Afghanistan: Sakena Yacoobi

I am indebted to my parents who have always been supportive of me in many ways. They put my education above their priorities in life.

— Sakena Yacoobi

Born in Herat, Afghanistan, Sakena Yacoobi obtained a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of the Pacific, USA in the 1970s, and a Masters in Public Health from Loma Linda University, California. In the 1980s, she worked as a health consultant in California and Michigan and taught psychology, mathematics and biology at D'Etre University in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. From 1992-95, Sakena worked for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Pakistan. Thanks to Yacoobi the number of Afghan refugee girls enrolled in IRC-supported schools increased from 3,000 to 15,000.

Professor Sakena Yacoobi developed a strong passion for learning from her childhood. Her desire for learning was boosted by her parents' enthusiasm to give her a good quality education. She was determined to study at the university and utilize her academic knowledge to help the women in her country. Although she was offered a place to study at the University of Kabul’s Engineering and Medical Faculties, Yacoobi was unable to attend the faculty because there was no women’s dormitory in Kabul. This obstacle seemed to place higher education just out of her reach. However, she remained resolute about achieving her goal. After the end of the Afghan/Soviet war, funding for education programs for Afghan girls and women began to dissipate. But she refused to accept these unfortunate circumstances and founded the Afghan Institute of Learning to continue the urgently needed health and education programs for Afghan women and girls that she had started through her work with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Her vision of peace is to see more women involved in the leadership of the country as well as to educate as many women as she can.

International Rescue Committee (IRC)