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.
Six Afghan women work full time as carpet weavers in an AIL center hear Herat. These women get paid a living wage and some of the profits from the completed carpets, while doing work that carries on an Afghan tradition. They complete Kashani style carpets, and in the last several months have completed 3 carpets with a number of additional carpets in process.
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 and received skills training in AIL schools, centers and post-secondary programs. Overall 6,778,026 Afghan lives have been directly impacted by AIL programs.
One of the skills that Afghan widows have learned at AIL centers is carpet weaving. Studying under master carpet weavers, the women learn to weave high quality carpets while earning a salary that enables them to support their families. After their apprenticeship, the women are then able to use what they have learned to support their families by weaving carpets.
There are currently six carpet weavers working in an AIL center near Herat, Afghanistan. These six women are working on three pieces of carpet which are 57% completed. These six women are paid a living wage for their work carrying on an Afghan tradition.
During March, two pieces of carpet were completed and two others are 97% completed. Work began on these four pieces of carpet in December. Currently six poor Afghan women are beneficiaries of this program.
Since the last update, AIL has added one more woman to its carpet weaving program. The program now has a total of 11 women involved. Most of the carpet weavers are widows that have to other way to earn a living. Widows in Afghanistan live with their extended family, and are usually given a limited amount of space in which to live (one room of their own). One room is not enough space for the women to set up a loom to begin their own carpet weaving business, so AIL has set up looms in two centers for the women to use. Each center has master carpet weavers that work with the less advanced weavers in a program much like an apprenticeship. When a piece of carpet has been completed, AIL sells the piece and pays the weavers a living wage.
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