Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning
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This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.
When Sakena Yacoobi was a child in Herat , Afghanistan, she saw many women suffer. They had no education and little or no medical care. Many died in childbirth.
In the nineteen seventies she came to the United States. She became a professor and health consultant. But in nineteen ninety-two, she visited Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. What she saw persuaded her to return to her homeland.
In nineteen ninety-five she started the Afghan Institute of Learning. The organization began by serving Afghan women and girls in the camps in neighboring Pakistan.
At that time, the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. The rulers would not let girls go to school. Sakena Yacoobi risked her life to set up eighty secret schools in Afghan homes. About three thousand girls attended these schools.
American-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in late two thousand one, after the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Today Sakena Yacoobi says her organization avoids the most dangerous provinces. It operates education and health centers and traveling clinics. The institute has trained more than fifteen thousand teachers and has provided health education for half a million women. Seventy percent of its four hundred fifty staff members are women.
The group invites men as well as women to discussions on the Koran's teachings about the equality of the sexes.
In two thousand three, to educate women, the institute established Gawhar Shad University in Peshawar, Pakistan. The university currently has about one hundred eighty students. Around the same number already have graduated. The university offers degrees in education, business, nursing, health education, math and computer science.
Each year, the Afghan Institute of Learning serves about three hundred fifty thousand women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sakena Yacoobi has received many awards, including this year's two hundred fifty thousand dollar Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership. In accepting the award from Claremont McKenna College in California, she said: "Every day, I see the impact of education, and that's the force that keeps me going on."
And that's the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT, written by Jerilyn Watson, with reporting by Carolyn Weaver.