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Asian University for Women
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AUW has over the last five years educated about 60 women from Afghanistan. Plans are being made to significantly increase AUW's cooperation with Afghanistan. The Afghan Minister of Education Honourable Mr. Wardak enthusiastically welcomed the AUW initiative when Kamal Ahmad and AUW alumnae Fatima Sabri and Mursal Humraz called on the Minister and his advisors in Kabul on Saturday, November November 22.
As we head into November, our students are preparing for final exam season and our alumnae are busy at work or reflecting on finishing a semester of graduate school. One of our alumnae who is currently earning her Master’s in International Development Management at the University of Bradford, Mowmita Basak Mow, recently attended a one-week retreat in Peru as a Global Laureate Fellow through the International Youth Foundation and Sylvan Laureate Foundation. We write now to share her reflections on AUW as an early incubator for her leadership and aspirations.
Mowmita Basak Mow '13 (seventh from right) with peer Global Laureate Fellows in Peru
“During the second year of my undergraduate study at The Asian University for Women, I started my social welfare venture, Centre for Leadership Assistance & Promotion (CLAP) foundation, with an aim to provide leadership skills to our youth so that they can serve the minority communities in Bangladesh. Our vision is to create a more inclusive Bangladesh, where gender-based, ethnic, religious, or any other minority groups will not face discrimination, or be the victim of an unjust social system. Right from the start we received enthusiastic support from the students and staff of AUW, as nearly two-thirds of AUW students joined us for various projects and workshops. Together we worked on our signature project ‘Gender Glitch’, which aims to promote civil rights and financial independence to the transgender ‘Hijra’ communities in Bangladesh, who are ostracized from the society and deprived of many basic human rights. Over the last four years, we had nearly 1200 volunteers across the country who are relentlessly working towards achieving our dreams.”
Mowmita Basak Mow '13 receives a commemoration certificate as a Global Laureate Fellow
Mowmita applied to the Global Laureate Fellowship program with the goal of spreading the CLAP mission to the international stage. As one of 20 Fellows from 17 countries selected from a pool of 500 applicants, Mowmita has been engaging in the year-long training and mentoring program for “young entrepreneurs who have pioneered an innovative solution to a local, national or global issue to bring forth social change in their community.”
Mowmita has also been keeping up with the AUW community, setting a model for exemplar alumnae engagement. This past May, she spoke at the British Chamber of Commerce alongside AUW Chancellor Cherie Blair, sharing her experience growing up as part of the minority Hindu community in Bangladesh and declaring, “The Asian University for Women has transformed my life and my career from a small-town girl into an aspiring youth leader. It taught me to believe in myself, to have a dream – to have a mission of making the world a better place for all women, and trained me to go out in the society and make my dream a reality.” Mowmita also joined Cherie Blair in a private meeting with EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs to discuss ideas for collaboration with AUW.
On September 26, 3014, the Asian University for Women and the Asia Society held an event titled “Teaching Half the Sky: From Policies to Practice in Girls’ Education,” where discussion focused on the discord between growing awareness of the challenges in ensuring girls around the world have access to full education, and the lack of correlating increased funding for related endeavors. The discussions were led by the Japanese First Lady Akie Abe, who is also a Patron of the Asian University for Women. First Lady Abe was joined on the panel by Terri McCullough, formerly Chief of Staff to U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and now Director of No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project of the Clinton Foundation; Sheena Iyengar, professor at the Columbia Business School and head of the Global Leadership Matrix Institute; and Mursal Hamraz, an Asian University for Women 2014 graduate from Afghanistan who is currently working with the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics in Kabul. The event was moderated by Josette Sheeran, President of the Asia Society, and Young Joon Kim, Chairman of the Asian University for Women Support Foundation.
First Lady of Japan Akie Abe joined the panel
The discussion focused on what has been achieved in the nearly twenty years since the Beijing Conference on Women and the glaring gaps that remain in the agenda for women's education and empowerment. First Lady Abe of Japan, who has founded a school of her own in Myanmar, reaffirmed the power of educating women. She recalled visiting the Asian University for Women in Chittagong and meeting first-hand the young women from so many countries, most of whom were first in their family to ever enter university and who were so dedicated to learning. She noted that she was in particular struck by seeing students coming from conflict areas and rediscovering the common humanity that bound them together. "If you want peace, this is essential," she said.
Terri McCullough, the Director of the No Ceilings Project at the Clinton Foundation, acknowledged the tremendous progress made in girls' empowerment and education, particularly at the primary levels, but noted how at higher levels the numbers tapered off dangerously. Unless the rising consciousness on women's empowerment and education issues is translated to better policies and appropriate resource allocations, the opportunity for lasting change will elude us.
Sheena Iyengar, who became completely before graduating high school, spoke of her own life's experience growing up in an Indian family with traditional values where she was fortunate to have a mother insisting on education in spite of the cultural pulls otherwise. She spoke of the immeasurable importance of women who are first in their family to forge the path to university, and recalled how her own aunt was the first one in the family to pursue education in spite of disillusioning opposition. Once those barriers were broken, it made the paths that Professor Iyengar and her mother followed unavoidable.
Mursal Hamraz, AUW Alumna
Mursal Hamraz, one of nine children, spoke also of family members who clandestinely taught her in the evenings away from school. Her elder sister had taught her from first grade till fifth during the Taliban regime so that her time would not be wasted during these years; as a result, she joined sixth grade in 2001. Her father played a large role in encouraging her to go further and not stop in her journey for education. Mursal spoke of her work with the Ministry of Counter Narcotics where she and two of her fellow AUW graduates are among the very few women in the government agency. She feels encouraged by how her education and ability to contribute to the work of the Ministry have helped overcome inhibitions that her male colleagues might have had in working and collaborating with women. The advantage of a great education and competence has made equality that much easier to secure. With this personal perspective, Mursal spoke of education of women as the key in changing the situation in Afghanistan, for women and men as well. Describing the barriers women face in Afghanistan by being shut out of the public sphere, Mursal urged the international community to lend their support for women’s education, a powerful tool for empowerment. "Nothing," she said, "can be as powerful as educating our women to the best levels we can. I am grateful for the education I received at the Asian University for Women.”
Professor Sheena Iyengar of Columbia Business School; Young Joon Kim, Chairman of the Asian University for Women Support Foundation; and Josette Sheeran, President of the Asia Society
The program was moderated by YJ Kim, Chairman of AUW Support Foundation and Partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCloy and Ms. Josette Sheeran, the President of the Asia Society and former Executive Director of the World Food Program. Among the active participants were Ms. Emily Rafferty, President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Dr. Dipu Moni, former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh; Ms. Saima Hossain, Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh; Ms. Patience Stephens, Director and Special Advisor at UN Women; Kamal Ahmad, the Founder of the Asian University for Women; and Samantha Wright, Vice President of Global Programs at Girl Rising.
Since the Beijing World Conference on Women in 1995, the world’s citizens have been watching women’s rights as they take root and manifest, sometimes haltingly, in different regions. Following the declaration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, the education of girls and women has been acknowledged as a key factor in achieving gender equality and promoting economic growth and improved health indices across the world. By some measures, this growing awareness has prompted impressive growth in girls’ educational access and achievement. For instance, female primary school enrollment has reached parity with male enrollment in most countries. However, by other measures – secondary and tertiary enrollment, or rates of child marriage or violence against women – the world’s women are still suffering inordinately.
The discussion this morning at the Asia Society emphasized the disconnect between growing consciousness in recent years of the plight of girls and women, and the lack of increased aid or philanthropy towards women’s education in the developing world. The world may have screamed when Malala Yousafzai was shot in the neck by the Taliban in Pakistan when she was returning from school; in 2012 the world rallied behind Jyoti Singh Pandey after her brutal rape in South Delhi, and her tragic death; and the world tweeted and shared its way into the viral “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign after hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria. Yet against this backdrop of pathos, funding for women’s complete education – an education that includes tertiary-level instruction – still lags far behind demand.
The Asian University for Women, First Lady Abe explained, is one institution that is answering the need for women to gain access to higher level education and earn the skills and leadership required to make significant changes in their countries. One of its founding principles is the recruitment of talented young women who could not afford to pay for university out of their own pockets, so the Asian University for Women (AUW) devotes itself to securing scholarships for its students, all while providing a world-class liberal arts education and cultivating the next generation of women leaders of the Asian and Middle Eastern regions. It is in institutions such as AUW, recent alumna Mursal Hamraz argued, that funders of girls’ and women’s empowerment should invest.
The Asian University for Women (AUW) is an international university with an Asia focus located in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Now in its seventh year of operations, AUW boasts a student body from 15 different countries across Asia and the Middle East, and has graduated more than 260 alumnae so far. AUW offers a high-caliber liberal arts education for young women interested in topics ranging from public health to politics to computer science. AUW graduates have gone on to work in business, international development agencies, government institutions, and research facilities, always proving their commitment to using their passion and leadership to tackle challenges facing their home countries and women around the world. As a rising network of women leaders, AUW alumnae are growing into the Asian region’s next generation of change-markers.
It’s back-to-school season in Chittagong, where AUW held its first day of fall classes on August 24th. Students enjoyed four days of orientation filled to the brim with department open houses, dormitory community building, course selections, and reunions with old friends.
This year, AUW welcomed 93 Access Academy students and 24 direct-entry undergraduate first-year students, joining peers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Vietnam. We are delighted to introduce you to some of these young women:
Azra Jawaid comes from Bihar, India, where she grew up speaking Hindi and Urdu with her mother, and absorbing a love of debate from her father. Her talents don’t stop at languages: Azra is a talented mathematician, having placed in the 95th percentile in math for all four years of high school, and coming in as the top ranked student in the subject in twelfth grade. In addition to studying math, which Azra says calls on her patience, concentration, and competitive nature, Azra is looking forward to studying science and art history at AUW. She is also already thinking about summer plans: for her, working overseas in a summer internship would be “a dream come true.”
Sumaiya Sharmin is a new Access Academy student who is excited to be pursuing an international education in her own hometown of Chittagong, Bangladesh. After hearing about AUW when she was in 8th grade, Sumaiya made it her goal to be able to enroll in the university and study biology, her passion inspired by her studies of Gregor Mendel. When Sumaiya travels to different parts of Bangladesh, the diversity of botany always catches her eye, and she sees herself earning a PhD in genetic engineering one day. For now, Sumaiya’s short-term goals at AUW are to learn new skills – she hopes to pick up guitar and basketball – and immerse herself in the diverse community. She said, “It’s important to feel as comfortable in a city bus as you do in a private car. That’s why I wanted to come to AUW: to learn about different people and to learn tolerance.”
For AUW, September marks the time for new beginnings and renewed resolutions. As our students eagerly start their first homework assignments and attend lectures with new professors, we dedicate ourselves to ensuring that these students can enjoy their AUW education without the concerns of financial disadvantage. We are so grateful for your support of AUW students.
As the summer comes to a close, many of our students are reflecting on their recent internships. These experiences are crucial for professional development and exploring potential careers, which is why AUW encourages students to hold an internship in business, NGO, and government contexts before graduating. We write to tell you about a few of our outstanding students and their accomplishments at internships in various countries this year.
Anshu Adhikari - Birgunj, Nepal
Class of 2015 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics
Working for the Communications department at Bayer Thailand, Anshu’s initial work writing articles and announcements impressed the Marketing department so much that they assigned her supplemental responsibilities, including a social entrepreneurship project in Cambodia and organizing a town hall meeting in Myanmar. Anshu noticed a difference between her own preparation and the other interns, saying “When they give presentations, they aren’t as confident. But for me, AUW has taught me how to speak publicly and prepare for important presentations.” These skills will stay in the spotlight this coming year, as Anshu takes on her role as President of the student body.
Gulsom Mirzada - Kabul, Afghanistan
Class of 2016 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics
As an intern in the Finance Directorate of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics in Afghanistan, Gulsom learned aboutmore than the national budget. She also realized the need for greater inclusivity of women in the government, a topic that she wasable to explore further at the gender equality workshops she attended at the US Embassy. Although she has two more years at AUW, Gulsom is already thinking about her future plans. She says, “I would like to work for the government because they need change in this generation,” and believes she can help create that change.
Meihui Lan - Guangxi, China
Class of 2015 - Environmental Studies
After her “wonderful experience at L’Oreal China,” Meihui feels even more motivated to learn as much as she can from AUW and attend graduate school. Meihui enjoyed the creativity in her rotation in Public Relations, especially when planning the company’s annual outing. Meihui found that she needed to do more research on the Chinese market in order to contribute at meetings, but she said AUW prepared her well for delving into her uncertainties. She described how, “We also need to know how to raise our voice – to ask questions… That’s what we learned from AUW.”
These students represent a sliver of the talent and drive of the young women we educate. We rely on the generosity of our donors to continue to support students like Anshu, Gulsom, and Meihui. We hope you will consider donating to AUW at https://donate.asian-university.org/. Thank you for your valuable support.
AUW is delighted to announce that Moumita Saha, AUW Class of 2017, has received a partial scholarship from the Running Goddess, an organization committed to supporting women and girls in their pursuit of health and education. We would like to thank the Running Goddess and its Board for their generous support to the Asian University for Women, Moumita and all our inspiring students.
To read Moumita’s full profile, click here: http://therunninggoddess.com/2014/06/moumita-saha-bio/
You can find more information on the Running Goddess and the causes they support on their website: http://therunninggoddess.com/2013/01/about-us/
The Asian University for Women (AUW) has just registered with AmazonSmile! AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support AUW every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to AUW. Support AUW by shopping at AmazonSmile: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/36-4483980.
On May 17, 2014, the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chittagong, Bangladesh celebrated its second Commencement, graduating 131 students from 12 countries. Of the 131 graduates, 62 came from Bangladesh, 4 from Afghanistan, 5 from Bhutan, 3 from Cambodia, 1 from China, 9 from India, 2 from Myanmar, 12 from Nepal, 7 from Pakistan, 2 from Palestine, 18 from Sri Lanka, and 6 from Vietnam. Virtually all students received full financial aid covering all costs of room, board and tuition. Most of the graduating students arrived at the AUW campus five years ago. They completed the one-year Access Academy course and then pursued a four-year undergraduate course in the liberal arts and sciences. This year's graduating class represents the first group of students from the West Bank of Palestine to have graduated from AUW.
The class speaker, Tanjila Drishti from Bangladesh, said “AUW has helped us grow respect and tolerance for all cultures, enabled us to question norms that we perhaps did not even think about before. This institution has not only educated us with the finest faculty and best resources in the region but also inspired us to rise higher in life making our own ethical decisions and empowered us to try for a better life for not only us but for others in our communities.”
The Commencement was attended by family, friends, faculty, staff, and many distinguished guests including, H.E. Mr. Abul Hassan Mohamood Ali, M.P. Foreign Minister of Bangladesh who spoke as the Chief Guest.
Kathy Matsui, Managing Director & Chief Japan Strategist of Goldman Sachs, Co-Chair of the AUW Japan Support Committee, and one of the original founders of the Asian University for Women, was the Commencement Speaker.
In her remarks, Kathy praised the accomplishments of the Class of 2014: “I can’t help but feel incredibly proud, as well as optimistic about the future. Like many AUW supporters around the world, we all strongly believe that women’s education is the key to a peaceful and sustainable future, and I am confident that with such powerful and inspirational leaders such as you, the world is in good hands.”
Lady Judy Moody-Stuart, prominent social activist in London and wife of Sir Mark Moody Stuart, former Chairman of Shell Oil Company, was also honored at the Commencement with an honorary degree. Lady Judy was one of the pioneering supporters of AUW who served for many years on the Board of Directors of the Asian University for Women Support Foundation. She and her family have also created an endowed scholarship at AUW to support a Palestinian student to attend the university in Chittagong.
With over 260 alumnae now spread across Asia and the Middle East, the AUW vision of change making through the commitment and capability and vision of its graduates working collaboratively within and across countries is already being actualized. As year after year more of our students graduate and demonstrate more of their life's energy, a veritable transformation in women's status and the region's condition in general will follow.
You can read more about the special day in the following articles:
Two alumnae from AUW’s pioneer graduate Class of 2013, Kamala KC from Nepal and Duth Kimsru from Cambodia, shared their life stories at the Japan Support Committee's 5th annual film screening and fundraising event on April 22, 2014 in Tokyo. In their remarks, both women highlighted the challenging journeys they took to get to AUW and spoke passionately about the opportunities that an AUW education has provided them. Click here to read their full transcripts.
Last weekend, a group of Afghan AUW students vigorously cheered on their home team at a cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Excited to see their favourite players in action, the students travelled nine hours by bus from Chittagong to the remote stadium.
In a virtually all-male setting, the band of cheering Afghan women waving flags and crying “Afghanistan perozi az aane mast” (“Afghanistan, victory is ours!”) caught the attention of a few media outlets in the region. Mursal Hamraz, a fourth-year undergraduate at AUW, told the Hindustan Times: "It's time to get over those (Taliban) fears. How long will we live with them? They don't even support these games. We are against them and want to show them that we support sport. We want to end gender discrimination.”
You can read the article on Dhaka Tribune: http://www.dhakatribune.com/cricket/2014/mar/01/afghan-delight-small-heartening
Last week, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Post profiled AUW’s Duong Leakena, a Politics, Philosophy & Economics major set to graduate in May 2014. (Click here to read her profile) When Duong arrived at AUW nearly five years ago, she was unsure of how she would adjust to life in Bangladesh. Now, as she prepares to graduate and return to her home country of Cambodia, she has no doubt that she made the right choice in coming to AUW. “It gave me a special opportunity to meet and interact with many young talented women from different nationalities and backgrounds,” she says. “I have learned [about] many different aspects of life.”
Duong has been an active part of the AUW community, participating in the Japanese Club, Guitar Club, and Basketball Club and helping to organize for the One Billion Rising event. Duong also works as a research assistant for an AUW professor. Learning from her peers and from the “amazing” leadership of her professors, Duong says, has helped her develop into an independent woman and a critical thinker. After graduation, she plans to return to Cambodia to apply what she has learned at AUW as she embarks on her professional life.
This year, AUW’s student body represents more countries than ever before—for the first time, we welcomed students from Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Gaza in Palestine. Among our new partners in recruitment and admissions is the Toronto-based Daughters for Life Foundation, which works to advance education and health for girls and women in the Middle East.
The first group of Daughters for Life Scholars comes from Syria and Palestine. Asma’a Awadallah Abushabab, a Daughters for Life Scholar, came to AUW from Gaza, Palestine, which posed some unique challenges. By the time she was able to get a passport, visa, and permission from the authorities to cross the border, she had already missed several weeks of classes. Then, before she could cross into Egypt, the border was closed suddenly and indefinitely. Asma’a, along with thousands of others, was stuck inside Gaza, with no idea of when or if she would be able to travel to Bangladesh. She recalls thinking, “Oh my God, I might lose my chance to achieve my dream.” Now that she is at AUW and diligently catching up on weeks of missed classes, Asma’a is relishing the opportunity to study with women from all over the region. “I have friends from Vietnam, Bangladesh, [and] Syria,” she notes. She wants to return to Gaza after she graduates from AUW, in order to improve public health and access to healthcare there.
Another Daughters for Life Scholar, Reem Kosay Razzouk, also wants to be a part of public health efforts in her home country. She came to AUW from Hama, Syria. Her family had to move after the civil war began, but Reem was determined to focus on her education despite the violence going on around her. At AUW, she is excited to have the chance to explore a variety of disciplines through the liberal arts curriculum, and to participate in the student organizations on campus. Most of all, though, she is passionate about empowering the people of Syria with access to healthcare. “I want to go back home to Syria,” she says when asked about her future goals. “I want to give them something from me, to help my city, my country, and to help any country that I [can].”
We are honored to have these extraordinary young women studying at the Asian University for Women, and we are proud to share their stories with you. Thank you for your continued support.
JP Morgan’s annual Give-It-Away campaign allows the public to vote on which non-profit organizations they think should receive the company’s generous gifts of USD $25,000 each. Last year’s winners were Accion East, Aflatoun, and the Grameen Foundation. AUW is up against two other organizations in the Asia Pacific region, and you can help by voting for us here: https://www.jpmorgan.com/cm/cs?pagename=jpmorgan/careers/JPM_Content_C/Give-It-Away&type=vote®ion=apac&cid=1320496979591
Three AUW students appeared on the television program Korea Today to talk about their experiences at AUW, their internships with Korea EximBank, and the status of women’s education in Bangladesh. Mowmita Basak (Class of 2013), Afroza Alam (Class of 2014), and Nishat Raihana (Class of 2015) gave insight into the challenges and rewards of studying at an English-language university in Bangladesh that focuses on women. Although they spoke almost no English before arriving and had no experience with cultural diversity, the young women said that learning with peers from all over Asia, and having opportunities like their current internship, has been inspiring and life-changing. Afroza, who had never left Bangladesh before coming to Korea this summer, noted that her life path is markedly different from that of many of her friends, who dropped out of high school to get married. Education, the three girls agreed, is essential to making sure that more women have access to the kinds of opportunities that they are pursuing.
Although they know that Bangladesh is still a patriarchal society with stigmas surrounding women’s education, the students expressed hope that institutions like AUW are bringing change to their country. Nishat noted that the students of AUW are working not only toward their own education, but engaging with their communities whenever they can by organizing community service projects in Chittagong. They hope to become role models for their families and their society—as their own perspective are broadened by their courses, their peers, and their experiences abroad, these young women see a chance to change their society’s expectations about women and girls.
You can watch their appearance on Korea Today here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEbIGYskEC8
Two Korean national newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo and the Korea Times, have published articles on AUW students who are spending their summers interning with Korea’s EximBank, the state-owned institution that finances the country’s exports and imports. The three students from Bangladesh, Mowmita Basak (Class of 2013), Afroza Alam (Class of 2014), and Nishat Raihana (Class of 2015), spoke eloquently about how education at AUW has transformed their lives.
They cited critical thinking, appreciation for cultural diversity, and English-language skills as among the most important tools they have gained from their time at AUW. All three young women spoke of a desire to bring what they have learned back to their communities and serve their societies when they graduate.
To read the articles, follow these links:
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