On Friday, March 21, 2014 the FWA met with the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Beginning on March 1st, which coincided with Women’s History Month, five women embarked upon a trip around the United States representing countries including Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The women were invited to the U.S. under the auspices Women as Political Leaders – A Regional Project for South Asia. The objectives of the program are to:
- Examine the U.S. political landscape, the electoral process, political activism, and campaigns; emphasizing the impact on and the participation of women
- Illustrate equal access to education, work, and housing and demonstrate their significance to women
- Enhance understanding of the U.S. foreign policy decision-making process and the key players involved
- Demonstrate the role of schools, universities, media, businesses, the courts, and advocacy groups in shaping social values, attitudes and behavior toward women
- Explore the values of responsible leadership, underscoring transparency and ethics
“Education is so important to us because we have a lot of uneducated women in our countries. Just as important though is the support of these women’s families because without it, it’s virtually impossible to get an education. Additionally, financial literacy is key as power comes with money and if you don’t understand money you will be lost somewhere. In most cases, the person who is in charge of finances is a man but the person who has the vision is the woman,” Ms. Gullalai, director of programs, Khwendo Kor, Pakistan said.
While many of these women are involved in the overall support and empowerment of women, Zarghoona Aslami, acting director, Human Resources Management Information System, Afghanistan has been an advocate on the political side for nearly three years. Through assisting in the institution of a policy to onboard women for decision-making positions, today around 30 percent of women hold leadership roles within the political realm in this country. In Pakistan, although Madiha Arooj, senior vice president, Central Punjab, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, is continuing to see some positive steps forward in the political environment many women still don’t have the right to vote independently and can only do so when their families allow it. This sad but true fact hasn’t deterred Ms. Arooj from her dreams though of running for political office.
Khaleda Khorsand, advisor on gender and media issues, Civil Society and Human Rights Network of Western Afganistan, works to raise awareness for women through conducting workshops, seminars and even holding debates that discuss various women’s rights issues. Ms. Khorsad also oversees the use of the media to drive exposure for educational programs for both women and men alike as well as helps to connect different parts of society that come together around one table to highlight challenges.
Further, Manju Bhandari, protection associate, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – Nepal, works closely with refugees in order to determine what type of assistance they require and then enables them to settle in other countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, Norway and Denmark. Something interesting to note is that in Nepal, there are three main industries people can work in such as science, commerce and humanities. In spite of the fact that education and empowerment is not very high, it is far better in cities than in urban areas. What is helping to raise the number of women who receive an education within these rural areas are food for education programs which entice families to allow their daughters to go to school since it lessens the burden placed upon their shoulders of having to support them.
Be sure to stay tuned as the FWA continues to be involved in exciting events!