President of the Afghan Institute of Learning to Deliver 2021 Soffa Lecture

Sakena Yacoobi
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

This year’s J. Jobe and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Lecture will bring to campus a trailblazer in promoting education and opportunity for the Afghan people. Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, president and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, will present this year’s lecture, “As women rise, so does the nation.” The event will take place at 4 p.m., Oct. 12, in the Alumni Lounge of the Pyle Center.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) was founded by Yacoobi in 1995 in response to the lack of access to education and healthcare that the Afghan people faced after decades of war and strife. She also serves as the president and executive director of Creating Hope International (CHI). Throughout her career, Yacoobi has established 352 learning centers, four schools, a hospital, and a radio station and a TV station in Afghanistan.

Yacoobi was honored in 2017 with the Sunhak Peace Prize, and, in 2016, was the Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education awardee, the 2015 WISE Prize for Education Laureate and the 2013 recipient of the Opus Prize. Dr. Yacoobi is a Skoll Social Entrepreneur, Schwab Social Entrepreneur, and Ashoka fellow, a Harvard University Executive Fellow, and was nominated as one of 1,000 women for the Nobel Peace Prize.

At this year’s Soffa Lecture, Yacoobi plans to discuss women’s rights in Afghanistan and women’s rights as human rights:

“Women’s rights are human rights and essential to the advancement of any nation. Nations with protections for women’s rights are stronger and more prosperous. We can see, as women in Afghanistan gained rights, the nation became more prosperous and peaceful. With a population where greater than 60 percent of the people are under 30, they have spent their lives connected to the rest of the world, unlike Afghan people in the 1990’s. Demonstrations against undemocratic principles that violate human rights occur regularly, led by women not willing to be intimidated by guns in the hands of those they oppose. Afghan women wish to work and go to school, with the support of the young men who stand with them. The loss of human rights anywhere, leads to the loss of rights everywhere. The silence of the world regarding Afghanistan is discouraging, and follows a global trend of the roll back of women’s rights that started in 2020.”


Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa ’46 established this fund to support an annual public lecture on a contemporary issue of global significance by a distinguished woman in international public life. The lecture is sponsored by the International Division, with current co-sponsors including the Human Rights Program, and the Global Legal Studies Center. This year’s lecture is co-sponsored by the Center for South Asia.