What makes a superhero?
Could it be having the strength of Superman? How about the speed of The Flash? Or the ability to make hearts melt like The Arrow? It must be The Arrow!
Hang on, you don’t agree? Tough customer! Ok, you have to be blown away by the power of Elektra? Not even the independence of Cat Woman? Oh, come on! Not even Storm?!
At the very least I will accept Bat Pug…
Fine, well let me tell you a little bit about mine.
My hero’s name is Sakena Yacoobi. She does not have laser vision, I’m pretty certain she could not lift a school bus with her mind, but her powers change lives and move mountains. Dr Yacoobi is the CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning, which she founded in 1996, created in response to the education crisis affecting her country. So what is the purpose of the AIL?
“The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) rebuilds education and health systems in Afghanistan using a holistic approach. AIL combines innovative education, healthcare with health education and quality training programs as well as providing emergency aid and legal aid.
AIL was founded in 1996 by Dr. Sakena Yacoobi and benefits all needy Afghan people (70% female). It is an Afghan organization run mainly by women, that seeks to help all Afghans rebuild their lives and society through transformation at the individual and community level.”
Dr Yacoobi recalled when presenting on TED Talks (I have attached the below and I implore you to watch), the terrifying moment her place of teaching and learning was stormed by the Taliban. The very thought of this experience is enough to send shivers down the spine.
She retells the story with humour.
So why is she, my hero? Well, there are many reasons. But simply, if I can be half the teacher, and person, she is then I will meet my maker with pride. It is because of empowering people like Dr Yacoobi that I have decided to embark on my journey to fight to end educational inequality. You can see my reasons for doing this on an earlier blog post I wrote about the importance of Teach First.
Not only does she recognise that the power and liberation provided by education is greater than one person, one community, or one nation; but she does so in an environment which puts her safety, and life, at risk. Dr Yacoobi and the people she educates could die for the sole reason that they are providing, and receiving an education. Why?
Because they are women.
Many of us will never be able to comprehend the courage, bravery, and commitment embodied by a marginalised individual, or group, which empowers them to keep fighting; no matter the cost. Nor will many of us grasp the concept of a person having their life threatened because of their gender. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility to recognise, champion, and fight for their safety and liberation.
In summary, I do love Deadpool, but Dr Sakoobi would school him any day.