The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to announce Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, cofounder and board member of the Oruj Learning Center in Afghanistan, as the 2010 Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellow. The Chicago Council is honoring Ms. Saleem as a Koldyke Fellow for her efforts to educate Afghan women and girls and to raise awareness about their rights to education, healthcare, and civic participation.

Ms. Saleem will spend a week in Chicago this fall to exchange ideas about education, philanthropy, and nonprofit management with civic, government, business, and academic leaders. The fellowship experience will aid her in her goal of providing quality education for Afghan children, particularly in remote areas, and leadership training for Afghan women.

Oruj Learning Center, founded by Ms. Saleem and two others in 2002, was established to provide primary school education in remote provinces of Afghanistan that previously lacked schools entirely. Since 2002, Oruj has worked to establish six girls’ schools in the rural Wardak and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan. Currently, more than 3,200 girls are educated in Oruj-run schools. Building on the success of its primary education efforts, Oruj has expanded its mission to provide complementary social and advocacy services. Among other initiatives, Oruj’s Family Welfare Center acts to raise women’s and girls’ awareness about their rights to education, healthcare, and civic participation. The Center also provides legal assistance and counseling to victims of family violence.

Previously, Ms. Saleem served as director of external affairs and deputy director of the Afghan Women’s Network, where she represented the interests of Afghan women in national and international policy forums. While earning her B.A. at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, from which she graduated in May 2009, Ms. Saleem was honored with the college’s Presidential Leadership Award in recognition of academic achievement and outstanding community leadership. Since July 2009, she has served as a professional development centers manager for USAID’s Higher Education Project in Afghanistan while continuing her work with Oruj.

In recognition of her significant contributions to education and women and girls’ empowerment in Afghanistan, Ms. Saleem has received several distinguished awards. In March 2009, she was honored with Vital Voices’ Rising Voices Award, which honors women leaders who are pioneers of social, economic, and political change in their countries and around the world. Shortly thereafter, she was honored with the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award to support her efforts on behalf of primary education in Afghanistan. Most recently, she was honored with the Diane Von Furstenberg Award in March 2010, with an accompanying $50,000 grant to establish the first women’s leadership schools in Afghanistan. Her work has been recognized by Newsweek, the BBC, NBC, and National Public Radio, among other outlets.

Raised in refugee camps in Pakistan after her family fled Taliban rule in her home province, Ms. Saleem is a powerful and articulate advocate for change in Afghanistan. During her visit in November, Ms. Saleem will meet with Chicago’s education, foundation, and civic leaders, philanthropists, government officials, and members of the media. The Fellowship is designed to provide her with perspectives on our city’s best practices that will enable her to effect meaningful and sustained change in the Afghan education system and society. Ms. Saleem’s week in Chicago will culminate with a major public address for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship is funded by the Koldyke family to recognize a social entrepreneur between the ages of thirty and forty-five who is working to transform his or her society through innovative solutions to pressing educational problems and inadequacies. This year, the selection committee focused on primary and secondary education in Afghanistan. The 2010 Fellow, Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, was selected from a large and extremely competitive applicant pool.