Sakena Yacoobi, the mother of Afghan education, has been a pioneering and devoted refugee educator for 21 years with the belief that education is the key to social reconstruction even under severe conditions of war and occupation.
Dr. Yacoobi began educating teachers in Afghan refugee camps where they had struggled to survive after decades of war and the complete collapse of the education and health system, and began to establish schools for boys and girls. In 1995, the Afghan Institute for Learning (AIL) was established to provide systematic refugee education, providing education and vocational training to 13 million women and children. Despite the Taliban regime's ban on women's schools, it successfully operated and educated more than 3,000 girls without incident.
Currently, AIL provides curricula from kindergarten to university education, and 44 education centers provide basic literacy education and various vocational courses, opening opportunities to refugees for income generation. Ultimately, it has been providing education in leadership, democracy, self-confidence, and capacity-building, aimed at fostering refugees to become independent citizens capable of critical thinking. As a result, refugees who have been educated at AIL have improved their self-confidence, economic power, and problem-solving abilities, and have been leading a successful community rebuilding process. The Afghan refugee community, which has experienced displacement for more than 30 years, now feels that education is a pathway to a better future and a key element for the country's reconstruction, and that educated young people will play a leading role in Afghanistan's future.
Presenting a holistic solution to the problem of the resettlement of refugees
Dr. Yacoobi introduced a holistic approach to rebuilding communities destroyed by war, providing an innovative solution to the problem of resettlement. This approach is a comprehensive and long-term solution to the problem of society as a whole, in order to overcome the inadequate educational, economic, socio-cultural and institutional constraints of refugee camps. It contributes to improving the overall quality of life and community development for Afghan refugees.
The Afghan Institute of Learning, an organization founded by Dr. Yacoobi, is providing technical assistance to four private schools, hospitals and radio stations at the private level. Since 1996, it has provided health education to more than 2 million women and children, which has significantly reduced infant mortality and maternal mortality during pregnancy and childbirth. It also continues to provide 'love and forgiveness' workshops to transform the refugees, who have been surrounded by social deprivation and anger, into positive leaders who can innovate in their local communities. Through radio broadcasting, it reaches more than a million people a day, dealing with social trends, health, family success models, human rights, literature, music, etc., and supports the desire of the refugees for a peaceful and fruitful life.
The entire community rebuilding process has been carried out in cooperation with the community itself, allowing the community to build a sense of ownership in the project. As a result of consultation, and organizing the projects needed by the community, rather than one-sided aid, it has revolutionized the refugee resettlement dynamic, providing a win-win situation for both the local community and government agencies.
Contributing to the improvement of human rights and the status of Muslim women
Sakena Yacoobi is committed to educating Muslim women with the belief that "to educate girls is to educate future generations." Due to some elements of Islamic culture opposing women's education, and as a result of protracted conflicts, Afghanistan has recorded the world's lowest literacy rate, with only 12.6% of women over 15 years of age being able to read and write. In order to address this serious situation, Dr. Yacoobi has been aggressively persuasive and has changed prejudices about women's education. As a result, many women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan are now educated, and in recent years Dr. Yacoobi even established a women’s university. She has provided family planning services and contraception advice in order to liberate women from unwanted childbirth. She also runs a women's legal counseling center in Afghanistan and provides legal advice services for women on issues such as domestic abuse, child custody, the right to inheritance, and marriage without consent.
Women who were isolated in their homes are now able to gather together and receive education through Women's Networking Centers. Women are given the opportunity to take part in classes, read and learn, engage in income-generating activities, participate in society, all of which has greatly improved their access to human rights and a higher quality of life.