Dr. Sakena Yacoobi
Founder and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), Sakena Yacoobi has established herself as a visionary leader working at the grassroots level to bring education and health services to Afghan women and children. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. After the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s, AIL operated 80 underground
home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan. AIL smuggled school materials into the country, hiding books in bags of rice and flour. AIL now serves 350,000 women and children each year through its Educational Learning Centers, schools and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. AIL’s women’s learning centers and interactive teaching methods have been replicated by many nonprofit organizations in Afghanistan.
Seventy percent of AIL’s 450 staff members are Afghan women. Sakena is an Ashoka Fellow and has been a featured panelist and speaker for international organizations and conferences, including the Clinton Global Initiative, the World Economic Forum and the Millennium Campus Network Conference. Awards and recognitions include, Opus Prize at Georgetown University (2013), Afghan National Peace Award (2011), Henry R, Kravis Prize in Leadership (2009) and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2006), among others.
Nora McInerny is what at least one stranger would call a "tall glass of milk." She was voted Most Humorous by the Annunciation Catholic School Class of 1998. It was mostly downhill after that, but she did get to spend three glorious years married to Aaron Joseph Purport (aka Spider-Man), and she also pushed a live human being out of her body once.
Like most women in their 20s, McInerny bounced from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job. Then one day she met Aaron, a charismatic Art Director in New York City. They were kindred spirits, making mix tapes (and pancakes) into the wee hours of the morning, finishing each other's sentences. They just knew. When Aaron was diagnosed with a serious form of brain cancer, they didn't let that hinder their courtship. They got engaged in Aaron's hospital bed and married right after his first brain surgery. They had a baby when he was on chemo and they shared an amazing summer filled with happiness and laughter. A few months later, Aaron died in her arms in another hospital bed. Aaron's widely creative obituary, which they wrote together, touched the world.
In her debut book, It's Okay to Laugh (Dey Street Books), Purport shares hysterical, moving, and painfully honest stories about her journey with Aaron. Purport explores universal themes of love, marriage, work, (single) motherhood, and depression through her refreshingly frank viewpoint. A love letter to life, in all of its messy glory, and what it's like to still be kicking', It's Okay to Laugh is like a long chat with a close friend.
McInerny is a humorist, essayist, and the founder of the Hot Young Widows Club and non-profit organization Still Kickin. She lives in Minneapolis with her son Ralph but swears every winter that she's going to move somewhere warm. She is very tall and wishes more people cared about her college GPA (3.9).