I am Ankhi Banik and I am from Chittagong, Bangladesh. I have completed 3rd year of Undergraduate study at the Philosophy, Politics and Economics department in Asian University for Women. I am interested in women and gender studies, international development, and international political economy, and in future I want to work in development sector.
The inaugural ceremony of AUW Women in Public Service Summer Leadership Program was held at the Asian University for Women (AUW) on August 1, 2012. Several distinguished guests and speakers were present at the ceremony. Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, the Honorable State Minister of Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs of Bangladesh was the special guest at the ceremony. Fahima Aziz, the Vice Chancellor of AUW, Dr. Rangita De Sliva, Fulbright Scholar and Director of Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Mr Ryan Bradeen, Cultural Affairs Officer for Education and Exchanges at the American Center delivered inspirational speeches highlighting the significance of women participation in every aspect of our society. The students learned how to craft a powerful message message and develop a call to action by listening to the inspiring voices of Aung San Suu kyi, Wangari Mathai, Eleanor Roosevelt, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Michelle Bachellet.
The first session of the summer leadership institute focused on the power of storytelling, and power of voice. Dr. Rangita de Sliva presented the general guidance on communicating effectively. The keys aspects were regarding importance of time allocation, proper projection of voice, being humble and confident while presenting, drawing upon personal experience, involving audience by recognizing their significance in presentation, using metaphors, similes and analogies, respecting audience, and giving hope to audience by presentation. Then, five AUW student participants shared a short narrative of their journey to AUW, and their dreams to bring positive changes in the world. Three students were from Afghanistan. They spoke of the challenges of engaging in politics in Afghanistan, injustice faced by Afghan women, and gender inequality that prevalently exists in Afghan society. They sounded determined and passionate to bring changes to their society.
The other two students were from India. One of the narrators was from Kerala, who brought new perspective regarding educated women’s dignity and respect. She highlighted women in Kerala have education but when they are not acknowledged like men. Their roles are still stereotyped and ignored. The educated women still accept the societal norms that suppress women. Still women are not given respect like men. Education for women is not that much effective to break the existing stereotypes and superstition. From presentations of the students and observation, it is obvious that change is inevitable in South Asian countries. The section, power of storytelling, helped us explore our thoughts, value our experiences and realize how our experiences can bring positive changes.
Following the narratives, participants from AUW have shown their power of voice by making a compelling case on behalf of women. The participant groups were given certain case study. The first group displayed through their presentation that in South Asian culture STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) applications are not frequently gender specific but parents and elders prefer STEM education only for male. The second group outlined the issues of gender gap in education and the importance of primary education. The third group by using their advocacy skills advocated and publicized a women candidate for Pakistan election. The fourth group focused on the issues women face during any disaster and solutions of those issues.
The fifth group portrayed the importance of co-operatives for women. Every group analyzed case studies, identified glass ceiling of women in different scenarios, and came up with legitimate solutions that can be fit into the existing socio-cultural context of the South Asian countries. The performances of the students were innovative, analytical and thought provoking.
Overall, the session was very interactive and participatory. It was a wonderful beginning for what is going to be an educational, innovative and groundbreaking Institute!