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Voices of Hope: A Young Girl's Story

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, one of the Afghan women featured in the new book, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, shares the story of a young Afghan girl named Fatima.

Article by Dr. Sakena Yacoobi March 21, 2016 //   4 minute read

This month, the Bush Institute is proud to celebrate the release of  We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope. With an introduction by Mrs. Laura Bush, the book highlights the stories of extraordinarily resilient women and their struggles, successes, and resolve in present-day Afghanistan.

To coincide with the book launch, the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative will spotlight organizations and individuals who are doing important work in Afghanistan through a “Voices of Hope” blog series over the next several weeks.

As Mrs. Bush has said, “It is important for those of us around the world, both women and men, to stop and listen to Afghanistan’s women. By listening, we also have a chance to learn.”

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, one of the Afghan women featured in the new book, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hopeparticipated in a discussion with Mrs. Bush hosted by Politico in Washington, D.C this week. Dr. Yacoobi started 80 underground schools for girls inside Afghanistan during Taliban control. Today, she is the founder and CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning, one of the largest Afghan nongovernmental organizations.

 Below, she shares a “voice of hope” from a young Afghan girl named Fatima.

Fatima was brought to the Girls Orphanage in Herat by relatives when she was eight years old.  Both of Fatima’s parents had died and she had no brothers or sisters.  When she arrived, she was devastated by the loss of her family and was very unhappy, but she settled into life at the orphanage and went to school. When the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) began working with the Girls Orphanage and set up a Learning Center offering computer and tailoring classes in the afternoon, Fatima was quick to join the classes.

Fatima is now studying at an eighth grade level and has excellent computer and tailoring skills. She works for a small NGO in Herat teaching other students tailoring and computer work.  They are paying her so she has begun to earn money for herself.  All of this has transformed Fatima; her self confidence is high and she has a hopeful view of life. She is happy, always helping younger students with their homework, and is looking forward to finishing high school. Fatima wants to go on to university and become a teacher.

AIL has reached 12.5 million Afghan women and children since 1995, providing education to over 21,000 students each year through its innovative Learning Center program. Subjects taught range from literacy, math and English to computers and other income-generating skills like sewing, carpet weaving and traditional crafts.

AIL works holistically to treat the whole person and circumstance. It provides quality training to teachers and provides training to others in society on topics such as democracy, health, human rights and elections.  AIL provides health education and health services to 228,000 people each year. Healthy people can improve their lives through being productive at their work and gaining education. AIL’s combination of education, health and quality training is what creates sustained change in families, communities and Afghan society as a whole.

For more information, visit www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org.