The Women in Public Service Summer Leadership Institute at the Asian University for Women was a festival of truth, and a carnival of dreams. The journey that began with 43 individual stories has now come to an end with 43 flying doves promising to bring change, promising to stand for justice and enlightenment, and promising to be bearers of peace. Among us, we have future Parliamentarians and a President, many in fact! We have community leaders, leaders who will govern the home, leaders who will end discrimination and marginalization, leaders who will stand up for domestic violence, sexual harassment and the rights of the unheard, leaders who will bring enlightenment to their people, leaders who will be precious to their family and to the world!
In fact we are all precious to the world! And the person who reminded us of that every day was our mentor Dr. Rangita de Silva. She was throughout the institute and will continue to be an inspiration, not only because of all she has achieved, but for all that she stands for. She is a believer in the power of the voice, she is living and breathing our dreams. The one who reminded us every day that the personal is political! The one who asked us to dare to change the World. You encouraged us all to carry not only a bottle of hope, but to carry it in boxes, and bags and swim in oceans of hopes and dreams. We thank her for giving us the stage and allowing us to shine.
We would also like thank all our sponsors. Especially the US State Department for its continual support of change-makers and gender equality. We thank everybody at the Woodrow Wilson Centre for supporting us, Wellesley and the other Seven Sisters colleges for recognizing us and the architects of the WPSP program for building this platform. We are thankful for the experiences we had with the game changing lawyers at Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) who let us into their offices, shelter homes, One-Stop Crisis Centre and let us be a part of the lawmaking consultative process for the Children’s Law Bill. We thank AUW for the opportunity to attend this unique learning experience which will enhance the goals we came to university with. Without them we would not have the tools that we need to achieve our dreams.
And to conclude I would like to quote Marianne Williamson who I had mentioned in my own personal story, but feel that it captures the all our journeys:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Raiya Kishwar Ashraf is currently an undergraduate at Asian University for Women (Class of 2015) where she is majoring in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She wishes to work in the development sector in Bangladesh in the future and will be contributing to the WPSP social media presence during the WPSP Summer Institute.