Sakena Yacoobi Earns Champion for Women’s Health Award


Direct Relief presented Sakena Yacoobi, founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, with the 2014 Champion for Women’s Health Award for her leadership and bravery in helping women in both Afghanistan and Pakistan access much-needed health care, despite many challenges.

“This, for me, is like a Nobel Peace Prize,” said Sakena graciously as she received the award at a reception held  Friday night at the Bacara Resort & Spa.

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) is an Afghan women-led nongovernmental organization founded in 1995 to provide teacher training to Afghan women, education for boys and girls, and health education to women and children.

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 disenfranchised Afghans.

“In our time, there are very few people who have done so much for as many people as she has,” said Direct Relief President and CEO, Thomas Tighe, of Sakena’s accomplishments.

Since 2005, Direct Relief, AIL, Abbott, and Abbott Fund have worked together to support education and health services for women and children in Afghanistan.

During this time, Abbott has contributed more than $4.5 million worth of medicines and nutritional products and Abbott Fund has awarded $1.2 million in cash grants, which has enabled more than 1.5 million women and children to receive health education and services at AIL clinics. 

“Individually, we could not accomplish what we have,” Sakena said of the collaboration.

With financial support from Abbott Fund, Direct Relief has been able to help AIL develop programs that support the health and well-being of disenfranchised Afghan women by providing them with access to nutrition, health education, and quality medical services.

“Direct Relief is like my second family,” said Sakena while visiting headquarters on Friday.

Today, AIL operates three maternal and child health clinics and one basic health clinic in rural Afghanistan: two in Herat and two in Kabul.  AIL also supports clinics at two orphanages in Herat and provides mobile clinic support.

AIL employs Afghan women who are aware and sensitive to the challenges faced by their peers and have developed successful programs and activities to address these barriers and engage women in the community.

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