Sakena Yacoobi

Founder & CEO, Afghan Institute of Learning

Skoll Awardee


Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private Hospital in Herat, the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private High Schools in Kabul and Herat, Afghanistan and the radio station, Meraj in Herat Province, Afghanistan. Dr. Yacoobi is Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. The organization was established to provide teacher training, support education for boys and girls, and provide health services and health education. Under Sakena’s leadership AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization which works at the grassroots level and empowers women and communities to find ways to bring education and health services to rural and poor urban girls, women and other poor and disenfranchised Afghans. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. AIL 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 that opened 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, which use the poetry of the Afghan poet Rumi to teach lessons of justice, human rights, good citizenship and living harmoniously. Using their grassroots strategies and holistic approach, AILserves hundreds of thousands of women and children annually through its training programs, Learning Centers, schools and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1996, 12 million Afghans have benefited from AIL’s programs. Sakena has received international recognition for their efforts including the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the Opus Prize, five honorary doctorates and the 2015 WISE Prize for Education.