As a refugee in Pakistan, Sadiqa Basiri Saleem FP’09 was close to earning a medical degree when the Taliban closed her Afghan-run university. After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, she returned to Afghanistan’s Wardak province, where 150,000 girls had no hope for an education.
She and three other women pooled their money to found a school for girls in her home village of Godah. With help from family, friends, and donors, that effort—known as the Oruj Learning Center—expanded to four literacy centers serving 200 women and six schools educating more than 2,700 girls.
In 2005, Saleem began studying international relations as a Frances Perkins Scholar at Mount Holyoke College through the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women. Shortly before graduating, she was among six women—including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—honored by the Vital Voices Global Partnership. That same spring, she was awarded the prestigious Samuel Huntington Public Service Award.Since graduating, Saleem has established the first Afghan community college for women, as well as the Family Welfare Center for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a domestic violence prevention project serving 14,000 Afghan women while also training government staff and encouraging spiritual leaders to discuss women’s issues constructively. Since 2006, she has been serving as a professional development centers manager for the Academy for Educational Development’s Higher Education Project in Afghanistan. In 2010, Saleem received the “People’s Voice” Award from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation and was the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellow.