Difference Maker #3-Shabana Basij-Rasikh

As part of my Noonday & International Justice Mission Rwanda trip contest submission, I am posting stories of real difference makers. Please take some time to read a bit about these women and, if you're so inclined, feel free to vote for me here: Rachael T Mickel--Worst Contest Submission Ever.

It has been said that the power to change poverty, oppression, and it's effects is in the hands of young girls with textbooks. 

I think oppressive systems know this well. 

In 1996, the Taliban took control over Afghanistan and, under threat of death, made it illegal for a girl to have an education. Some families kept their girls at home. Others sent their girls to secret schools, knowing that they were placing their daughters and their entire family in danger. 

In order to get an education, Shebana Basij-Rasikh dressed up like a man so she could escort her sister, who wouldn't be allowed out of the house without her father or other man to escort her, to a secret school where both of them attended. They lived in fear as they walked a differnet route each day and wondered if they were being followed and would be found out and killed. There were days that in her frustration and fear, Shabana begged her father to let them stay home. Her father's response was:

Listen, my daughter. You can lose everything you own in your life. Your money can be stolen. You can be forced to leave your home during a war. But the one thing that will always remain with you is what is here (pointing to his head) and if we have to sell our blood to pay your school fees, we will. So, do you still not wish to continue?

Today, not only is Shebana Basij-Rasikh a high school graduate, not only is she a college graduate, but she now runs a school where she is empowering young girls to get an education and be leaders in her country. The name of her school is Sola. 

It occurred to me that Shebana is not the only difference maker in this story; she was raised by difference makers. How beautiful to see a mother and father's sacrifice and determination be the foundation of the empowerment of not just their children, but of many women through Shebana's school. Today, I highlight Shebana as a difference maker, but I also highlight her parents. In an environment where most women are not valued as equals or as anything but property, it is encouraging and inspiring to me to hear of a man who not only values his wife and daughters, but who fears his death less than his children not receiving an education--their ticket to freedom and empowerment.

I stopped to think about my own daughters walking to school this morning, not to a secret school, but a free school, and with no fear of being killed. I began to appreciate what we have here. As I thought about how busy the end of the school year is and the amount of complaining we do regarding homework and the rigors of school, while we are anxiously waiting for the flurry of activity to ease up for two and a half months, I am looking through the eyes of a father who was willing to die to give his daughters the chance to have an education. I feel ashamed that I huffed over running out to buy supplies for a school project and strings for a violin during an already busy afternoon. It's the day after Memorial Day, just one day after I paused to let my heart fill with gratitude for those who died for our freedom here in the United States of America, and already I have forgotten to appreciate just how many freedoms I enjoy that I never even take pause to notice. 

I encourage you to watch this video of a TedTalks speech Shabana Basij-Rasikh gave and I challenge you to take a moment to count your blessings and your freedoms. 

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