Five Reasons to Celebrate
The year 2010 has been one of many challenges for people throughout the world. In Afghanistan, insecurity, violence, and poverty continue to threaten communities. But the people of Afghanistan are strong and hopeful, and they are working hard to overcome these challenges. At the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), we see it every day. You can help Afghans, particularly women and children, to create a better future for themselves and their families with a contribution to AIL through Global Giving.
Looking back upon the year, what we focus on are our reasons to celebrate.
In fact, you make all of the other reasons to celebrate possible. Here is the rest of AIL’s top five reasons to celebrate in 2010:
Your renewed support will help AIL and the Afghan people start 2011 with renewed hope. If you have not yet renewed your support for AIL, please donate today and tell a friend. Thank you and best wishes.
Grateful and Undaunted
At this time of year, we are reminded of our many blessings and how the people in our lives enrich us and bring joy to every day. All of us at the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) are especially grateful to you, for your generous support of our efforts to help the people of Afghanistan overcome many challenges. Through education, teacher training, health care programs, and emergency assistance, as one woman put it, “… AIL is like an experienced mother in our society who is here to get more information to the women of Afghanistan.” We are able to serve that vital role – for the women, men, and children of Afghanistan – because of your contribution. Thank you!
As you celebrate this Holiday Season and anticipate the approach of the New Year, we hope that you will think of us again and make another donation to help ensure AIL is able to continue our work. You have most likely heard that Afghanistan continues to suffer terrible insecurity and poverty. But AIL is undaunted by the headlines because we know that the people of Afghanistan are working hard every day to improve their lives and the future of their country. Together with the people of Afghanistan, we are confident because we know that people like you believe in us and stand by us.
When you make your donation, check out the Tribute Card and Gift Card options – and please tell a friend about AIL and encourage them to make a donation too. As AIL’s founder and executive director, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi has said, “Reach out to others and give a gift to yourself.”
No matter what our circumstances today, when we believe in each other and work together, we can be assured that tomorrow will be better. Seasons Greetings and thank you again.
AIL Executive Director
The following story illustrates how AIL empowers Afghan women through encouraging them to share what they have learned with others:
“We had a neighbor who was pregnant all the time. She was worried about these pregnancies. She went to the AIL reproductive health workshop and she learned about guidance before a delivery and other issues that were discussed and taught in the workshop. Fortunately, she shared these issues with her friends when she gave a mini workshop to the others. This is a successful example in our society how these workshops help the development in Afghanistan.”
Health education is critical for the health of a mother and baby before, during and after a birth. Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest infant and mother mortality rates. AIL is passionate about giving women the information they need to increase their chances of a successful birth.
In 2010 through June, AIL taught 13 Health and Reproductive Health workshops to 413 women.
At a recent Reproductive Health workshop, one woman shared the following: “All of the time my babies were premature and I didn’t take care about proper eating of food and vegetables and family planning. When I came here I learned how to take care of my babies. I believe AIL is like an experienced mother in our society who is here to get more information to the women of Afghanistan.”
Another participant said “In the period of Taliban we hadn’t have any clinic or any hospital in my village. All the pregnant women delivered their babies in their houses. This process was very dangerous for the women. Right now, we have a clinic in my district all the women. Women go to that clinic and solve their pregnancy problems. My thanks to AIL that support the clinic in my village.”
Most Afghan women deliver their babies at home. AIL has been encouraging women to come to clinics and hospitals when they can to deliver their babies. In the first six months of 2010, 163 babies have been successfully delivered in AIL clinics.
“Reach out to others and give a gift to yourself.”
Sakena Yacoobi, founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, urged the advanced degree graduates of Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California to “reach out to others and give a gift to yourself” in the process in her 2010 Commencement speech. She has been a model of such action since 1995. Under her leadership, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) has delivered education and health services to over 7.1 million Afghan women, children and men. In appreciation of her work, SCU honored her with an honorary Doctor of Education Honoris Causa degree.
“Health and literacy are keys to human rights, empowerment and self sufficiency,” says Dr Yacoobi, Mann Award winner.
Less than a week later, Dr. Yacoobi was at the Global Health Conference in Washington, DC to receive the 2010 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights established to honor the late Jonathan Mann and to call attention to the vital links between health and human rights. The Award is bestowed annually on an individual who shows an overwhelming commitment to health and human rights, often at great personal danger.
Sakena Yacoobi considers access to health care and education as human rights and takes a holistic approach to advancing health and human rights, particularly for women. Growing up in Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi saw firsthand the damage that inequity and a lack of education and lack of access to health care can inflict upon women and children. After receiving her undergraduate and masters degree in health in the U.S., she returned to help her fellow countrywomen. As the Taliban were closing schools for women and girls in Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995 to fight oppressive traditions that left women uneducated and put their lives at risk.
Dr. Yacoobi and AIL believe that “all Afghan women can be catalysts for change in Afghanistan. With an education that teaches them how to think and to educate others, as well as an awareness of their human rights, women can create a better future for all Afghans… we know that educated women will educate families, communities, and the nation to bring lasting peace.” And the same is true for health. Health education is integral to all of AIL’s activities, as knowledge about health empowers individuals to care for themselves and their families.
Believing that access to education is a basic human right that should be available to all women and girls, AIL began by providing literacy, primary and secondary education, university classes, and teacher training for women across Afghanistan. AIL pioneered the concept of Women’s Learning Centers in Afghanistan, which teach literacy, health education, human rights education, religious study, and income-generating skills. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. AIL has integrated health programs into its work and now operates seven clinics that provide prenatal care, safe delivery, well-baby care, immunizations, and primary-care services. AIL also operates mobile medical outreach campaigns, trains and supports community health workers, and developed a nurse/midwife/health educator course that graduates some of the most highly sought-after healthcare providers in Afghanistan.
AIL currently serves 350,000 women and children each year in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has provided education, training and health services to over 7.1 million Afghans since 1995. AIL is run by women and operated by women: of its 480 employees, more than 70% are women.
Every student in every one of AIL’s Women’s Learning Center s, every patient in AIL’s seven health clinics, and every family served through AIL’s Community Health Worker program receives basic health education along with health services and has opportunities to receive culturally sensitive additional “healthy families” training. AIL also provides 2-5 day workshops in reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, self immolation (rarely done by others for security reasons) and general health. This program targets young women, ages 10-25 years old, so that they have the knowledge they need early enough to prevent the health problems of their predecessors.
Dr. Yacoobi’s approach to health and human rights is changing the culture of Afghanistan. Social dynamics have improved among families and neighbors as a result of the contributions healthy and educated girls and women make in their homes and communities. Under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable, Dr. Yacoobi is rebuilding family cohesion and a culture that respects the rights of each individual.
Though at times weary from the many demands put upon her, Sakena has no plans to slow down. “There is so much that needs to be done to help my people,” she says. “I have deep hope for Afghanistan, and I am proud of the women who get up in the morning, say goodbye to their family, and go to work… go to learning… because they know that they must learn. The only way they can stop problems is to learn. They are learning, and they are not afraid.”
Dr. Yacoobi’s vision is to transform the way that Afghans regard human rights for women and for all Afghans. She firmly believes that when the war is over, the Afghan people will be self-sufficient and a people who respect everyone’s rights.
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