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 has been a leader in providing pre school education and training pre school teachers. Many Afghan schools and ministries are now starting their own pre schools and requesting training from AIL for their teachers. AIL continues to support model pre schools. During the first 6 months of 2009, your donations helped AIL educate 974 students in Preschool programs across Afghanistan and Pakistan. For most of 2008, AIL had 3 preschool programs. AIL was able to start 3 more programs so far during 2009. These three new programs are serving a total of 510 preschool students!
In March, one of AIL’s center had 20 preschool students go to regular schools after completing the preschool program with AIL. The 20 students were registered in the area school as 1st grade students. A mother of one of the students says, “I am so happy that my daughter could go to school with the assistance of AIL, she can write and read now and has no problem in 1st grade because she was in AIL’s preschool class.”
During 2008 738 children attended the Afghan Institute of Learning’s 5 supported Pre-School Education Programs.
Recently, a mother of one of AIL’s pre-school students had this to say about the program: “My son is a student in this kindergarten class since last year. During this time, I have realized that the management, caring of children and the teaching of the AIL pre-school teachers is outstanding. My son happily goes to pre-school every day. He never cries like other children going to other kindergartens; it is because the teachers, manager and other staff are nice to him. Everyday when he comes home, he seems to have grown up a little more. I cannot express my opinions regarding AIL’s kindness. My son will never forget his childhood in this pre-school and he will remember AIL’s kindness and he will understand the value of what he is receiving when he becomes a young man, and be able express his feelings to AIL.”
In 2008, Creating Hope International’s project partner, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), has supported five pre-schools. AIL has model pre-schools in Peshawar, Pakistan (for Afghan refugees) and in Kabul, Afghanistan. For parents that can afford it, fees are charged in the model pre-schools. Poor students receive scholarships. AIL also supports pre-schools in one Women’s Learning Center in Kabul and two rural Women’s Learning Centers in Herat. 416 girls and boys attended the five pre-schools during the first six months of 2008.
In the Pre-School Education Program, the students are taught the following subjects:
• Alphabet letters English and Dari
• Islamic issues
• Making projects
• Introducing Names of Animals
• Names of the countries
The mother of Sara, a pre-school student, said, “Before Sara came to this center, we put her in different pre-school programs and every day in the morning she was crying and she refused going to the school. But since she comes here she likes it and she has learned a lot. Now she is able to go to grade one and I as her mother thank AIL for providing this opportunity for the women and children".
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Thanks to 41 donors like you, a total of $8,348 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving.
Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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