Sakena Yacoobi

Organization: 
Afghan Institute of Learning
Year founded: 
1995
Country: 
USA

AIL provides health and education services to Afghan women and children so that they can rebuild their lives, society and ultimately their country, after decades of war and civil strife.

Focus: Education, Health, Women
Geographic: Area of Impact: Afghanistan, Pakistan
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 970,500 (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 6% (2009)
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Asia, 2010

Background
During more than three decades of war and civil strife, Afghans have experienced constant disruptions in their daily lives. Two basic human rights – education and health – are necessary building blocks to restoring a stable society. However only 28% of the population over the age of 15 can read and write, and the expected rate of school attendance is only eight years. Average life expectancy is 44 years, and the infant mortality rate is the second highest in the world, at 153 deaths per 1,000 live births. How does one bring democracy and sustainability to a country where its people cannot read or write, and are dying too early?

Innovation and Activities
AIL provides health and education services to Afghani women and children, providing primary and secondary schooling and university classes, as well as health services and education. It also offers teacher training and workshops in leadership, human rights, health and capacity-building.

AIL helps students by promoting critical thinking, problem solving and the value of human rights. Its education learning centres are established in partnership with local communities, which contribute facilities and human resources, while AIL provides teachers’ salaries, ongoing training and school curricula. Its education curricula is self-developed with vocational training components, and requires active community participation and ownership so that communities become self-sufficient in providing for their own longterm educational and health needs.

AIL also operates rural clinics that provide primary care services and health education in coordination with volunteer community health workers. In response to community needs, AIL developed a course for nurses, midwives and health educators that graduates highly sought-after healthcare providers.

To date, AIL has benefited more than 8.8 million people through its education and health services.

The Entrepreneur
Sakena Yacoobi, AIL’s founding Executive Director, was born in Herat, Afghanistan. She went to the United States in the 1970s, and earned a Bachelor's in Biological Sciences and a Master's in Public Health. She worked as a teacher and a health consultant before returning in 1990 to work with Afghan refugees in Pakistan. During this time she observed that Afghanis had lost their identities as a result of loss of family in war, death from preventable illness or displacement to another country. She founded AIL so that Afghans could rebuild their lives, society, and ultimately their country.