The 2:00 Interfaith Lecture Series invites five women from the Middle East to present the unique and specific experiences of women in this part of the world – women who lead as well as women who hold civil society together beneath the radar of the media and the political decision-makers. Invited to this conversation are women from Israel, Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, and Lebanon.
This talk features Sakena Yacoobi.
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi
Sakena Yacoobi is the founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Afghanistan. Founded in 1995, AIL provides education and health services for more than 350,000 Afghan women and children each year. Her organization works to find culturally appropriate ways to provide education for girls and women, and has trained more than 10,000 teachers.
Yacoobi is also involved in other international organizations for women and children's rights, including co-founding Creating Hope International, working with the International Rescue Committee, and serving as a board member of the Global Fund For Women.
Yacoobi has received numerous awards in recognition of her dedication. In 2004 she was awarded the Gruber Prize for Women's Rights; in 2005 she received the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy as well as being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize project; and in 2006 Sakena Yacoobi received both the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and a fellowship with Ashoka, acknowledging her important role as a social entrepreneur.
Country, south-central Asia. Area: 249,347 sq mi (645,807 sq km). Population (2009 est.): 28,150,000. Capital: Kabul. About two-fifths of the people belong to the Pashtun ethnic group; other ethnic groups include Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazara. Languages: Pashto, Persian (both official). Religions: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni); also Zoroastrianism. Currency: afghani. Afghanistan has three distinctive regions: the northern plains are the major agricultural area; the southwestern plateau consists primarily of desert and semiarid landscape; and the central highlands, including the Hindu Kush, separate these regions. Afghanistan has a developing economy based largely on agriculture; its significant mineral resources remain largely untapped because of the Afghan War of the 1980s and subsequent fighting. Traditional handicrafts remain important; woolen carpets are a major export. Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with two legislative bodies; the president is head of both state and government. The area was part of the Persian Achaemenian Empire in the 6th century BCE and was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE. Hindu influence entered with the Hephthalites and Sasanians. Islam became entrenched during the rule of the Saffarids, c. 870 CE. Afghanistan was divided between the Mughal Empire of India and the Safavid empire of Persia until the 18th century, when other Persians under Nadir Shah took control. Britain fought several wars in the area in the 19th century. From the 1930s the country had a stable monarchy, which was overthrown in the 1970s. Marxist reforms sparked rebellion, and Soviet troops invaded. Afghan guerrillas prevailed, and the Soviets withdrew in 1989. In 1992 rebel factions overthrew the government and established an Islamic republic. In 1996 the Taliban militia took power in Kabul and enforced a harsh Islamic order. The militia's unwillingness to extradite extremist leader Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaeda militant organization following the September 11 attacks in 2001 led to military conflict with the U.S. and allied nations, the overthrow of the Taliban, and the establishment of an interim government.