Audrey E. Kitagawa, J.D.

President and Founder

"In the seemingly ordinariness of daily living is the power of transformation. Individual transformation arises out of awareness, and a willingness to change to become a better person right where we are. We each have personal responsibility and collective responsibility to make positive changes here and now."

Background

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi (born in Herat, Afghanistan) is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. She is well known for her work for the rights of children, women, and education. She has earned international recognition for her work and received numerous awards. This includes the 2013 Opus Prize, 2015 WISE Prize in Education, and the 2016 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education and six honorary degrees, including one from Princeton University.


The Afghan Institute of Learning was established to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Dr. Yacoobi’s leadership, AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization that 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. During the 1990s, when the Taliban closed girls' schools, AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls. After the Taliban’s defeat, AIL was the first organization that opened Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout Afghanistan. In 2015, AIL opened a legal clinic to provide free legal services to poor Afghan women. AIL has been hosting large-scale peace conferences around Afghanistan, which use the Afghan poet Rumi’s poetry to teach lessons of justice, human rights, good citizenship, and living harmoniously.


Using their grassroots strategies and holistic approach, AIL now serves hundreds of thousands of women and children each year through training programs, Learning Centers, schools, and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1996, millions of Afghans have benefited from AIL’s education, training, and health programs. The Sakena Yacoobi Hospital has been built in Herat.  A radio station has been established to disseminate information about the importance of education, values, and harmony.


Dr. Yacoobi and AIL have received international recognition for their efforts on behalf of Afghan women and children. In 2001, Dr. Yacoobi was awarded the Bill Graham award from the Rex Foundation to recognize the efforts of the Afghan Institute of Learning to assist children who are victims of political oppression and human rights violations. AIL and Dr. Yacoobi are co-recipients of the 2003 Peacemakers in Action Award of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and the 2004 Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. Dr. Yacoobi and AIL have received recognition of service awards from the Ministry of Education in Herat, Afghanistan, the district governments of Mir Bacha Kot, Shakardara, Kalakan, Farza, and the sixth district Kabul Afghanistan, and from numerous Afghan organizations. In 2005, Professor Yacoobi was awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy. Dr. Yacoobi was among the 1,000 women nominated to receive the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize jointly.


In 2006, Dr. Yacoobi received the Citizen Leader Award from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In January 2007, Dr. Yacoobi was inducted as a Senior Fellow, the first Ashoka Fellow from Afghanistan. In May 2007, Dr. Yacoobi was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by the University of the Pacific for her leadership, and human rights work for women and children. In December 2007, Dr. Yacoobi received the 2007 Gleitsman International Activist Award at Harvard University. In June 2008, Dr. Yacoobi received an honorary Doctor of Humanitarian Service degree from Loma Linda University, recognizing her distinguished contribution to society. In February 2009, Dr. Yacoobi received the 2009 Americans for UNFPA Board of Advocates Award for the Health and Dignity of Women. Americans cited Dr. Yacoobi for UNFPA as a tireless advocate for Afghan women, who have increased literacy and improved the health of thousands of Afghan women and girls despite decades of armed conflict and a ban on girls’ education during Taliban rule. In March 2009, Dr. Yacoobi received the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership for her outstanding work. In 2010, Dr. Yacoobi received the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights and the Asia Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award given by the Schwab Foundation. Dr. Yacoobi was one of the 1000 women worldwide who was collectively nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She was elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2006, recognizing her leading work as a social entrepreneur. In 2007, Dr. Yacoobi received the Gleitsman International Activist Award from the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's JFK School of Government.


In 2012, she was awarded the World's Children's Award for fighting for young children’s rights to be educated. In 2013, she was awarded the $1 million Opus Prize for unsung heroes which is awarded “to social entrepreneurs of any faith who are solving the world’s most pressing problems”. In 2015, Dr. Yacoobi was awarded the 2015 WISE Prize in Education and in 2016 the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education (International).


In addition to her work with AIL, Dr. Yacoobi has been a panelist, TEDWomen speaker, and speaker on education for women and children at several international conferences, including the Clinton Global Initiative, California Governor’s Conference on Women and Families, the Central Eurasian Studies Society conference at Harvard University, the One World Forum at Warwick University in England, Association for Women in Development in Bangkok, and the International Institute for Peace Education in South Korea, Turkey, Greece, and Costa Rica, the World Economic Forum in Davos, The D.D. Kosambi Festival of Ideas in Goa, India, The World Justice Forum in The Hague and the UN DIP Conference in Australia, the TEDWomen Conference in Monterey, CA, and the Brookings US-Islamic World Forum. She has been instrumental in carrying the voice of Afghan women to the world and focusing attention on the urgent need for women’s rights, education, and healthcare in Afghanistan.

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Background

Audrey E. Kitagawa, JD, is the President/Founder of the International Academy for Multicultural Cooperation, the President of the Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family, the former Advisor to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict at the United Nations.

She is a United Nations Representative for the United Religions Initiative, and Chair Emerita of the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns, A Committee of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. She has been enstooled into the royal family as the Nekoso Hemaa, (i.e. Queen Mother of Development), of Ajiyamanti in Ghana, West Africa, and has a school which she helped to build named after her in her African name, the Nana Ode Anyankobea Junior Secondary School.

She wrote the chapter, Crossing World Views, The Power of Perspective in the Hawaii Japanese American Experience, which was published in a book about multiculturalism, communication and Asian women entitled, Learning In The Light. Her chapter, Globalization As The Fuel For Religious And Ethnic Conflict has been published in the book, Globalization And Identity, Cultural Diversity, Religion and Citizenship. Her article, The Role Of Identity In The Rise And Decline of Buddhism In Hawaii, The 50th State Of The United States Of America, has been published in Sambodhi, a Buddhist Journal. She published articles in World Affairs The Journal Of International Issues, entitled, The Power of Om: Transformation of Consciousness, and Practical Spirituality. She wrote the chapter, The US In Foreign Affairs: Source of Global Security, Or Source of Global Fear? in the book, America & The World The Double Bind. She is currently writing a chapter on Space Ethics for a legal, academic book on Space Law.

She has been listed in Who's Who Of American Law, Who's Who Of American Women, Who's Who In America, Who's Who In The World, and Prominent People of Hawaii. She is the recipient of the Medal “Pride of Eurasia” and a Diploma from the Republic of Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University for her outstanding contribution to the development of spiritual culture and education in Eurasia. She is the recipient of the Spirit of the UN Award which is given to outstanding individuals who have demonstrated the vision and spirit of the United Nations as expressed through the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was conferred an Honorary Interfaith Minister degree by the New Seminary.

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL)

“As women become valuable contributors to their households, and are even able to teach their children, the societal awareness of women increases.”

Biography

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi (born in Herat, Afghanistan) is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. She is well known for her work for the rights of children, women, and education. She has earned international recognition for her work and received numerous awards. This includes the 2013 Opus Prize, 2015 WISE Prize in Education, and the 2016 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education and six honorary degrees, including one from Princeton University.


The Afghan Institute of Learning was established to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Dr. Yacoobi’s leadership, AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization that 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. During the 1990s, when the Taliban closed girls' schools, AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls. After the Taliban’s defeat, AIL was the first organization that opened Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout Afghanistan. In 2015, AIL opened a legal clinic to provide free legal services to poor Afghan women. AIL has been hosting large-scale peace conferences around Afghanistan, which use the Afghan poet Rumi’s poetry to teach lessons of justice, human rights, good citizenship, and living harmoniously.


Using their grassroots strategies and holistic approach, AIL now serves hundreds of thousands of women and children each year through training programs, Learning Centers, schools, and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1996, millions of Afghans have benefited from AIL’s education, training, and health programs. The Sakena Yacoobi Hospital has been built in Herat.  A radio station has been established to disseminate information about the importance of education, values, and harmony.


Dr. Yacoobi and AIL have received international recognition for their efforts on behalf of Afghan women and children. In 2001, Dr. Yacoobi was awarded the Bill Graham award from the Rex Foundation to recognize the efforts of the Afghan Institute of Learning to assist children who are victims of political oppression and human rights violations. AIL and Dr. Yacoobi are co-recipients of the 2003 Peacemakers in Action Award of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and the 2004 Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. Dr. Yacoobi and AIL have received recognition of service awards from the Ministry of Education in Herat, Afghanistan, the district governments of Mir Bacha Kot, Shakardara, Kalakan, Farza, and the sixth district Kabul Afghanistan, and from numerous Afghan organizations. In 2005, Professor Yacoobi was awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy. Dr. Yacoobi was among the 1,000 women nominated to receive the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize jointly.


In 2006, Dr. Yacoobi received the Citizen Leader Award from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In January 2007, Dr. Yacoobi was inducted as a Senior Fellow, the first Ashoka Fellow from Afghanistan. In May 2007, Dr. Yacoobi was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by the University of the Pacific for her leadership, and human rights work for women and children. In December 2007, Dr. Yacoobi received the 2007 Gleitsman International Activist Award at Harvard University. In June 2008, Dr. Yacoobi received an honorary Doctor of Humanitarian Service degree from Loma Linda University, recognizing her distinguished contribution to society. In February 2009, Dr. Yacoobi received the 2009 Americans for UNFPA Board of Advocates Award for the Health and Dignity of Women. Americans cited Dr. Yacoobi for UNFPA as a tireless advocate for Afghan women, who have increased literacy and improved the health of thousands of Afghan women and girls despite decades of armed conflict and a ban on girls’ education during Taliban rule. In March 2009, Dr. Yacoobi received the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership for her outstanding work. In 2010, Dr. Yacoobi received the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights and the Asia Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award given by the Schwab Foundation. Dr. Yacoobi was one of the 1000 women worldwide who was collectively nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She was elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2006, recognizing her leading work as a social entrepreneur. In 2007, Dr. Yacoobi received the Gleitsman International Activist Award from the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's JFK School of Government.


In 2012, she was awarded the World's Children's Award for fighting for young children’s rights to be educated. In 2013, she was awarded the $1 million Opus Prize for unsung heroes which is awarded “to social entrepreneurs of any faith who are solving the world’s most pressing problems”. In 2015, Dr. Yacoobi was awarded the 2015 WISE Prize in Education and in 2016 the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education (International).


In addition to her work with AIL, Dr. Yacoobi has been a panelist, TEDWomen speaker, and speaker on education for women and children at several international conferences, including the Clinton Global Initiative, California Governor’s Conference on Women and Families, the Central Eurasian Studies Society conference at Harvard University, the One World Forum at Warwick University in England, Association for Women in Development in Bangkok, and the International Institute for Peace Education in South Korea, Turkey, Greece, and Costa Rica, the World Economic Forum in Davos, The D.D. Kosambi Festival of Ideas in Goa, India, The World Justice Forum in The Hague and the UN DIP Conference in Australia, the TEDWomen Conference in Monterey, CA, and the Brookings US-Islamic World Forum. She has been instrumental in carrying the voice of Afghan women to the world and focusing attention on the urgent need for women’s rights, education, and healthcare in Afghanistan.

Content

June 21, 2021

What Happens Now? Women, Peace & Afghanistan

January 12, 2021

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi - Afghan Institute of Learning - COVID-19 Response

April 24, 2020

2020 Aurora Humanitarian - Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

December 21, 2016

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi Awarded 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize

May 1, 2016

ASU GSV Summit Speech

November 18, 2015

2015 WISE Prize Laureate Dr. Sakena Yacoobi Special Address

November 16, 2015

2015 WISE Prize for Education laureate-Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

October 12, 2015

How I Stopped The Taliban From Shutting Down My School

November 13, 2013

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi - Opus Prize 2013

September 13, 2012

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi on Educating Women and Girls in Afghanistan | Independent Lens | PBS

June 18, 2012

Our Sacred Journey: Awakening a Traumatized Nation Through Love, Spirituality and Forgiveness

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