Basij-Rasikh delivers a simple but powerful message for the Assembly Series: ‘Educate a girl. Change the world’

Growing up under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s family literally risked their lives to provide an education for their daughters. She learned early the danger females face in seeking an education — but she also experienced its rich rewards. Today, she is paying her good fortune forward to empower some of the estimated 66 million girls who are denied a primary education. Her message is simple: “Educate a girl. Change the world.”

Basij-Rasikh will deliver the keynote address for this year’s Olin Fellowship Conference, whose theme is “Educating Women for Global Empowerment.” Her talk will begin at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, in Graham Chapel on Washington University in St. Louis’ Danforth Campus; it is free and open to the public.

In her talk, she will describe her journey as a child attending a secret school in Kabul, then coming to the United States, graduating from college, and finally going back to Afghanistan to establish a school for girls.

It’s a story so inspiring that she was chosen to participate in this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University, held at WUSTL in April; to give a TED Talk; and to be profiled in a new documentary, Girl Rising, featuring the voices of an array of film stars, among them Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Kerry Washington.

Taking advantage of a State Department-sponsored youth exchange studies program, Basij-Rasikh attended high school in the U.S., then was accepted at Middlebury College. She graduated magna cum laude in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and women and gender studies.

Today, Basij-Rasikh is realizing her goal of ensuring that the next generation of Afghan leaders includes women. She has established and now runs SOLA, the School of Leadership–Afghanistan, a highly selective girls’ boarding school designed to prepare them for top-level leadership positions in a broad range of careers.

For information on this and future Assembly Series programs, visit or call (314) 935-4620.