BRISTOL - The One-World Library Project will host a free program by Middlebury resident and college student Shabana Basij-Rasikh at the Lawrence Memorial Library Thursday, Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Shabana will talk about her experiences growing up in Afghanistan and share her passion for working with her country to improve the lives of her fellow citizens - especially around issues of human rights for Afghan women. During the Taliban rule education for women was prohibited.
Shabana, whose home is Kabul, Afghanistan, attended "secret schools" from age six to eleven. Risking her life and that of her entire family by pretending to be a family member on a visit, Shabana would travel daily to a private home where older women would teach the girls. At Shabana's school the women taught from 6:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and saw over one hundred girls, some of whom traveled over forty-five minutes to get there each day.
When the Taliban was overthrown by the U.S.-led international military coalition in 2002, Shabana was able to attend public schools. She won a scholarship from the American Council for International Education and spent her senior year studying in Wisconsin. At Middlebury College, Shabana is working on Middle Eastern Studies and women and gender studies.
Shabana is a passionate advocate for her country and in particular women's changing roles. With the ongoing presence of international communities and aid workers in Afghanistan, the situation for Afghan women is more positive. They are able to be more actively involved in supporting their families, in working towards greater education and in impacting the political process. However, with the ever present possibility of resurgence by the Taliban, Shabana acknowledges the great importance of continued support by the international community. She believes that Afghanistan's security and stability is essential for peace in the entire region.
Shabana is actively involved in many projects to improve the lives of her people and bring about positive change in Afghanistan. She still works for the aid organization that first sent her to the U.S. and last summer she won a $10,000 grant from the Davis Peace Project to dig wells in her home city.
During her year studying in Wisconsin her school helped finance an Afghan orphanage and create a school in Shabana's ancestral village of Qalatik.
The volunteer teachers there came to Shabana's father and asked if some kind of a classroom could be created. Working with the Council for International Education and the Minister of Education, Shabana was able to help the village build a six-classroom school on donated land. Shabana's dream is to raise enough money to build more classrooms and ultimately create the first all-girls high school in Afghanistan.
Shabana's talk is free but any donations towards her efforts would be appreciated.