Sakena Lida Yacoobi – Afghanistan

She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005

She says: I am indebted to my parents who have always been supportive of me in many ways. They put my education above their priorities in life. She works for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Sakena Lida Yacoobi – Afghanistan

Born in Herat, Afghanistan, Sakena Yacoobi obtained a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of the Pacific, USA in the 1970s, and a Masters in Public Health from Loma Linda University, California.

In the 1980s, she worked as a health consultant in California and Michigan and taught psychology, mathematics and biology at D’Etre University in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. From 1992-95, Sakena worked for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Pakistan. Thanks to Yacoobi the number of Afghan refugee girls enrolled in IRC-supported schools increased from 3,000 to 15,000.

The odds of a man in Afghanistan learning to read are roughly 3 to 1 against him. For a woman, they are 5 to 1, or worse. Sakena Lida Yacoobi not only beat the odds, she has spent much of her life trying to improve them for others.

When she left her native Herat, Afghanistan, to attend college in California, she was the first in her family to pursue higher education. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biological Sciences in 1977 from the University of the Pacific, Stockton, California, thus becoming the first woman from her hometown to earn a degree in the United States. Then she went on to achieve a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University, California, in 1981.

Her early work was as a health consultant and teacher in the U.S. She provided family therapy to private patients and counseled individuals on a wide range of health issues. As a professor at D’Etre University in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she taught biology, mathematics and psychology. (See more on Peter Gruber Foundation).

For more than two decades following the Soviet invasion in 1979, Afghanistan experienced an almost indescribable national tragedy – first the war against the Soviet invader that left the country in ruins, its economy shattered and millions of its people maimed by landmines or driven into exile; then the devastating civil war in which tens of thousands died and whole communities were reduced to rubble; and finally, the rule of the Taliban, which subjected the entire population to a harsh theocratic dictatorship and turned the country into a launching ground for international terrorism.

The liberation of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks upon the United States has given the Afghan people the opportunity for national rebirth. They have seized this opportunity by adopting a new constitution and voting in overwhelming numbers in last October’s historic presidential election, in defiance of terrorist threats to their safety. But they still face the awesome challenges of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, reviving its economy, unifying the population around a common national vision, and building stable democratic institutions. (See the rest of this article on Endowment for Democracy).

Professor Sakena Yacoobi is Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995 in Peshawar, Pakistan. 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 grown into an organization that now serves 350,000 women and children each year through its Women’s Learning Centers, schools and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. 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 California Governors Conference on Women and Families, the Central Eurasian Studies Society conference at Harvard University, and the International Institute for Peace Education in South Korea and Turkey. She has been instrumental in focusing attention on the urgent need for education and healthcare in Afghanistan.

AIL and Sakena Yacoobi are internationally recognized for their work and jointly received the 2004 Women’s Rights Prize from the Peter Gruber Foundation. The prize was awarded for furthering the rights of women and girls and increasing public awareness of the need for advancing their rights. Sakena was also awarded the 2002 Peacemakers in Action Award from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and the 2005 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy. She has received Recognition of Service Awards from two local governmental bodies in Afghanistan, and the Bill Graham Award from The Rex Foundation.

Sakena Yacoobi is co-founder and Vice-president of Creating Hope International, a Michigan based non-profit organization. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Global Fund for Women. She is advisor to Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) and a member of WLP’s Roaming Institute for Women’s Leadership. She is a steering committee member of ACBAR (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief). (See rest on creating

“When you see the joy and excitement in the students’ faces, when you see them sitting on dirt floors, under trees, and in dark basements—anywhere to get an education, you forget all your trouble,” Yacoobi said.

We are pleased to announce that Professor Sakena Yacoobi – recipient of the Tanenbaum Center’s 2002 Peacemaker in Action Award – will be given the 2005 Democracy Award of the National Endowment for Democracy. Professor Yacoobi is the Executive Director of the Afghan Learning Institute (AIL). The National Endowment for Democracy is a private, non-profit, grant-making organization that strengthens democratic institutions around the world and is active in more than 90 countries.

Professor Yacoobi has received this recognition because she is a leader of a civil society organization who has distinguished herself in educating average citizens and local leaders about the basic values and principles of democracy, the rights of women and ethnic minorities, strategies for peace-building and conflict resolution and the importance of broad political participation. The award will be presented on July 13, 2005 at an event in the United States Congress.

Professor Yacoobi continues to emphasize the need for education to promote democracy in Afghanistan, saying, “With education and literacy, people in Afghanistan – especially women – will be able to understand what democracy means. Through education, women will be able to obtain their rights, understand how they already act as leaders in their everyday lives, and contribute their leadership to help rebuild Afghanistan.” (See rest on Tanenbaum Center).

Linked to our presentation of Afghan Institute of Learning AIL – Creating Hope International CHI on December 24, 2005.


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