Sakena Yacoobi is a humanitarian leader in women’s rights in one of the most difficult battlegrounds – Afghanistan. She is the leader of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women’s education NGO she founded in 1995 to support education for girls (and boys), provide education training to prospective Afghan teachers and to provide health education for girls. The organization is recognized worldwide for bringing education and health services to rural, poor or otherwise underprivileged Afghans in the face of severe cultural opposition.
After receiving her education in the United States in the 1970’s, Sakena left a promising life as a professor and consultant to go aid her people in Afghanistan at the height of Taliban rule. AIL has come a long way since 1995 and currently consists of 38 women’s learning centers and 5 health clinics. AIL has reported trained over 20,000 teachers and provides health education to over 2 million people.
Sakena has seen outstanding recognition from the global community for her work. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and has been awarded in honorary doctorate in law from the University of the Pacific in California for her work with AIL. Marie-Josee Kravis (formerly Marie-Josee Drouin) presented her with the Henry R Kravis Prize in Leadership in 2009, a prestigious award catering to non-profits and humanitarian efforts. Just some of her many awards, she continues to be a thought leader in education and a strong advocate for women’s rights today.