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Society News

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi. 
Photo courtesy of Creating Hope International








Claremont, Calif., January 14, 2009--Claremont McKenna College and the Kravis Leadership Institute announced today the selection of Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, to receive the fourth annual Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership.

            The Kravis Prize, which carries a $250,000 award designated to the honoree's organization, recognizes extraordinary leadership in the nonprofit sector. Dr. Yacoobi
was selected for her outstanding record providing an estimated 350,000 women and children with access to education and health care each year.

    The Kravis Prize will be presented to Dr. Yacoobi at ceremonies on March 31 in New York City.

Established in 2006, The Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership recognizes and celebrates extraordinary accomplishment and bold, visionary leadership in the nonprofit sector. The Kravis Prize is administered by Claremont McKenna College (CMC), the Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI), and Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis. Mrs. Kravis, an economist, is a Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute; Mr. Kravis, founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., is an alumnus and trustee of Claremont McKenna College.

           It is important to understand that entrepreneurial spirit and leadership are just as vital to achievement in the not-for-profit world as they are in the private sector, said Mr. Kravis. We are pleased and proud to recognize and celebrate the significant and inspirational work being done by Dr. Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning.


Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning

Sakena Yacoobi has spent the last 28 years providing education, training, and health care services to women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of her enduring contributions is focusing attention on the issue and importance of girls education in Afghanistan.


Born in Herat, Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi came to the United States in the 1970s and received her education at U.S. universities. In 1990, she left a successful career as a professor and consultant in the U.S. and returned to Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule to work with her native people. Dr. Yacoobi founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995 while working in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. AIL's first program initiative was to establish learning centers in the refugee camps in response to the women's requests for educational opportunities for themselves and their children.


AIL grew and evolved to fulfill unmet needs and currently operates 41 women's learning/education centers, five health centers, and three mobile health clinics. Seventy percent of AIL's 450 staff members are Afghan women. Under Dr. Yacoobi's leadership, AIL has become one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Afghanistan and currently serves more than 350,000 women and children each year. The organization achieves this impact on a relatively small budget of $1.1 million per year, with a cost of $3 per beneficiary.

Dr. Yacoobi's achievements demonstrate significant courage and persistence in the face of extensive obstacles to educating girls and women in Afghanistan. During the Taliban's rule, for example, the education of girls was prohibited. Dr. Yacoobi and the staff of AIL risked great personal harm in operating 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls during the 1990s.

AIL's innovative and effective approaches serve as a model in the sector, and AIL actively assists in building the capacity of other organizations and entities. The concept of women's learning centers and AIL's interactive teaching
methods have been replicated by many nonprofit organizations
 in Afghanistan as well as by government and educational institutions. AIL also provides training and technical assistance to small, local Afghan community-based organizations to help build the capacity of Afghanistan's civil society sector and increase the enrollment of female students.

Kravis Prize Background

Established in 2006, The Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership recognizes and celebrates extraordinary accomplishment and bold, visionary leadership in the nonprofit sector.

The Kravis Prize Selection Committee, chaired by Marie-Josée Kravis, includes: Harry McMahon, CMC alumnus and chair of the Claremont McKenna College Board of Trustees, and vice chairman, Merrill Lynch & Co.; Sudha Murty, chairperson, Infosys Foundation; Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in economics and the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor at Harvard University; Lord Jacob Rothschild, chairman, Rothschild Investment Trust Capital Partners; and James D. Wolfensohn, chairman, Wolfensohn & Company, L.L.C., and former president, The World Bank.

            The Organizing Committee, led by Mr. Kravis, includes: Mr. McMahon; Peter Barker, member of the CMC Board of Trustees and retired partner, Goldman Sachs & Co.; Pamela Gann, president, Claremont McKenna College; and Scott Miller, chief executive officer, Six Sigma Academy, Aspen, Colo.

While the Prize typically recognizes an outstanding individual, in exceptional circumstances the Prize may be awarded to an organization. The Prize is awarded annually
 based on nominations that are received from a group of confidential nominators. These nominators are selected on the basis of the breadth and depth of their knowledge of the nonprofit sector. Nominators are chosen internationally and
from a variety of fields.

Nominations span a broad range of sectors in the nonprofit field, including economic development, public health, law/justice/human rights, education, and capacity building in the nonprofit sector as a whole. Selection criteria include boldness, innovation, creativity, consistency, persistence, and effectiveness in bringing a vision to fruition. Nominees are also evaluated
 based on their accomplishments in realizing the mission of an organization and demonstrating best practices in managing that organization.

In choosing a winner from the pool of nominees, the Selection Committee draws upon its own expertise, letters of recommendation from nominators, and expert evaluations assembled by the Prize staff. Nominees are assessed using carefully crafted quantitative and qualitative measures based on best practice analysis and evaluation methods. These measures are focused primarily on direct impact and achievement. The assessment framework also provides for a qualitative analysis of bold, visionary leadership and for review of financial stability and integrity, governance, and management stability. The Kravis Prize Selection Committee makes its final selection of a winner after reviewing extensive information and data within the context of this methodology. The recipient of the Prize receives recognition at an award ceremony and $250,000 to be directed to the nonprofit organization of his or her choice.

The Kravis Leadership Institute, which co-sponsors the Prize, is central to the Claremont McKenna College mission of preparing students for responsible leadership in business, the professions, and public affairs. KLI plays an active role in the education of CMC students by involving them in professional research on leadership research issues and by offering an intense, interdisciplinary leadership curriculum combining classroom study with hands-on leadership experience. Through its academic research, model leadership development programs, broad leadership curriculum and systematic outreach efforts, the Kravis Leadership Institute has become one of the most recognized leadership programs in higher education.

Past recipients of The Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership are: Roy Prosterman, the inaugural recipient (2006), founder of the Rural Development Institute; Fazle Abed (2007), founder of BRAC; and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) (2008).

Claremont McKenna College is a highly selective, independent liberal arts college educating leaders in business, the professions and public affairs. A member of The Claremont Colleges, in Claremont, California, CMC is consistently ranked among the nation's best colleges. For further information regarding the Kravis Prize, please visit


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