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AUW Hosts the Grassroots Women's Political Leadership Forum

Chittagong, Bangladesh, September 3, 2012: The Asian University for Women will host the first Grassroots Women's Political Leadership Forum during September 9-19 at its campus in Chittagong. The Forum will be jointly sponsored by AUW and the U.S. Department of State. It will bring together over 100 participants, trainers and speakers from most of the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). State Minister for Women's Affairs Dr. Shirin Sharmin Choudhry will speak at the opening session, along with Indian Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath,and the Department of State's Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Affairs Ms. Melanne Verveer. Ambassador Verveer has said of the program: "The Grassroots Leadership [Forum] at the Asian University for Women is providing women in local government with a unique opportunity to focus on policies and issues that affect their communities, to learn best practices in addressing challenges, as well as to hone skills required to be effective leaders. We are pleased to work with the Asian University for Women which is doing so much to advance women's progress through education and its leadership programs."

The Forum at AUW is intended to provide wide-ranging leadership training to elected grassroots women leaders from throughout the region. Announcing the program in Chennai, India last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "I...know there are several panchayat members here, and I thank you for working so hard to promote government and democracy at the local level. So I am pleased to announce that the Government of the United States and the Government of India will establish a regional training program at the Asia[n] University of Women to spotlight the success of the panchayat program, and train more women to be local leaders like you."

More than 60 grassroots participants will be in attendance from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The participants are women who are new to politics, serving on their local or village councils, or ran for local office. The Forum is intended to serve women who are newcomers to politics or recent entrants into grassroots political service and are determined to make a difference in their communities through leadership development and training.

A total of 16 sessions will be offered on topics ranging from effective public speaking and communication skills to economic empowerment. There will also be two special sessions: one on theMedia and Grassroots Women's Leadership, led by Mr. Mahfuz Anam, Editor of Bangladesh newspaperThe Daily Star; and one onPolitical Challenges in Meeting Health Care Needs for Women, led by Dr. Ratna Jain, Mayor of Kotna, India. Conducting the Forum's other trainings will be eminent public servants, leaders of non-profit organizations, and academics who are committed to women's empowerment and grassroots action. Among them is Fouzia Saeed, a social activist, gender expert, and author of books such asTaboo! The Hidden Culture of a Red Light AreaandWorking with Sharks: Countering Sexual Harassment in our Lives. Ms. Saeed is a founding member of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment in Pakistan, and a founding member and Executive Director of Bedari, a community-based organization focused on women's empowerment. Our other esteemed trainers include: Parveen Mahmud, the first woman President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh; Pam Rajput, Head of the Political Science department at Panjab University in India and organizer of the Women's Parliament; Stephenie Foster of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and many more.

The Grassroots Women's Political Leadership Forum is being held at AUW aspart of activities envisaged under the Women's Empowerment Dialogue within the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue.It is expected that the representatives of each participating country will prepare a plan of action to implement as a result of deliberations at the Forum. AUW Vice Chancellor Dr. Fahima Aziz commented "It is a real privilege for AUW to host the Grassroots Women's Political Leadership Forum. The trainers and the participants will inform the AUW community of the practical issues that inhibit the possibilities of change at the grassroots and also demonstrate how they may be overcome. We look forward to having every participant of the Forum as a partner in problem solving". AUW's Founder Kamal Ahmad said of the Forum, "AUW is firmly committed to acting as a bridge between the corridors of knowledge and the needs of people--to acknowledging that the life of a university must be charged with serving the wider community and that education must be a dialogue, and not merely the imparting of knowledge from teacher to student. To that end, we look to the women assembled here as teachers, from whom our faculty, trainers, and other students can and should learn. We at AUW stand ready to support any meaningful initiatives that may emerge to tackle these challenges. By bringing grassroots women political leaders from across Asia to our campus for this forum, we hope to reaffirm this commitment."

The Forum will conclude on September 19 with a certificate awarding ceremony. Mr. Svend Olling, Ambassador of Denmark to Bangladesh, will formally present certificates to the successful participants to acknowledge their achievements.

Article on AUW website