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Interview in the Daily Star for the launch of the Cherie Blair Fellowships at the Asian University for Women in Bangaldesh.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, January 11, 2010

It is a good thing that Bangladesh has women leaders which shows the society is comfortable with women's empowerment.

Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair and a leading human rights activist,said she was impressed by the efforts of the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh, which she found has contributed to empowering women who otherwise would have no future.
"Having come to Chittagong, I am delighted," Cherie said in an interview with The Daily Star. "The teachers are dedicated and trying to develop analytical and inquiring skills of the students who will be the leaders of tomorrow."
She was upbeat on the education efforts for women in Bangladesh and observed that education helps bring about economic empowerment and changes women's status in the household.
"When they (women) contribute to their households economically, it changes their situation," she said.
"It is a good thing that Bangladesh has women leaders which shows the society is comfortable with women's empowerment," Cherie, also a lawyer, commented.
"No country in the world has closed the gender gap and in this context Bangladesh gets high scores for having women leadership and women's education. For example, in Bangladesh women get free education up to higher level which is very appreciable."
She elaborated how education of women brings in other socials benefits like use of clean water, immunisation, low child mortality rate and improved social health.
"But still when you look at the economic and political gap, you find a big gap between men and women," she added.
However, it is encouraging that some backward countries are having more and more women leaders, Cherie said. For example, Rwanda has now more women lawmakers than any other countries in the world. As many of the men were killed in genocide, women came out to the top of the leadership.
In this regard, Cherie said she was delighted to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this time.
"She was looking splendid and very much in command of her nation. I got the personal pleasure to see her. And it is important that Bangladesh is back to democracy," she added.
Recalling her experience at the AUW, Cherie said she had talked with students from Afghanistan about how it was like to be in a country where education for girls was a controversial subject. These girls can now stand up and express themselves, they have learnt to open their minds and get into thoughtful engagement.
"What is interesting is coming from different backgrounds and families who cannot afford education for their kids; they get adapted to a multi-cultural situation," she observed.
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