Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the founder and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private Hospital in Herat, and the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private High Schools in Kabul and Herat, Afghanistan.
The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) is an Afghan women-led NGO founded by Dr. Yacoobi in 1995. AIL was established to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support the education of Afghans, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Sakena’s leadership AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization which works at the grassroots level and empowers women and communities to find ways to bring education and health services to those in need. AIL was the first to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women and was the first organization to open Learning Centers for Afghan women – a concept now copied by many organizations throughout Afghanistan. Since beginning in 1995, AIL has impacted the lives of over 10 million Afghans, at least 7 million of whom are women.
Dr. Yacoobi was born in Herat, Afghanistan. She came to the United States in the 1970’s, earning 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 work with her people in 1990, Sakena was a professor at D’Etre University. While working with refugees in Pakistan, she published eight Dari-language teacher training guides. During that time, Sakena Yacoobi helped to found Creating Hope International; a Michigan based non-profit organization, of which she is Vice-President. Sakena has also earned numerous awards, including three honorary doctorates. She is an Ashoka Fellow and is a Skoll and Schwab Social Entrepreneur. Sakena is on the Global Fund for Women Board of Directors, is an advisor for the Fetzer Institute and is a commissioner for the Women’s Refugee Commission.