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“My vision is to see the people of Afghanistan transformed, through education, so that they ask questions, think for themselves and find ways to solve their own problems working with others. We must all understand that there is more than government; we, the Afghan people, can find our own way to peace and prosperity.”
 
Sakena Yacoobi, Founder and Executive Director of Afghan Institute of Learning

About Sakena Yacoobi

Born in Herat, Afghanistan and educated in the United States, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995 while working in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Sakena Yacoobi has spent the last two decades providing education, training, and health care services to women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of her enduring contributions is focusing attention on the issue and importance of girls’ education in Afghanistan.

Sakena Yacoobi earned 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 to Afghanistan in 1990 to work with her native people, she was a professor at D’Etre University and a health consultant. Upon the founding of AIL, Yacoobi’s first program initiative was to establish learning centers in the refugee camps in response to the women’s requests for educational opportunities for themselves and their children. In addition to her work with AIL, Yacoobi is co-founder and Vice President of Creating Hope International, a Michigan based non-profit organization.

Current Operations of Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL)

The mission of Afghan Institute of Learning is to provide education, training, and health services to vulnerable Afghans in order to foster self-reliance, critical thinking skills, and community participation throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. AIL currently operates 38 women’s learning and education centers and five health centers and clinics. Since 1996, the learning and education centers have trained over 20,000 teachers and provided health education and training to more than 2 million people. In total, AIL has impacted more than 10 million people (directly and indirectly) since its founding. In 2003, AIL founded Gawhar Shad University in response to the lack of post-secondary education opportunities for Afghan women. Hundreds have graduated from the university since then.

Seventy percent of AIL’s 450 staff members are Afghan women. Under Yacoobi’s leadership, AIL has become one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Afghanistan and currently serves more than 350,000 women and children each year.

Approach and Distinguishing Features

Sakena Yacoobi’s innovative approaches to education and community involvement serve as a model in the sector, and AIL actively assists in building the capacity of other organizations and entities. The concept of women’s learning centers and AIL’s interactive teaching methods have been replicated by many nonprofit organizations in Afghanistan as well as by government and educational institutions. AIL also provides training and technical assistance to small, local Afghan community-based organizations to help build the capacity of Afghanistan’s civil society sector and increase the enrollment of female students. Yacoobi’s achievements demonstrate significant courage and persistence in the face of extensive obstacles to educating girls and women in Afghanistan. During the Taliban’s rule, for example, education of girls was prohibited. Yacoobi and the staff of AIL took significant risks in operating 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls during the 1990s.

Sakena Yacoobi and AIL have received international recognition for their efforts on behalf of Afghan women and children. In foresight, the Afghan Institute of Learning expects to continue developing its presence in Afghanistan and organizing grassroots efforts towards reconstruction and development.
 

Videos

Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership

2009 Recipient


AIL at CMC (Part 2): A passion for social change

Written by: Brittany Arneson, CMC '16. Brittany is a Southern California native majoring in Government at Claremont Mckenna College. She has been an intern for the Office of Public Affairs for the duration of her time at CMC. Her academic interests include security...

AIL at CMC (Part 1): Taking to the local Afghan airwaves

Written by: Brittany Arneson, CMC '16. Brittany is a Southern California native majoring in Government at Claremont Mckenna College. She has been an intern for the Office of Public Affairs for the duration of her time at CMC. Her academic interests include security...

Sakena Yacoobi Photos

Sakena Yacoobi Award Ceremony