Sakena Yacoobi, Afghanistan

Sakena Yacoobi was awarded by The World’s Children’s Prize in 2012 for her long and dangerous struggle to fulfil Afghan children‘s and women’s right to education, healthcare and to learn about their rights.

As a young girl Sakena Yacoobi was the only girl in her class. She thought to herself, “Why can’t girls go to school?” When war hit Afghanistan, Sakena was studying in the USA. She wanted to return home and help those worst affected by the war – women and children. When girls were banned from attending school, she opened secret schools.  

20 years later, she is still fighting for Afghanistan’s children. More than 700,000 of them have received education and healthcare through Sakena and her organisation, AIL.

Sakena founded her organisation, Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995, during times of oppression and intense conflict. The Taliban regime had banned girls from going to school. But Sakena opened 80 secret schools, trained teachers, and created secret mobile school libraries.

Today, Sakena and AIL run hundreds of schools, health clinics and hospitals in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have trained 19,000 teachers. The teachers learn new methodologies and have helped 4.6 million children learn critical thinking skills. Every year they give 125,000 children education and healthcare. Through Sakena’s work more than 5.5 million Afghan children have gained new opportunities and faith in the future, despite extreme poverty and 30 years of war in Afghanistan.

Learn more about Sakena and her work in the Globe Magazine from 2012

Text: Jesper Huor
Photo: Makan E-Rahmati

The facts and figures on this page were accurate at the time of writing, in 2011


Långgatan 13, 647 30, Mariefred, Sweden
Phone: +46-159-129 00 •

© 2020 World’s Children’s Prize Foundation. All rights reserved. WORLD'S CHILDREN'S PRIZE®, the Foundation's logo, WORLD'S CHILDREN'S PRIZE FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD®, WORLD'S CHILDREN'S PARLIAMENT®, WORLD'S CHILDREN'S OMBUDSMAN®, WORLD'S CHILDREN'S PRESS CONFERENCE® and YOU ME EQUAL RIGHTS are service marks of the Foundation.

Your gift is empowering