MENU menu

Sakena Yacoobi

Founder & CEO, Afghan Institute of Learning

Skoll Awardee


Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), which she founded in 1995. Born in Herat, Afghanistan, she is now known as “The Mother of Afghan Education”. Sakena’s innovative programs and community-based approach have greatly increased access to quality education and health for women and children and transformed the educational scene for Afghans. A leader in providing human rights, leadership, peace and health training, AIL has impacted the lives of more than 16 million Afghans; 70% of AIL’s beneficiaries are women. The first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women, AIL also supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s. AIL was the first organization to open Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout Afghanistan. Recently, AIL opened a Legal Clinic to provide free legal services to poor Afghan women and has been hosting large scale peace conferences around Afghanistan using the poetry of the Afghan poet Rumi to teach lessons of justice, human rights, good citizenship and living harmoniously.
In addition to her work with AIL, Sakena has established four private schools, one private hospital and a radio station. Among her many awards are six honorary doctorates, the Sunhak Peace Prize, the WISE Prize for Education, the Opus Prize, the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, the Afghan National Peace Award and the Sri Sathya Sai Award for Human Excellence in education. Dr. Yacoobi is a Skoll and Schwab Social Entrepreneur, an Ashoka Fellow and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She is Vice President of Creating Hope International (CHI), a former board member for the Global Fund for Women, a Fetzer Institute advisor, and a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council.

Regional Focus

Central and Southern Asia