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Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time

by Asian University for Women Support Foundation
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Educating Asia's Women, One Scholarship At A Time
Chancellor and Vice Chancellor with Students
Chancellor and Vice Chancellor with Students

Asian University for Women Celebrated Seventh Commencement in Chattogram

On May 11, 2019, Asian University for Women celebrated its Seventh Commencement in Chattogram to the tunes of Tagore's Anondoloke and Aguner Poroshmoni sung by the University's choir representing students from many countries.  100 students from 12 countries, majoring in Philosophy, Politics and Economics; Economics; Environmental Sciences; and Public Health were awarded with Bachelor's degrees on the occasion.  

The Chancellor of the University, Mrs. Cherie Blair, presided over the Commencement.  In her address Mrs. Blair commented to the graduating class "You have the talent and the skills, and now the qualifications, to be successful and service-oriented members of the workforce, to be change-makers in your spheres and become ethical and compassionate leaders.  She noted that "Equal opportunity is of particular significance to us here at the Asian University for Women.  This university is one of the battlegrounds on which women refighting for their equal right to education."    She went on to say that "Whilst individual dedication to upholding these values is crucial, it is also the responsibility of the lawmakers and the policy makers of the world to nurture and protect these principles".

Two distinguished guests were honored by AUW with honorary doctorates at the Commencement.  Dr. Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, Minister of Finance and Chief Advisor to the President in the Government of Afghanistan was awarded an honorary degree of laws.  Prior to returning to Afghanistan, Dr. Qayoumi was president of California State University East Bay and then served as President of San Jose State University.  An engineer with four graduate degrees to his credit, Dr. Qayoumi is an author of eight books and dozens of articles.  

In presenting the honorary degree to Dr. Qayoumi, AUW Founder Kamal Ahmad remarked:  "We honor him today not only for his extraordinary achievements in academia and in government but also for his own life's example which echoes the core ideals of AUW.  Growing up in a rural suburb of Kabul, Dr. Qayoumi, the son of a carpenter in a family of six children,  would walk several miles three times a week receive English lesson.  A scholarship to the American University of Beirut, and subsequently for graduate studies in the United States, altered his life's journey.  He, in turn, is now impacting the prospect of peace, stability, and well-being for the people of Afghanistan.  His deep commitment to expanding the opportunities of an AUW education to women across Afghanistan's 34 provinces have brought us into close partnership."

The noted proponent of Ravindra Sangeet Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya was awarded an honorary degree of doctorate of arts.  In presenting the honorary degree to Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, Kamal Ahmad noted "Tagore's vision of a world  "Where the mind is without fear.., Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken up into fragments..." is all the more important at a time when these core values are under attack almost everywhere.  Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya through her unstinting efforts in cultivating the music and knowledge and philosophy of Tagore is inspiring this nation and others to abandon the insidious hate against the other and embrace the dignity of our common humanity as propounded by Tagore."

Vice Chancellor Professor Nirmala Rao, OBE, FAcSS remarked that AUW graduates have already made a profound impact on the economic, cultural and social fabric of the communities in which they live.  They work in the private sector with major national and multinational companies; they are also deeply involved with the not for profit organizations working with UN agencies such as UNHCR, WFP, the World Bank and others.  She further noted that AUW graduates, now over 800, span continents and industries, but is tied together beach individual's commitment to transforming their chosen field and contributing to the betterment of their communities.  


About Asian University for Women (AUW)

Founded in 2008 and located in Chittagong, Bangladesh, Asian University for Women is the first of its kind: a regional institution dedicated to women’s education and leadership development – international in outlook but rooted in the contexts and aspirations of the people of Asia. Chartered by the Parliament of Bangladesh, AUW exists solely to support a rising network of women leaders, entrepreneurs, and change makers from across the region. It seeks out women who have significant academic potential and demonstrate courage and a sense of outrage at injustice and are empathic to the woes of other people.

Students from 17 countries attend AUW. 85% of AUW students are on full or near-full scholarship funded by private donors from around the world. A majority of AUW graduates find employment in the private sector in their home countries while about 25% go on to pursue graduate studies. AUW graduates or former students have been admitted to Oxford, Stanford, Columbia, New York University, Surrey, SOAS, Ewha, and a host of other leading universities around the world.


Since the recent escalation in violence against Muslims in Myanmar, Asian University for Women has ramped up its enrollment of the Rohingya Muslim minority. To date, approximately 85 Rohingya women have found refuge in education in AUW's Pathways for Promise program, which was originally created to provide garments workers access to the University's academic programs. Formin is one of those women. 


In the remote village of Maungdaw district in Rakhine state, getting to school every morning safely was a formidable task for Formin. Facing a four-kilometer journey each way on a deserted gravel road, she made the choice to stay with a host family closer to her local school. She had big dreams for herself, but knew that she was lucky to have access to an education at all. Her strength came from her father, who worked hard to provide his five daughters with the best education their family could afford. They could have never predicted the events of 2017 that would alter their lives forever.  

Facing violence and ethnic persecution at the hands of the Myanmar government, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya civilians began fleeing over the boarder to neighboring Bangladesh, in what has now become a historic migration crisis. Formin, her family and the rest of her village prepared for a long and uncertain journey in the hopes of finding safety from the terror enclosing around them. It would be a journey of pain and loss, of struggle and survival.  

They fled their homes, travelling through dense jungles over unforgiving terrain, walking for days and nights without food or rest. Forced to bare witness to incredible violence, she watched entire villages burn to the ground without survivors, and gunfire take down crowds.  

It was four days and four nights of travelling without stop before they reached the Naf River, where they boarded a small boat headed for the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar. In Bangladesh, she and her family found safety, and a place to start their lives over.  

During her time in the refugee camp, education remained a central part of her life, opening up new opportunities to help those around her. She worked as a teacher for Brac’s Child Friendly Space and as an interpreter for Food for the Hungry (FH). Before joining AUW, she was working on a project run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International to help victims of rape and sexual violence.  

18- year-old Formin joined Pathways for Promise in the fall of 2018. She believes the opportunity to study at AUW is a gift, which she can use to achieve her biggest dreams. feel like I am riding my way to success. There will be no looking back from now on. 



Roksana Akter | Intended Major: Economics | Dhaka, Bangladesh | Class of 2020

Roksana is now in her first year of undergraduate studies at AUW. The courses that she is enrolled in this semester are: Globalization; Calculus; Pantomime Techniques; and Introduction to Computer Science. Additionally, Roksana completed two courses at AUW over the summer: Critical Reading and Critical Thinking. Also during the summer, she did an internship at Caritas in Bangladesh: “I worked as an officer. I went to their different fields and collected data, then wrote a case study with that information. It was really enjoyable for me and I had many experiences that will help me further my career.”

Roksana also participated in community service organized by AUW this summer: “I worked teaching English to underprivileged students. I think this project was very conducive for those students to learn English.” She is also proud of how far her own writing and speaking skills in English have come since she first began her time at AUW. Though she finds it challenging to understand the language at all times, she believes that with more time, she will be able to overcome this.

Additionally, Roksana takes advantage of the many cultural events and workshops that AUW offers. She has been to many conferences and workshops, ranging from ones on travel to ones on leadership and initiating change. Because she enjoys learning about other cultures, Roksana has also participated in cultural events such as Lunar New Year, Waterfall of Myanmar, and Nowruz of Afghanistan.

Overall, Roksana is having a very positive experience at AUW: “I would like to share that I am so happy that I get the opportunity to study at AUW. I am really grateful and thankful.”










Juma Chakma | Intended Major: Politics, Philosophy, and Economics | Khangrachari, Bangladesh | Class of 2020

Throughout her time at AUW thus far, Juma is proud of the improvement her speaking skills have shown. This year, she is focusing on improving her writing skills as well. The biggest challenge she anticipates this year is working hard for all of her courses that are preparing her to begin her time as an undergraduate at AUW. The courses she is currently enrolled in are: Language and Composition; Reading Across Disciplines; Pre-Calculus; World Civilization; Integer Science; Leadership; and Karate.

In addition to her studies, Juma enjoys extracurricular activities at AUW. She says, “I have participated in many cultural events at AUW, like Welcome to My Country, Pohela Palgun (first day of spring season), and Pohela Boishakh (first day of Bengali year).” She has also shown an interest in learning new languages; she shared that she has learned some of the Afghan language and some of the Pakistani language from her friends. She would like to learn more languages during the rest of her time at AUW.

Juma continues to express interest in the humanities, and still intends to declare Politics, Philosophy, and Economics as her major. After graduation, Juma would like to continue her studies and eventually choose a job best suited to her passions, skills, and interests.












Yesmin Akther Urmy | Major: Economics | Chittagong, Bangladesh | Class of 2020

Over the summer, Yesmin completed two AUW courses: Modern Indian History with Special Reference to Bangladesh and Introduction to Ethics. This semester, she is enrolled in the following courses: Introduction to Public Health; Introduction to Development Studies; Principles of Microeconomics; and Principles of Macroeconomics. Yesmin is now in her second year of undergraduate courses at AUW. She has declared a major in Economics because it is one of her favorite subjects, and believes that having a good grasp on the economic happenings of a country is heplful in dealing with the issues that any particualr nation faces. She is also considering declaring a minor in Development Studies. Her biggest challenge at the moment is the amount of studying that she has to do.

Yesmin has interest in alleviating issues in slums in Bangladesh. Near her home, she spends time with young children in slum areas. She says that in the future after graduating from AUW, “I wish to do something for the slum children’s future.”

Improving her writing skills is something that Yesmin aims to achieve this school year. She has completed two writing seminars during her time at AUW, and almost feels comfortable writing a research paper. She received good marks in those classes, and desires to improve her writing skills even further.

In addition to coursework, Yesmin enjoys cultural events with her friends and classmates at AUW. She particularly enjoys Lunar New Year and Pahela Baishakh (Bangla New Year).













Meherun Neesa Naznin Alam | Major: Public Health | Chittagong, Bangladesh | Class of 2021

Meherun is now in her first year of undergraduate studies at AUW. She is currently enrolled in the following courses: Writing Seminar; Biology; Life Writing; and Probability and Statistics. Over the summer, she completed two courses at AUW: Life and Creative Writing and Basic Economics. Additionally over the summer, Meherun completed an internship at Caritas in Chittagong in which she did filing work for the Momota Project of Caritas, and worked as a research assistant for a senior thesis at AUW about traffic police.

Writing is one of Meherun’s passions, and she has been able to explore this as a student at AUW. She says, “On 20th September, I attended a workshop called ‘Voices of AUW’ at Chittagong Arts Complex. In this workshop, I presented done of my writings, which was my final writing in my summer Life Writing course. It was actually selected as a best story in the course.” Meherun is proud of how her English writing and speaking skills have improved. This year, she aims to improve her creative non-fictional writing skills more.

As expected, Meherun still intends to declare her major in Public Health: “As Bangladesh is a developing country, most of the people are very unaware of their health issues and conditions. Women are suffering in health-related issues. So, I want to work for these women and my society as well.” She also is interested in potentially doing a minor in Economics.

AUW Graduate Tooba at UN Women
AUW Graduate Tooba at UN Women

Tooba from Kabul, Afghanistan

Economics Major, graduated Class of 2018
Internship Placement: UN Women in New York City

Tooba completed her first hurdle of the summer by gaining her visa to enter the U.S. so that she can start her internship at UN Women in New York City. She has been looking forward to this experience in particular because she has the opportunity to be placed on two different teams during her internship: the South-South Cooperation program team and the Disabled Women and Children team. On the South-South Cooperation, she is researching the role of south-south cooperation and triangular cooperation, and on the disability team, she will be researching disability in the context of Afghanistan.

Because she is the only Afghan woman in the internship program as well as the few undergraduate intern, in a cohort of graduate and PhD students, Tooba has been experiencing some imposter syndrome during her first two weeks. She feels her fellow interns have at least five years of work experience, noting the average age at UN Women is 42 years old and she herself has only previous work experience as a finance intern last summer. Overall, she has found the team very friendship and personable, and that “has allowed her to grow personally and professionally.” She will be returning to Kabul in August.


Shagufa from Herat, Afghanistan

Economics Major; will graduate as Class of 2019
Internship Placement: Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights (BCRHHR) of Boston Medical Center in Boston

“This summer I am involved in a volunteering program called Refugee Patient Navigator (RPNs) in Boston Center for Refugees Health and Human Right at Boston Medical Center (BMC). In one side, this volunteering opportunity helps me to get involve in social activities and communicate with refugees from diverse communities with fantastic stories. Presently, I have been assigned to provide data & information of free events, program, sport club and other free opportunities that has been offered for public and people in every 57 town of Boston- Massachusetts. This outcome of this research aware the BCRHHHR‘s patients to involve in entertainment and activities for free.”


Sabira from Bamyan, Afghanistan

Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Major, will graduate as Class of 2019
Internship Placement: Bandhu Social Welfare Society in Dhaka, Bangladesh

“One of the main goals of Bandhu Social Welfare Society is to develop the health condition of Hijra (transgender) people in Bangladesh. Taking environmental Health course and Urban-WASH will help to find out the problem within their living environment and water, sanitation and hygiene which these are very essential for a healthy life. Moreover, I could share my knowledge that already learnt from professor in the class with the NGO’s colleagues. 

[In this internship,] I would be part of Multi-country South Asia Global Fund HIV Program (MSA). As this program is a multi-country program with same goals and objectives could give me the opportunity to learn more about working across the border. Also this program has implement in my home country which is Afghanistan. Therefore, working with same program in Bangladesh will help me in further opportunities in future back in Afghanistan.”

AUW Student Sabira Interning in Dhaka
AUW Student Sabira Interning in Dhaka


AUW Class of 2018 Graduate Anna from Kerala
AUW Class of 2018 Graduate Anna from Kerala

Anna | Asian Studies

Kerala, India | Class of 2018

Majoring in Asian Studies, Anna has had the chance to live and work in a community in Cochin, Kerala for an ethnographic research project. Focusing on “Identity Politics and the Maintenance of Jewish Cultural Heritage,” she learned a great deal about government policy, community discrimination, and the power and scope of Anthropology to help people in India.

Anna doesn’t want to miss out on anything in her final semester, so she’s staying focused on her academic work while also keeping herself busy with running, cheerleading, spoken word, and an upcoming performance of The Vagina Monologues. Having also won a recent AUW dance competition, Anna represented the university in a cultural competition with other universities across Bangladesh and came in second.

Anna looks forward to focusing on her dreams and vision after graduation, but will miss the cultural diversity at AUW. Before she goes on to graduate school, Anna will spend a year working in her village as Assistant Village Coordinator to support children and elderly people in the community with social projects focusing on education and food provision. She wants to create a book about her village to share the stories that have been passed between generations, and to use her skills in the humanities to preserve her own rich culture and heritage.


Aurona | Politics, Philosophy & Economics

Bangladesh | Class of 2020

Aurona is currently on an exchange semester at the University of Trento, Italy. Although she has limited knowledge of Italy’s language and customs, she is taking intensive Italian language courses and exercising her non-verbal communication skills in body language and facial expressions. Aurona has found herself becoming increasingly flexible and adaptable to situations outside of her comfort zone.

Her time in Italy has also given Aurona new insight into her own culture. She thinks that a lot of Bangladeshis view Europe as a kind of utopia - but she is gaining a more nuanced perspective of Italian culture and history. During the social process of cooking with her Italian flatmates, Aurona has created memories with her new friends and developed an understanding of Italian cultural practices, education systems, family values, beliefs, and gender roles.

The new society she finds herself a part of in Europe has made Aurona even more committed to addressing educational inequity in Bangladesh. During her Internship with the Partnership, Development and Communications team of Teach for Bangladesh, Aurona saw government primary schools and their dramatic lack of resources for the first time.

Aurona wants to go on to a Masters course in Educational Development to improve systems in Bangladesh and empower youth-led movements and young entrepreneurs around the country in order to stop the dramatic flight of young Bangladeshis in search of work abroad.



Afghanistan | Class of 2020

Alongside developing her skills in writing and mathematics, Humaira has spent the semester gaining theoretical knowledge for her Politics, Philosophy, and Economics major. She has also had the chance to pursue an interest in Pantomime, where she learned about body analysis, use of the face and body, and story development.

Since Humaira has not been given the financial support to pursue her internship in Afghanistan, she has planned a summer research project in Nepal. Humaira and her classmates have been fundraising by selling food in the university, and will hopefully travel to Nepal in the summer to conduct research on marital rape.

Humaira has been involved in the AUW International Model United Nations, where she was given a Verbal Mention award, and helped to organize the 6th Annual AUW Photo Carnival. This year, Humaira has been part of the team responsible for bringing the first celebration of Nawroz (the first day of Persian spring) to AUW. The celebrations were Humaira’s chance to display the culture and traditions of North and Southwest Asian countries to her classmates, especially Afghanistan.

Humaira is excited to act as a role model for women in Afghanistan. Since women in many provinces are not allowed to work outside of the home, she wants to set up a business that will support and recruit women. Humaira is drawn to NGOs working to support women’s entrepreneurship in Afghanistan, and she wants to be able to work with them to help women and promote the economic growth of the country overall.


Tshering | Public Health

Thimphu, Bhutan | Class of 2019

Although Tshering had always had an interest in studying medicine, she eventually realised that she could make a much more valuable contribution through Public Health, working on prevention instead of cure.

As well as a summer research project on the socio-cultural impacts of tourism on the people living around the Angkor Wat area in Cambodia, Tshering is working on her senior thesis. She plans to look into the quality of education provided to primary school students in Bhutan and hopefully implement her findings for positive change in her community.

Tshering has a deep commitment to social work, and has been working on various social outreach projects alongside her studies. Most recently, Tshering has been collecting clothing and utensils from AUW students and distributing them among people who have been the victims of fires.

This semester, Tshering has had a few moments of self-doubt, when she has questioned her readiness to graduate next year. However, she is committed to her goal of working in her community in Bhutan, in NGOs to improve education and empower women. Tshering is currently looking into potential projects to help widowed and divorced women in Bhutan, by teaching them entrepreneurial skills and making resources available.

AUW Student Humaira from Afghanistan
AUW Student Humaira from Afghanistan
AUW Student Aurona Studying in Italy
AUW Student Aurona Studying in Italy
AUW Student Tshering with the Bhutan Flag
AUW Student Tshering with the Bhutan Flag



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Asian University for Women Support Foundation

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AUW_Chittagong
Project Leader:
Nirmala Rao
Cambridge, MA United States
$18,194 raised of $40,000 goal
89 donations
$21,806 to go
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