Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private Hospital in Herat, and the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private High Schools in Kabul and Herat, Afghanistan.
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, training and health services to women and children. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women and the first to open Women’s Learning Centers. AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3000 girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban closed girls’ schools Using their grassroots strategies and holistic approach, over 10 million Afghans have benefited from AIL’s education and health programs since 1996. Sakena and AIL have received international recognition for their efforts on behalf of Afghan women and children.
Born in Herat, Afghanistan, Sakena came to the United States in the 1970s, 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 in 1990 to work with her people, Sakena was a professor at D’Etre University and a health consultant. While working with refugees in Pakistan, she published eight Dari-language teacher training guides and she also served as the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) delegate working on United Nation’s Rehabilitation Plan for Afghanistan.
Sakena Yacoobi is co-founder and Vice-president of Creating Hope International, a Michigan based non-profit organization. She serves on the board of directors of Global Fund for Women, the NGO Advisory Council for the Fetzer Foundation, the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council and is an advisor to a number of other organizations. Sakena is a Senior Ashoka fellow, the first Ashoka fellow from Afghanistan.