“My heart burned for my people. I wanted to help those affected by the war, particularly the women and children.”
When war hits Afghanistan, Sakena travels to the Afghan refugee camps, where she gets a job as a manager of a teacher training program. Soon she opens a school for girls. And another. And another. After one year, there are 3000 girls attending Sakena’s schools. The next year, there are 27,000. Sakena also founds clinics and teacher training courses. When the Taliban, who govern Afghanistan at the time, ban girls from going to school, Sakena doesn’t give up. Instead, she opens secret schools for girls. More and more, until there are 80 secret schools. Time passes, and Sakena works around the clock.
“I didn’t have any children of my own, but I feel proud and happy when I think of all the children I have helped. Thousands and thousands of Afghan girls. And quite a few boys too. I love them as though they were my own. Children are the future of Afghanistan.”
Death threats and bodyguards
Sometimes Sakena gets death threats from men who don’t believe girls should be allowed to go to school. So she gets protection from
bodyguards. Sometimes her schools and clinics are closed by armed gangs. So she opens them again, in secret. Sakena Yacoobi never gives up. Her goal is for every girl to be allowed to go to school and learn to read.
“Everyone has a right to go to school. It’s just as important as eating or breathing. In the USA and Europe, children have computers, video games and mobile phones. Why should Afghan children not even be able to go to school? It’s not much to ask. All you need is a classroom, a chalkboard, some chalk and a trained teacher. That’s all that is needed to change the lives of all the children in a whole village.”
Text: Jesper Huor
Photos: Makan E-Rahmati