The Magic of Education for Girls – An Evening With The Asian University for Women

First lady Akie Abe (center) with Duth Kimsru (left) and Kamala K.C. (right)

First lady Akie Abe (center) with Duth Kimsru (left) and Kamala K.C. (right)

The Asian University for Women (AUW) is a beacon of hope for women across South and Southeast Asia who aspire to learn and grow and become global citizens.  Never was that more apparent than last night when the Japan support committee of AUW held their annual film event in support of the university. Not only did the group show the inspiring documentary film “Girl Rising” about the critical importance of education for girls in the developing world, but two students who graduated from the university in their inaugural graduation in 2013 came to Tokyo to address the crowd and show first hand what an education can do.

The girls, Kimsru, from Cambodia, and Kamala, from Nepal, both outlined the sometimes perilous journey they took just to get to AUW, which is located in Chittagong, Bangladesh.  Kimsru mentioned her village, which did not have electricity or running water, but that her mother moved her and her siblings from the village into the capital city, Phnom Pehn, so that she might study, both working and

First Lady Akie Abe with a few members of the AUW Japan Support Committee

First Lady Akie Abe with a few members of the AUW Japan Support Committee

taking in laundry to finance her daughter’s education.  Kamala talked about how she not only had to walk 90 minutes each way to get to the closest high school, but had to work full time teaching the primary grades as well as complete her own studies in order to finish her secondary degree.  Both girls passionately spoke about their time at AUW, the joy they found in learning, their hunger to become global citizens, and the golden opportunities that higher education – in English! – has given them. Currently Kimsru works for a nonprofit organization in Phnom Phen, teaching kids about practical life skills and urging them to stay in school.  Kamala is pursuing graduate education in South Korea.

AUW has a place on the global stage, as evidenced by the commitment to the school by Japan’s First Lady, Akie Abe.  Mrs. Abe took time out of her busy schedule to meet the girls and left a message to be played for the entire audience where she discussed her own visit to AUW in Bangladesh in 2011 when was so impressed by the school, its programs, and the girls themselves, that she agreed to become a patron of the university. She urged others to similarly support the school and education for women.  There’s more information available about the school and its extraordinary programs on their website. Please go look at it; you can’t help but be touched and inspired by it.

I have written before about AUW, in 2010, and 2013. Both times I told you how truly amazing the girls are and how touched we are as a family to have the experience of interacting with these amazing young ladies. This year was as special as years past, perhaps more so because of our own recent life experiences.  My daughter Sydney is wearing her new t-shirt today, the one designed and sold by the ASIJ support group of AUW, which supported the event.  She bought it with her own money and it reads, “She believed she could, so she did!”  It’s a message of determination, of grit and of hope.  Sydney wears it in support of those girls who are less fortunate than she is to have the spectacular education that she does.  Sydney won’t forget, and nor will I.  Together we can make a difference in the lives of young women across the globe.

Coming to Tokyo: Students from The Asian University for Women

AUW logo with clear backgroundBeyond being the first regional liberal arts institution in Southern Asia, the Asian University for Women is a place where women from across the region can go to learn, share ideas, and get a superior education so they can follow their own dreams, whether they lead out into the world, or back to their villages.  The school, located in Chittagong, Bangladesh, has programs in art, history, literature and any other program they would find at any top-notch university across the globe.  The former first lady of Great Britain, Cherie Blair, is the Chancellor of the University and the current first lady of Japan, Akie Abe, has recently signed on as a Patron of the school.

Why am I telling you this?  I mention it because on March 20th, people in Tokyo will have the singular experience to meet two girls who attend this amazing school.

The AUW Japan Support Group will screen the film “Peace Unveiled” part of the American PBS Series “Women, War and Peace.”  The segment is about the process of peace in Afghanistan and how women played, and continue to play a key role in the making of a modern day nation.  In addition to the film, the two girls, who will travel all the way to Tokyo from Bangladesh to tell their stories, will speak, along with the Vice-Chancellor of the school, Ms. Fahima Aziz.  One of the girls is originally from Afghanistan and is prepared to speak about the actual situation on the ground.

Here is a Facebook listing of the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/335839793194270/?fref=ts

This is not the first time the Japan Support Committee has held an event here in Tokyo – we did one in 2010 where I had the privilege of spending time with the two young women from Bangladesh.  Here’s the story on my last meeting with AUW students and the joy it brought: http://aimeeweinstein.blogspot.jp/2010/04/beyond-writing-education.html

If you live in Tokyo, please consider attending the event.  It’s a national holiday in Japan, and so we’re having the screening in the late afternoon to accommodate holiday revelry and the need to go to work the following day.  For more information you can reply here, or email Katsuki Sakai, at katsuki.sakai@asian-university.org.

I can promise you that seeing the film and hearing these girls speak in person will be an experience you will never forget.