Empowering women to Learn and Guide as Leaders:
The Asian University for Women, which is opened in 2005, hopes to prepare young women from Asia to participate in the leadership and decision-making process.
Preparing for leadership positions ...
Need for gender equity:
BASED on the philosophy that a positive future for Asia requires gender equity and women who can help initiate constructive changes in their own societies, the Asian University for Women (AUW), is slated to open in September 2005 in Bangladesh.
An international group is in the process of raising $100,000,000 to set up this centre, described as a world class, liberal arts college that will attract and prepare intelligent and talented young women from diverse backgrounds in Asia, with special emphasis on poor, rural women, for positions of political, financial, cultural and social leadership and influence in the decision-making processes of their respective countries.
This endeavor is expected to raise regional expectations for the quality of education and women's access to it, raising the status of women as active participants in their societies.
According to Mr. Kamal M. Ahmed, attorney at Mayer, Brown and Platt in London, secretary of the committee, Bangladesh was chosen because the Government has given almost 100 hectares of land for the project, because it is a secular Muslim country with almost no ethnic conflict, uses English as a second language and has promised to enact laws establishing the institution's autonomy and set up an exclusively female force to maintain security. More than half of the students will be on scholarships.
The AUW's four-year curriculum in English will combine development studies with liberal arts and basic sciences for the first two years followed by students' choice of specialization such as IT, Management or other subjects relevant to the Asian context.
The AUW hopes to enter into one or more partnerships with outstanding institutions of higher learning for women to ensure high quality for itself and also offer opportunities for educational exchange programs among internationally-recognized `sister' schools.
At the moment, various regional groups are in discussion about how best to achieve the goals of the AUW.
Those who recently participated in the Chennai session were drawn from various disciplines: there were educationists, administrators, academics, journalists and activists, representatives from NGOs and students to bring diverse perspectives. The Mission Statement says AUW will need to be: A home for thinking about strengthening ties across Asia;
The keeper of a vision of Asia as a region of opportunity for all peoples individually and together; A think tank for regional issues, adding more theoretical scholarship and applied thinking; A research centre with library and electronic information on Asia-wide issues, particularly those involving linking people together; A venue for meetings of regional organizations with concern about the social responsibilities of capitalism and donors concerned with support of regionalization.
Towards achieving this, apart from the key alliances mentioned earlier with excellent centers of learning, it envisages close and crucial links with leading organizations such as NGOs, ESCAP, ASEAN etc.
The Chennai -India ,discussions centered on the problems that thwart educational success for girls from poor families, which range far beyond mere academic preparation or the provision of superior learning environments.
The definition of poverty itself has undergone a change and should be seen not only from the point of economic need but capability deprivation. It was suggested that, since only 500 students would be taken in every year from Asia (2,000 for the 4-year course), the number of students from each country should be proportionate to the size of the number of poor people (China, for instance, though the most populous country would have a lower representation than India whose total population is lower but whose poor outnumber the number of Chinese poor).
A GLOBAL Outlook:
It was decided that a Selection Committee of professionals from various disciplines should go into the question of choosing students, keeping in mind the problems of academic and social interaction between the fee-paying and the scholarship students, the high tolerance levels needed when students from countries with opposing cultural, political, social and religious ideologies have to share living and learning space.
A Bridge Course:
A bridge course in English to enable girls from the grassroots to cope with English as the medium of instruction and orientation in living in a totally alien cultural environment should be provided before they leave the country to help overcome low self-esteem and other challenges that poverty and deprivation bring to the transition to a high-tech liberal arts learning environment.
Marginalized groups like tribal should have fair representation, it was felt. The screening process was very carefully considered and it was felt that faculty members should also be selected to prevent misuse of the opportunity to influence a whole generation of future Asian leaders.
Students who have completed Junior College levels would be eligible and a questionnaire is being circulated to assess their expectations of such a university as the AUW and what they hope to do for their communities with this opportunity.
Opportunities to engage in summer projects in other countries and holding conferences in countries other than Bangladesh, it was felt, would be a possible route to better understanding of diversity.
Journals like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among others, have carried articles on the AUW and its support committees' efforts at raising the huge funds required to start and sustain a mega effort of high standards.
That unbridled consumerism and human insecurity in a time of frustration and resentment create problems of integration of ideological and other differences which need to be resolved is enough reason to marshal all our energies into making a dream like the AUW come true.
And if it can be done through the hitherto untapped potential of women's leadership in their communities the benefits of development would be more equitably distributed, just as the process of development itself would have involved men and women equally.
SINGAPORE (1 iSolu)