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Sakena Yacoobi: See Afghanistan As More Than A Nation At War

A trailblazer for education and peace in Afghanistan shares a powerful message with the Taliban and the world. Dream with us, Sakena Yacoobi and her team ask, and see Afghanistan as more than a nation at war.


We are relieved to state our school and clinics are still standing.

We are grateful for this, and for our ability to continue to serve the community. It is urgent Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) programs resume, as both of these vital services are providing food, medicine, and security.

If Afghanistan wishes to move forward as a nation, we must ensure these needs are met. AIL has always worked to do this.

Children need stability and education. All other things we have tried, have failed. Education and health create a dream. We ask for clear support in providing these services. Not for AIL’s sake, but for the sake of the people we all love who use them. This civil war is only one of many problems hurting the Afghan people right now, and hundreds of thousands depend on AIL for a long list of social issues. From medical care to food distribution, and for the safety when the children are afraid. Our network is well developed and covers almost half of the country. Families depend on us. We cannot let them down.

AIL is very excited to say our Women’s Learning Centers are now open! We ask the Islamic Emirates leadership to work with us to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable members, our women and girls who have worked so hard. Keep our Women’s Learning Centers open, which house many important programs. Our adult literacy classes, for anyone who wishes to attend, run from the Learning Centers.

So many of our men, like my father, who reached adulthood without ever reading a single word, want the magic of books, too.

Our tailoring classes allow a woman to run a business from her own home. The money she makes helps her family, and as COVID raged, helped the whole community. Because of our Learning Center, so many people who wouldn’t have had food or safe medical equipment did. Our computer coding classes, outside the normal school program, run in our Learning Centers. The skill to write in the language of computers helps everyone, as the internet is full of ideas and technical directions on how to build power-generating devices, new agriculture techniques, solutions that people from all over the world created for their villages and then shared. We need these Women’s Centers and hope to find support in their protection.

Our women are not children, in need of care. We contribute to the country. Let us not waste this precious resource behind walled gardens. See how the women and girls of Afghanistan benefit the country, far more than just for running a home. We are here, waiting, willing to help. Please, let us do so.

Even as I type this, women flee by the thousands. A nation cannot survive without women. Previous civil wars have shown us that if we lock women and girls away, abuse them, force them into marriages, they will not stay with us. They will take the only escape they can. We must not rebuild Afghanistan over the graves of the women who would not be caged. If you love them, want to protect them, our women need freedom like they need air. Without it, they will die.

Through all the fear and uncertainty over the last few months, one thing remains true. In villages and towns with AIL schools and clinics, their residents come to us for safety. Because we are not political. They come because we are part of Afghanistan, by Afghan people, who long for a better life. Men, women, children, minority, or majority. We are united by our hunger for education. From fundamentals like reading and math to safer mining techniques and new housing to survive and flourish in a changing climate. AIL, and the people of Afghanistan, see a future free of war and hunger. Blessed with a young population, we can build anything. Let’s build something beautiful.

Our people are afraid. They are hungry, sick, and tired of conflict. Of drug addiction, of explosions. They do not seek more martyrs. We do not need more bloodshed and corruption. We are all one people. From those who stand in the Presidential palace to the youngest street child. We can work to create something better than the last 50 years have brought us.

Afghan people are smart and brave and want more than this. Instead of giving our youth a rifle, let us take them by the hand to a classroom. Let their minds fill with poetry and art again. Let them envision curing cancer, building a better irrigation system. Let us expand our schools so that all of Afghanistan’s children can read, instead of learning of violence. The strength of Afghanistan is our youth, and they are so strong. Dream with us. See us as something more than a nation at war. See us as a nation at peace, working for a world of peace.

You can make a secure donation to Afghanistan Institute for Learning to help Sakena and her team.

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You might also be interested in GlobalGiving’s Afghanistan Emergency Fund.

Please note: You can find the original version of this statement, authored by Sakena Yacoobi and the AIL Team, on Twitter. It has been slightly edited here for length and clarity.

Featured Photo: An Afghan girl reads from the board in a home-based school in December 2001. The school, operating secretly for a year under the strict Taliban regime, had then opened its doors for all children ready to pay a small monthly fee. by Photo by Damir Sagolj of Reuters

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