Afghanistan is in the news a lot these days. As a donor to a project in Afghanistan, you may be wondering if change is happening, and if your donation really makes any difference.
Following is a message from Dr. Sakena Yacoobi that answers your questions. It’s part of our annual newsletter, where we also share progress reports from several areas, and the impact AIL’s work is having in Afghan lives. This newsletter is below in a PDF format; we invite you to click on it and read ALL the details……
From Sakena Yacoobi:
First, I want to thank all of you for supporting the work of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL). Your support is so important. Yes, the funds you send help us to bring education and health to so many Afghan women and children. But, more importantly, in this time of increasing violence and insecurity in Afghanistan, your support helps Afghans to know that they are not forgotten. It gives ordinary Afghan women, men and children the courage to keep studying, to keep going to clinics and to keep working for peace.
Today you probably hear that Afghanistan is a place of war, terrorist bombings, burning of schools, kidnapping, drugs and all kinds of other horrible things. And it is true that in every province of Afghanistan, including the capitol, every single day, these kinds of things are happening. But what you might not hear in your news is that everyday many women, men and children of Afghanistan get up in the morning….. say goodbye to their family…..and go to work….. go to schools and centers ….. go to trainings……because they know that they must be educated. They know that the only way they can stop these problems is to be educated. So they are learning, they are teaching and they are not afraid.
And when there is no electricity or no clean water or no school or no road or no job and there is no help from the national government or the international agencies, Afghans, particularly women, are joining together in community or with their local officials to find ways to solve their own
problems. And, with your help, AIL is helping them to do this.
I want to let you know that as dark as it seems to be in Afghanistan now, much is happening. Afghans, themselves, are changing. They are educating themselves; they are making sure that their children are educated; they are finding new ways to solve their problems. I would ask you to walk with us a little further on our journey towards peace.
TO READ the rest of our annual newsletter, please click on the PDF link below and it will open for your inspection-
Thank you for your support. Your desire to make a difference in this world has made a difference, and we are so thankful that Afghan people have had their lives changed with your help.
We wanted to share with you a very special opportunity to give more than 100% from November 10 through December 1st. Please share this with those you know who care. During this time, we are privileged to receive additional matching funds from your donation through Global Giving of at least 30%. The need is still great. Afghanistan struggles to become a country of strength and stability.
This Fast-Track Education project allows older girls and women to ‘ramp up’ their education. For smaller girls, they can quickly advance to the grade level they would have been at and then attend school with children their own age. For adolescents and women, they can learn a lot in a short period of time and can go on to higher education if they choose.
Azita started learning in the Sar Asia educational center in 2003. She has been encouraged by her uncle, who works as the supervisor of this center. She started learning literacy and tailoring skills in this center. She was talented, and was one of the top students in her class. She progressed so fast that she completed the 4rth grade of literacy and the tailoring course.
She says, “During that time, the regular school in the village was facing a lack of teachers, so I passed the test for hiring me as a teacher in the school. I have taught there for two years and at the same time I started to attend the grade five course in the AIL educational center. Very soon I took an exam in the regular school, and they accepted me in grade 9th in that school.
“Fortunately, when my parents saw my unbelievable progress they sent me to Herat city to live with my uncle so I could have a better opportunity to continue my education there. “Right now I am in the Mahjoobai Hirawi high school in Herat city and I am the top student in my class. I need to help my uncle’s family with their housework because I live with them. Once a month I go to my village to visit my parents.
“What I am now is because of AIL’s educational center in my village. It changed the direction of my life in the right way and now I have a positive vision to my life.”
There's a new focus on women worldwide. The New York Times magazine dedicated their entire issue one week in August on women in the developing world. Of particular focus was a newly launched book written by the well-known Pulitzer winning couple Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl DuWunn titled: "Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide". The press focus on this timely book is significant- from reviews in Harvard and People magazine, to upcoming segments on shows like "The Today Show", the time has come for women and their issues worldwide to be in the spotlight.
Sakena Yacoobi and her organization the Afghan Institute of Learning is one of the topics in Chapter Nine of the book. Dr. Yacoobi grew up in Herat, Afghanistan and then came to the United States to study at the University of the Pacific and Loma Linda University. Concerned about the condition of her people back in Afghanistan, Sakena returned to Pakistan to work in Afghan refugee camps and later went to Afghanistan. Although the Taliban forbade girls from getting an education in Afghanistan, Sakena was instrumental in establishing a string of secret girls schools with community support.
Today, the Afghan Institute of Learning has multiple education programs in Pakistan and in seven provinces of Afghanistan. There are educational learning centers for women and children, preschool programs, post-secondary institutes, a university, and teacher training programs. In addition, AIL has an in-depth program of health education and treatment for women and small children. Since its start in 1995, AIL has trained nearly 16,000 teachers and over 3.5 million women and children have received a quality education. With the health programs included, AIL has directly impacted over 6.7 million Afghans.
Sakena has been and continues to be recognized for her work. Her philosophy is to develop a program from the grass-roots level so the community members are an integral part of the process. State Kristof and DuWunn in their book Half The Sky- "American organizations would have accomplished much more if they had financed and supported Sakena, rather than dispatching their own representatives to Kabul...The best role for Americans who want to help Muslim women isn't holding the microphone at the front of the rally, but writing the checks and carrying the bags in the back."
Dr. Yacoobi and the work of the Afghan Institute of Learning have been supported by multiple grantors and organizations over the years. "I wish to thank everyone who has helped in this important work," states Sakena. "I want to share with each and every contributor the joy of seeing a young woman, who has a renewed interest in life because she can now read, or the happiness of a widow who has learned a skill that will allow her to support her children.
"We now have children who are healthy because of inoculations, and women who did not die during childbirth who have happy, healthy babies. My wish is that these small steps that allow awareness and growth in families will lead to the growth of our country."
Recently, we spoke with Sakena, and she has this message to all the supporters of AIL:
"It is an honor to be included in Nicholas' and Sheryl's book Half The Sky. So many foundations and individuals have contributed to the work that the Afghan Institute of Learning has been able to do in Afghanistan.
"From the bottom of my heart I want to thank all who have understood the plight of Afghan women and children, and have reached out with compassionate, caring support.
"May God reward your generosity......."
Recently, AIL was asked by the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs to report on the impact AIL’s programs have had. We were amazed by our findings. Since beginning in 1996 through May 2009, 220,970 Afghans have been educated in AIL schools, centers and post-secondary programs and overall 6,778,026 Afghan lives have been directly impacted by AIL programs.
AIL was the first to begin fast track classes for females. They have proved to be very successful and the concept has been replicated throughout Afghanistan by other communities and organizations. During the first 6 months of 2009 your donations helped 7,864 Afghan women and girls attend fast-track classes at AIL centers across Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan. These classes give the students only the skills they need to make a better life for themselves and their families; they also open the students eyes to a world of possibility and give them a sense of self-worth.
We’d like to share two success stories from AIL students:
“My name is Shokreia. I live in a large family of thirteen people. Three of us are less literate, and my sister is can read the best since she is in 9th grade. I decided that I wanted to learn to read too, so I came to this center to take classes to become literate as well as learn about other issues from my teachers. Literacy is like a light that rescues us from unawareness and darkness. I hope to learn well until I can become a good teacher and do service to my compatriots. I want to be a teachers because our prophet was a teacher for all people, so it is a valuable job. I am in the literacy class, and now I can read book sand magazines. Also, I would like to take other classes such as English, computers, beautician and painting. I would like to say thank you to all of the AIL staff for their hard work to raise the capacity of women.”
“I was illiterate and my husband had graduated from high school. My husband’s mother told me that I should learn to read by participating in a literacy course, but that I must take the class at a center where there would not be any men in my class. I found the AIL center and decided to take classes here with my sisters. My husband’s mother has never come here with me, until today. She stood outside the class and watched as our Life Skills class was taught by a man, and I worried about what I should say to her. I began to relax as I realized that my teachers were good and moral people, and decided that I must be patient and after class I would talk to my husband’s mother. When I came out of class, I saw her standing there and I shared with her all of the things I had learned. She told me that she could hear that I was being taught well, and that she would like to join our class.”
AIL recently received an update from Hafisa, a young woman that had taken classes at a Women’s Learning Center in rural Herat, Afghanistan. As a teenage girl, Hafisa began going to the WLC in her village where she became literate and learned to sew. In all of her classes, the teachers talked about human rights, peace, health and leadership, emphasizing that anyone can be a leader, even if in a small way.
After graduating from the center, Hafisa was married and moved away. Hafisa’s sewing skills quickly made her popular in her new village with many people bringing her dresses for sewing. Soon, people in the village began asking her to open a center and teach other women to sew. Hafisa remembered the leadership lessons she learned at the AIL WLC in her village and knew that she could start a class.
Starting a center to teach women to sew is a fairly novel concept. At first, her family ignored the requests, but due to community persistence, Hafisa’s family eventually allowed her to open a center in her home. Now she uses one room of her house to teach a sewing class and has 40 students. She collects a fee from the students, and this income has helped to change her family’s economic situation. She is respected in her community and her family is proud of her. Whenever she goes to her own village to see her parents, she visits the AIL center and thanks AIL for giving her the opportunity to be a useful person in her community. Not only did Hafisa learn to sew, she learned to be a leader and found that she could run a self-sufficient center.
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