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.
Although most of the students in AIL centers and schools are women and girls, AIL is also educating boys who have not had an opportunity to go to school during the war years. During the first 6 months of 2009, your donations helped AIL educate 4,177 Afghan boys in Educational Learning Centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We’d like to share with you the story of a young man who has come to AIL to supplement his university education. He says, “I am studying Trigonometry at this Institute. I have been studying here for about four months as well as studying at the university for my Bachelors of Business Administration Degree. My major aim (in coming to the center) is to focus on the sciences because I have the most problems with them. I have also come to this center because almost all of the teachers here come from the university and teach different subjects here. The discipline in this Institute is good and all the teachers have good behavior with their students.”
In 2008, the Afghan Institute of Learning helped to educate 8,984 boys in AIL Learning Centers.
We would like to share the story of Mohammad, a teenaged boy studying at an AIL Learning Center:
He says, "When I was 8 years old, I wanted to go to school, but my father didn't let me go. He told me to go control the cows and work in the fields; I had to accept his orders. When I turned 12 years old, I asked my father to let me get an education like the other boys, and he brought me to school. In the beginning, I had lots of problems in my school subjects because my father couldn't help me. I heard about this center of AIL and joined. I want to say that our teacher is very kind. We don't feel that he is a teacher, he behaves like a father and now I am learning a lot!!"
Thanks to all of your who have contributed to this project for helping boys like Mohammad have an opportunity to have a quality education!!!!
We would like to share with you the story of Mohammad, a male student in one of AIL’s centers.
“My name is Mohammad and I have been a student of AIL’s English course for a long time. I was studying English before I can to the center, but I had problems in my previous school. The teacher did not pay attention to each student because the class had nearly 50 students in it. That made me very nervous, and one day my friend told me to join AIL’s English course because the teachers were very talented, and they use new methods during teaching. After I joined this course, my problems have decreased and I am so happy and thankful for my teacher who has helped me. I wish my teacher success in the future.”
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