|Afghan Institute of Learning|
"I pray for the day when the world sees more than the war - when they see the other side of Afghanistan"
"She is hopeless.
I cannot save her.
You cannot save her.
She must save herself.
That is why I give her skills, I give her training, I give her education and I give her love and courage."
(Sakena speaking of the Afghan women she sees struggling to improve their lives)
_ Dr. Sakena Yacoobi
Photo: Alissa Everett
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private Hospital in Herat, and the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private High Schools in Kabul and Herat, Afghanistan.
Dr. Yacoobi is the President and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. The organization was established to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Sakena’s leadership AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization which works at the grassroots level and empowers women and communities to find ways to bring education and health services to rural and poor urban girls, women and other poor and disenfranchised Afghans. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s. AIL was the first organization that opened Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout Afghanistan. Using their grassroots strategies and holistic approach, AIL now serves hundreds of thousands of women and children each year through its training programs, Learning Centers, schools and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1996, millions of Afghans have benefited from AIL’s education and health programs.
In addition to her work with AIL, Sakena has been a panelist and speaker on education for women and children at a number of international conferences, including the Clinton Global Initiative, California Governor’s Conference on Women and Families, the Central Eurasian Studies Society conference at Harvard University, the One World Forum at Warwick University in England, Association for Women in Development in Bangkok, and the International Institute for Peace Education in South Korea, Turkey, Greece and Costa Rica, the World Economic Forum in Davos, The D.D. Kosimbi Festival of Ideas in Goa, India, The World Justice Forum in The Hague and the UN DIP Conference in Australia. She was a panelist at the Millennium Campus Network Conference, as well as an honored speaker and award winner at the Opus Prize ceremony at Georgetown University. She has been instrumental in focusing attention on the urgent need for women’s rights, education and healthcare in Afghanistan.
Sakena and AIL have received international recognition for their efforts on behalf of Afghan women and children. In 2001, Sakena was awarded the Bill Graham award from the Rex Foundation in recognition of the efforts of the Afghan Institute of Learning to assist children who are victims of political oppression and human rights violations. AIL and Dr. Yacoobi are co-recipients of the 2003 Peacemakers in Action Award of the Tanenbaum Center for Inter-religious Understanding and the 2004 Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. Sakena and AIL have received recognition of service awards from the Ministry of Education in Herat, Afghanistan, the district governments of Mir Bacha Kot, Shakardara, Kalakan, Farza, and sixth district Kabul Afghanistan and from numerous Afghan organizations.
In 2005, Prof. Yacoobi was awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy. Sakena was among the 1,000 women nominated to jointly receive the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2006, Sakena received the Citizen Leader Award from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In January 2007, Sakena was inducted as a Senior Fellow, the first Ashoka Fellow from Afghanistan. In May 2007, Sakena was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by the University of the Pacific for her leadership and human rights work for women and children. In December 2007, Sakena received the 2007 Gleitsman International Activist Award at Harvard University. In June 2008, Sakena received an honorary Doctor of Humanitarian Service degree from Loma Linda University, recognizing her distinguished contribution to society. In February 2009, Sakena received the 2009 Americans for UNFPA Board of Advocates Award for the Health and Dignity of Women. Sakena was cited by Americans for UNPFA as a tireless advocate for Afghan women, who has increased the literacy and improved the health of thousands of Afghan women and girls despite decades of armed conflict and a ban on girls education during Taliban rule.
In March 2009, Sakena received the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership for her outstanding work. In June 2010, Sakena gave the graduation commencement speech and received an honorary doctorate of education from Santa Clara University for her work in providing preschool through post-secondary education for Afghan women and children. Also in 2010 Sakena was awarded the 2010 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, the Asia Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Schwab foundation, and the Global Hero Award from the University of the Pacific. 2011 brought the honor of being awarded the Afghan National Peace Award. In 2012 Sakena was thrilled to be honored with the German Media Award, the Lotus Leadership Award from The Asia Foundation, and the World’s Children’s Prize Honorary Award. In 2013, Sakena was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Princeton University, the Pioneer Award, the Global Generations Award from the Millennium Campus Network Conference, and the esteemed Opus Prize at Georgetown University. In 2014, Yacoobi received the Champion of Women's Health Award.
Born in Herat, Afghanistan, Sakena came to the United States in the 1970s, earning a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of the Pacific and a master’s degree in public health from Loma Linda University. Before returning in 1990 to work with her people, Sakena was a professor at D’Etre University and a health consultant. While working with refugees in Pakistan, she published eight Dari-language teacher training guides. During that time, she also served as the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) delegate working on the education portion of the United Nation’s Rehabilitation Plan for Afghanistan. Sakena Yacoobi is co-founder and Vice-president of Creating Hope International, a Michigan based non-profit organization.
Her affiliations include the following:
Afghan Institute of Learning, Founder and Executive Director * Afghan National Coordinating Body * Afghan Women’s Law Group * Afghan Women’s Network * Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, Member & Former Steering Committee Member * AWID * Creating Hope International, Vice President * Global Fund for Women, Board Member * Global Peace Initiative for Women, member of Contemplative Alliance * Henry J. Kravis Prize in Leadership, Nomination Advisor * The International Museum of Women * The Muslims Women’s Fund, member Global Advisory Network, * New Global Citizens Advisory Council Member * The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, Advisor on the Women’s Rights Prize committee * Policy Council on Afghan Women, Steering Committee Member * Sisterhood Is Global Institute * University of the Pacific, Global Center Advisory Board member * Vital Voices * Women’s Refugee Commission, Commissioner * World Affairs Council of Northern California * Member of 1000 Peace Women Organization * Fetzer Institute Advisory Council on Non Governmental Organizations*Advisory Board Member of the Millennium Campus Network.