Basiri Saleem '09 Honored at Kennedy Center

Posted: March 25, 2009

Mount Holyoke student Sadiqa Basiri Saleem FP '09 was honored with a Rising Voices Award March 19 in Washington, D.C., in recognition of her ongoing work educating women in her homeland of Afghanistan. She was among six women--including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--presented with awards by the Vital Voices Global Partnership in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, Basiri Saleem returned to Afghanistan from a refugee camp in Pakistan and founded the Oruj Learning Center, providing uniforms, supplies, and funding for 36 girls to study in an abandoned mosque. With the help of family, friends, and donors, she has since expanded the Oruj Learning Center to six schools, with more than 2,800 girls enrolled.

Vital Voices cofounder and president Alyse Nelson Bloom told Basiri Saleem, "Your work through the Oruj Learning Center has allowed girls in a war-torn country access to an education, but more importantly it is a source of encouragement for all girls to pursue and achieve their life goals."

Prior to the award ceremony, Basiri Saleem was interviewed about her work by Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.