26 March 2009
Saleem spent 18 years in a Pakistani refugee camp before returning home seven years ago. Disheartened by the lack of schooling available to females in Afghanistan, she founded the Oruj Learning Center, providing uniforms, supplies, and funding to enable 36 girls to study in an abandoned mosque. Although she left her homeland again in the fall of 2005 to attend Mount Holyoke through the U.S. Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, she has continued her work; with the help of family, friends, and donors, she has since expanded the Oruj Learning Center to six schools. Today more than 2,800 women and girls are enrolled, often learning side by side in the same classroom.
Vital Voices cofounder and president Alyse Nelson Bloom told 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. See the video: