Int'l Development Justine Greening join Girl Rising film's call for gender equality in education. Photo: Ryan Rayburn / World Bank

GILL — When Northfield Mount Hermon School’s crop of graduating seniors gather with their families for Sunday’s commencement ceremony on the sprawling Gill campus, they will hear the perspective of a woman who had to sneak her early education under the nose of an oppressive regime.

Shabana Basij-Rasikh is a co-founder and the managing director of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan, or SOLA, a nonprofit that educates young women in Kabul and helps them gain access to schools abroad.

Basij-Rasikh dressed as a boy to attend a secret school in Kabul during the Taliban regime and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Middlebury College in 2010, and has studied Arabic and Islamic law at Alexandria University in Egypt. She was selected one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women of 2010, and was awarded the Vermont Campus Compact 2011 Kunin Public Award.

“The NMH community is honored to host Shabana Basij-Rasikh as our commencement speaker,” said NMH Head of School Peter B. Fayroian. “Basij-Rasikh’s record of accomplishments and advocacy on behalf of the women and girls of Afghanistan is truly remarkable. We are proud to have a woman whose courage and tenacity shaped so many lives usher our Class of 2013 into the future.”

Basij-Rasikh established SOLA in 2008 while she was an undergraduate at Middlebury College in Vermont, partnering with Ted Achilles, who had been one of her mentors in Afghanistan through the American Councils for International Education. Basij-Rasikh’s goal is to reduce the female illiteracy rate in Afghanistan and help educate girls and their families about the role women can play in rebuilding a country destroyed by decades of war. According to a United Nations estimate, approximately one in 10 adult Afghan women can read and write.

Now 23 years old, Basij-Rasikh has become one of the leading figures in the fight for women’s education in Afghanistan, according to the school.

This year, SOLA enrolled 25 boarding and day students at its facility in Kabul and sent several graduates to schools in the U.S., England, Jordan, and Bangladesh.

NMH this year enrolled a SOLA student, Fatima Saidi, as a postgraduate. Saidi will attend Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in the fall.

NMH’s 130th commencement is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thorndike Field, at the center of the 1 Lamplighter Way campus, off Main Road.

Editor’s note: An update from the school said that the event will be closed to graduates and their guests.

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