• Impact

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    • 10% of all currently enrolled students are from Afghanistan
    • Received over 100 applications from Afghanistan in 2015
    • AUW works with BRAC Afghanistan to recruit students
    • AUW has an MoU with the govt. of Afghanistan allowing students to work and do post-graduate fellowships at the Ministry of Counter Narcotics

    • 46% of all currently enrolled students are from Bangladesh
    • AUW works with Grameen Bank to recruit students from rural areas of Bangladesh
    • In 2012, AUW collaborated with leading Bangladeshi newspaper “Prothom Alo” to offer scholarships to women who are the first in their family to enter university
    • AUW students regularly participate in community service activities with the JAAGO Foundation, and independent research projects in affiliation with the Ford Foundation

    • 8% of currently enrolled AUW students are from Bhutan

    • 5 currently enrolled students from China
    • 5 applications received from China in 2014

    • 5% of currently enrolled students are from India
    • AUW received 40 applications from India in 2014
    Myanmar (Burma)

    • 7 students currently enrolled from Myanmar
    • 14 applications received in 2014 from Myanmar

    • 5% of currently enrolled students are from Pakistan
    • AUW received 85 applications from Pakistan in 2014

    • 5 currently enrolled students are from Palestine
    • AUW received 3 applications from Palestine in 2014

    • 1 currently enrolled student is from Malaysia
    • AUW received 1 applications from Malaysia in 2014

    • 4 currently enrolled students are from Syria
    • AUW received 11 applications from Syria in 2014

    • 2 currently enrolled students are from Indonesia
    • AUW received 1 applications from Indonesia in 2014

    • 38 currently enrolled students are from Vietnam
    • AUW received 21 applications from Vietnam 2014

    • 36 currently enrolled students are from Nepal
    • AUW received 32 applications from Nepal in 2014

    • 5 students from Cambodia currently enrolled in AUW
    • AUW received 10 applications from Cambodia in 2014
    Sri Lanka

    • 13 currently enrolled students are from Sri Lanka
    • AUW received 23 applications from Sri Lanka in 2014
    • AUW students started the ‘Moving Beyond Conflict’ project in 2010
    • Students conducted research and aided with relief efforts in Trincomalee and Vauniya, two war affected communities
    • Their research was presented at a conference in Dhaka called “Imagining Another Future for Asia: Ideas and Pathways for Change” in 2011
    • AUW students started a sister to sister program with ex-combatants


    - Female Literacy in Afghanistan is 12.5%
    - The sex ratio for Primary Education is 0.6
    - The sex ratio for Higher Education is an even lower 0.3
    - Gross enrollment for Higher Education in Afghanistan is 2%

    Afghan women are extended few legal rights and protections, and are some of the least empowered in Asia. Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and women often have to live in fear in the face of gender-based violence such as forced marriage, sexual and domestic assault, and the practice of exchanging women and girls as payment to settle disputes. Women and girls who participate in public life by running for office, attending school, or speaking out about their rights often become targets for extremist groups.


    Mursal Hamraz '14

    The youngest of nine children, Mursal grew up in Kabul surrounded by examples of strong women; her sister secretly taught young Afghan girls in their home despite fierce opposition from the local Taliban authorities, and her mother returned to complete her secondary education and enrolled in an institute of higher learning while she was in high school. Inspired by her family, Mursal discovered AUW through her father – a vocal retired police officer – who encouraged her to apply.

    Mursal described her arrival at AUW as a “warm welcome in my soul,” saying that the first hug she received from her foreign roommate made her feel right at home. Majoring in Economics, Mursal excelled on campus and beyond; she joined the JAAGO foundation as a volunteer to promote the rights and living standards of the underprivileged in Bangladesh, attended the US-Afghan Women’s Council meeting in New York as the AUW representative in 2011, and her writing led to her selection to be a World Pulse ‘ Voice of Our Future’ Correspondent.

    After graduating, Mursal conducted a one-year fellowship at the Ministry of Counter Narcotics  in the Government of Afghanistan, where she worked in the General Planning and Policy Directorate. There, she spearheading two initiatives: one to help female addicts in the area with relapse prevention, and another to raise awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace and on the streets. The latter campaign drew significant media attention in the local news.

    Now, Mursal has begun her career in government in the Office of the First Lady of Afghanistan.

    Marvah Shakib '14

    During her one-year fellowship at the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) in Herat Province, Afghanistan, Marvah was the only woman in the office, and she did not hesitate to make suggestions and offer advice on how to improve operations. For this, she was named Young Woman Leader in Herat, and gave an acceptance speech in front of an audience of 300 at a local high school of aspiring youths in June 2015.

    When she was a student at AUW, Marvah was known for her proactivity in numerous organizations, serving as the Vice President of AUW’s Speak Up Against Violence Against Women Club and the Afghan representative in the Student Government. Off campus, she worked at the Human Rights Commission in Herat, and was a Youth Leader at the First Global Youth Conference on Drug Prevention. Of her experience, she says that her AUW education gave her “critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as the diplomacy to work in new environment[s].”


    Fatema’s greatest pride comes from facing her challenges straight on: she says that over the past semester, “I never gave up, and continued having hope about my future.” Though Fatema is only in her first year of undergraduate studies, she has already demonstrated her ambition by excelling at a tough combination of mathematics and science classes in her first semester, despite reservations expressed by her peers due to the difficulty of her course work. On a larger scale, Fatema is also thinking about many different issues in Afghanistan that she would like to address: education, violence, and exclusion of women from society, and plans on attending graduate school in the future to gain a thorough enough understanding to tackle these problems. Fatema has already started working sexual assault issues through the Beyond Tolerance Club, where she and other AUW students put on a program called “ Window to my Heart “, in which women shared stories and perceptions of sexual violence, as well as advice for other young women. In her free time, she also attends a drawing class outside of AUW, and enjoys interviewing her fellow students as part of the Humans of AUW Club.

    Fatema Hosseini '18

    Mitra has a dream of creating a fitness gym for Afghan women–specifically, the first one ever in Kabul. She has made significant strides towards making this dream come true. “With Mr. Hussain Sadiqi, an international Wushu athlete, I decided to build the first sports center for Afghan women. I developed a proposal for this project and am still working to finalize it.” This academic year, then, on top of taking courses in Economics and Development Studies, Mitra is working with the AUW Writing Center to finalize her proposal for the construction of the gym. She is also reaching out to donors for funding.

    This past summer, Mitra also worked as an intern at BRAC International Center in Dhaka, specifically in the Human Resources development.  There, she worked on another brainchild project to provide clean water by digging wells in the regions of Jabbar Khan, Shahrak Mahdia, and Chiheel Dokhtaran in Kabul. “All of my experiences and achievements have been just because of AUW,” she says. “I would like to thank AUW for giving me these leadership skills, so that I don’t believe in saying ‘I can’t.’”

    Looking ahead, Mitra is working on two other proposals. “I am working to help one rural area in Malistan Ghazni. These people are very far from the city and it’s hard for them to visit doctors. They are very poor and cannot pay for cars or doctor’s bills. My main focus is pregnant mothers and children. My plan is to send four or five doctors to that rural area to give pregnant mothers and children check-ups and write prescriptions for them. Two people would be assigned to buy the medicine from the city and take it back to the rural areas,” Mitra explains. She hopes to get funding for this project. Her second project for the year is to establish the first Kabul University Model United Nations.

    Mitra’s dream is to work in the UN or international organizations wherein she can help marginalized people.


    Mitra Hussaini '18


    - Bangladesh has a female literacy rate of 53%
    - Despite having more girls in primary and secondary school, the ratio of girls to boys in tertiary education is only 69.
    - Bangladesh has a maternal mortality rate of 240
    - Only 57% of women participate in the labor force

    Women in Bangladesh have gone through a phase of struggle to massive improvement since the country gained its independence in 1971. However, despite increased political empowerment, job prospects, educational opportunities, and adoption of law, most women’s lives remain centered on their traditional roles due to the limited access offered in the large underdeveloped areas of the country. Apart from this several women continue to live in fear in the face of domestic and public abuse


    Afroza Alam '14

    Afroza points to her parents as her biggest supporters as she pursued education, who went as far as to move to Dhaka when she was two years old to ensure that there was an accessible school nearby. When Afroza’s father passed away while she was in high school, her family struggled to find the funds to pay for her higher education. It was then that Afroza heard about AUW from a friend, and has made the most of the AUW experience since joining. Now, Afroza is considered a role model for young girls throughout her community.

    Intrigued by the relationship between economic events and her personal experiences, Afroza flourished as an economics major at AUW. Apart from being trained in professionally used tools such as SPSS and STATA, she says that both the diverse, rigorous curriculum and the friendly yet competitive academic atmosphere were important factors as she developed a repertoire of professional and personal skills. To complete the holistic experience, she was extended incredible internship opportunities, including a summer internship with World Bank which eventually translated into a full time job offer.
    Afroza has a model career trajectory having been made possible by her AUW education and by testing out different work environments during her summer breaks. Now, she has been able to follow her passion by working at the World Bank as a Research Assistant in the Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management department, directly under the supervision of leading World Bank economists. Recognizing that the same gender biases that might have held her back continue to be one of the major problems in her home, she hopes to contribute to the field of gender economics. As for her advice to current students, Afroza stresses that life after graduation will be very different, “It is challenging, frustrating,” she says, “but it is enjoyable because we AUW students know how to handle it.”

    Saima Sultana Jaba '15

    Saima says she was “a lost ship” before arriving at AUW. She grew up in Dhaka, raised by parents who were unable to continue education after eighth grade. With her father working only three months of the year, Saima was always uncertain if she would be able to attend college. “In my village, a lot of people told us that girls should not be educated, that they are born to raise children and cook,” she shares. However, when she heard about AUW, she saw how higher education might be possible for her, and is grateful for the educational experience that she calls “the turning point in my life.”

    Throughout her time at AUW, Saima volunteered at the JAAGO Foundation and the AUW Health and Wellness Center. When she studied abroad at Kent State University in her third year, she volunteered at the Red Cross in Ohio, USA. She also seized each professional development opportunity, ultimately interning at Grameen Communications and BRAC.

    After graduating in May 2015, Saima began working as a Fellow at Teach for Bangladesh, where she is still demonstrating her passion for community service. In November 2015, she was selected to attend the One Young World (OYW) Summit as a part of the Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’s delegation in Thailand.

    Now, with a reaffirmed sense of purpose and her characteristic drive, Saima hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in Development Studies.


    Growing up in Chittagong, Farhina had several chances to interact with members of the AUW community before deciding to apply. After volunteering in a project called “The Poverty Fighter Foundation” that was organized by AUW students, she realized that her personal mission of accelerating change in underprivileged communities fit perfectly within the AUW philosophy. Her eagerness and dedication was a crucial factor in persuading her parents that AUW had a worthy mission and would provide the right education for her. Beaming when asked about her life after coming to AUW, she claims that her days are filled with “rays of hope for fulfilling my dreams”

    Farhina has been hard at work making the most of the diverse range of activities AUW has to offer; She has picked up Karate, and volunteers with a local community group to provide food and clothing for children, just to name a few. Her course combination of Politics, Philosophy and Asian studies has been complemented by her interaction with AUW’s multicultural student group, and recognized the value in a multiplicity of identities. Now, Farhina describes herself as a “debater, performer, singer, artist, and a leader, but most importantly as a human whose responsibility it is to help other humans make this world a better place”

    Farhina’s AUW experience has already sharpened her motivation to make a difference in the world, and hopes to one day start an NGO. However, as of now she is single-mindedly focused on the present, where she is applying to work at a non-profit for another summer, and is preparing for two online essay competitions.

    Fahrina Hoque '18

    “What our parents didn’t do – we will fulfill those dreams,” Aklima states, when asked about what keeps her ticking. Coming from Chandhpur, Bangladesh, Aklima’s parents have always insisted that their three daughters receive as much education as they wish despite protests from other members of the family.Their dedication has inspired Aklima and her siblings to strive for excellence in everything they attempt. Before Aklima came to AUW, she was in Cadet College, with the Bangladeshi Army, but had to leave after a year due to a fractured pelvis. However, her departure opened up the opportunity to join AUW, after she saw an advertisement in the newspaper.She reflects how the turn of events was perhaps fortunate, “From a deep part in my heart, I am very satisfied now. “

    “ I was a science student from the beginning, I’ve always loved science. “, she declares, but her plan to major in Public Health stems from the humane aspect of healing people; that each patient treated leads to the happiness of an entire family. Due to her personal experience with gender discrimination in the army, she also actively tries to change gender perspectives in the community, “These girls shouldn’t be treated as they are. They should be treated equal to me” she says.

    In the coming years, Aklima is excited about the opportunity to study abroad, especially in the US. The international environment at AUW has made a lasting impression on her, and her fascination with new cultures has prompted her to seek a higher education in Public Health after her undergraduate degree is completed.

    Aklima Chowdhury '16


    - 39% of women are literate in Bhutan
    - Only 7% of Bhutanese girls enroll in tertiary education
    - Women only have 9% of representation in parliament

    In a country which has been widely lauded as one of the happiest places in the world, and the best place to live in South Asia, the section of society most excluded from the process of all-round development in Bhutan remain women. Although making up half the population, women in Bhutan have been denied adequate access to education, socio-economic opportunities, and basic rights. The plight of rural Bhutanese women is worse; sexual exploitation, illiteracy, and child marriage are rampart in rural areas.


    Tshering Eudon '13

    Hailing from a farming family in the remote village of Langten, Bhutan, Tshering is the first person from her village to study outside its boundaries. Tshering is the eldest of three children in her family, and took on the responsibility for overseeing her younger siblings’ studies from an early age because their parents are illiterate. She describes how her parents always emphasized the importance of education “because they didn’t want us to become suffering farmers like them.”

    Tshering recalls being told by the country coordinator that “just stepping out of the country is an experience in learning “, and insists that the learning environment with friends and professors from all across the world was just as important as the world class education she received at AUW. Majoring in Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics, Tshering’s work in AUW focused on analyzing the effects of democratization in Bhutan, which culminated in her senior thesis titled “ The Micro Effect of Democratization in Rural Bhutan: Strained Community Relations Amidst Economic Development “.

    Tshering is currently earning her Master’s in International Cooperation at Yonsei University, one of South Korea’s top schools, and credits AUW’s diverse faculty and peer group for her seamless transition in a foreign environment. She plans on enrolling in a PhD program after finishing her master’s degree, with the eventual goal of becoming a diplomat of Bhutan, working on issues of democratization on an international scale.



    Passang is the first girl in her family to attend college. Now in the first year of her AUW education, Passang is determined to take full advantage of the resources available to her, and to use them to pay her education forward in the future.

    “I love reading, cooking, volunteering in community service, and watching Ted talks,” she shares. Most of all, she is concerned about the health issues in rural areas of Bhutan, and would like to find a way to solve them. “I want to travel to rural areas where vehicles haven’t gone and educate the villagers about health issues,” she says. “For me, it doesn’t matter how much I can do, but I want to help others as much as I can from my heart.” Already, Passang believes that her experiences at AUW have helped her become this person she dreams of becoming. “I feel like I have become more responsible and friendly, and I think and read critically now.”

    When Passang is not in her Access Academy courses, she can be found in the Animal Welfare Club, Japanese Circle Club, or Guitar Club, where she enjoys getting to know her peers and learning about a variety of topics. “My favorite part of AUW is the diversity, as we learn a lot of new things in a single day. The different perspectives we have and the bond we made within even the first month is awesome. We all feel like we’ve known each other for years. Everyone is very friendly, warm, and welcoming.”

    Passang dreams of working for the health sector of an NGO one day.

    Passang Dema '18


    - Despite the development in both economic and social spheres, son preference still remains, and China has a relatively high Sex Ratio of 1.06
    - 30% of Chinese women experience domestic violence within their homes
    - Males are more likely to be enrolled than females at every age group

    China's rapid economic growth has created a new set of opportunities and a unique set of challenges for women. While millions of jobs opportunities have been made available, women must still navigate through cultural norms and expectations that have not quite kept up with the growth of the economy. In rural areas, this is the most acute; with the persistence of traditional values and practices encouraging women to stay at home, and limited access to credit compared to men, the social status of many Chinese women remains relatively low.


    Meihui Lan '15

    Growing up in the tall mountains of Guangxi Province, where there were no paved roads, internet, or easy mobile signal, Meihui was never sure she’d be able to access education. “By some fortune,” however, she was selected to attend a leadership school in Nanning City, where she began formal schooling at the age of 12 and was able to see her parents only once a year. It was at this school that she learned about AUW, for which she is “very grateful.” “It was a great chance, because, if I didn’t get the offer, I didn’t know whether I would be able to continue my studies in a university…Financially, my parents cannot support me to attend.” Now, Meihui is not only the first in her family, but also the first in her village, to attend university.

    Once she arrived at AUW, Meihui was determined to involve herself in community service and activities that would give others an access to education. “I joined the Community Teaching Club, and I joined as a foreign teacher for children in the slums in Bangladesh. We went there every weekend and gave English lessons. I always tried to do something beneficial to the community because…it’s kind of a way to give back to society.” Education is her chosen mode of bringing about positive change, because, she shares, “I think it’s very powerful, and it changed my life. I really wanted to do something that, though it may not change their entire life, it may be beneficial to them for just a second.” Meihui also took advantage of the diversity at AUW, and shared her own language and culture with her classmates. “I started the Chinese Club at AUW in my third year, and I was President of it. There was no Chinese class at the time, and lots of students really liked Chinese culture and they wanted to learn more. It was quite successful! There were 54 members total, and I designed the whole curriculum and was the teacher. We had weekend activities, traditional dancing workshops, and cooking events.”

    After she graduated in May with a degree in Environmental Sciences , Meihui interned at Grameen-UNIQLO in Dhaka and then UNIQLO in Japan. Now, she works at Shanghai GreenWave EnviroTech, where she is able to pursue her passion for Environmental Science and sustainability.


    Having never picked up English during her childhood in Guangxi, Cuilian’s greatest obstacle at AUW was overcoming the language barrier; she struggled to understand her peers’ accents, and was unfamiliar with the vocabulary her professors used. However, she was undeterred by the challenge and pledged to improve her English within a year and has been rewarded for her perseverance. Now, Cuilian has come a long way from her nervous orientation in the Access Academy, and has become an active member of the AUW community, working as a teaching assistant in the Chinese Club and as the secretary of the Japanese Circle Club, where students explore Japanese culture and language. Her passion for foreign languages extended to her summers, where she worked with Home for Hope and taught secondary school students English in Nanning City. Academically, Cuilian hopes to double-major in Philosophy and Economics, but makes it a point to use AUW’s diverse course offering to study courses that interest her in other fields, including Introduction to Computers, World Civilizations, and Interpreting Texts. She remarks that despite being out of curriculum for her major, she enjoyed Interpreting Texts the most due to the excellent professor overseeing the course; “We analyze poems, songs, writing skills… He was so patient and attentive to every student.” Like so many other students, the diversity and exposure AUW provides have inspired her to pursue a trajectory in cross-cultural collaboration, particularly in improving Sino-Japanese relations.

    Cuilian Huang '18


    - India has a female literacy of 65%
    - India has a worryingly high sex-ratio of 1.08, that is worsening in several states
    - It is estimated that over a third of women in India will face sexual violence in their lives

    A new sense of urgency and international attention was focused on women’s rights in India after the brutal rape of a young woman in New Delhi in 2012. Like several other socio-economic spheres in the nation, India’s rapid development has not been extended to women’s empowerment. Perceptions about gender roles remain archaic, sexual violence remains rampant, and practices like child marriage are still prevalent. This is even more evident in the large areas of the country that are in desperate need of educational and socio-economic development.


    Aswathy Vijaykumar '13

    Few people are comfortable leaving their comfort zone; Aswathy on the other hand, has embraced the challenge of being in foreign environments throughout her time at AUW, and is continuing to do so as she studies for her MSc in South Korea. “Being a girl from a small town, attending school was not easy” , says Aswathy, thinking back to her childhood in Pathanamthitta, India. Fortunately, despite protests from within the community – “Why spend so much a girl child who is only going to cost you more but will never repay you?” – Her parents always tried to find different ways to support her education. After attending an English-medium high school on a government scholarship, her parents encouraged her to apply to AUW to pursue her dreams.

    Meeting the diverse group of talented and inspirational women from across Asia, and understanding the hardships several of her peers faced proved to be the most enlightening aspect of her time at AUW. “ Education at AUW transformed me as an individual who believes she has the potential to change the lives of millions “ she says, and hopes to aid the millions in need of health empowerment at home. To achieve this, Aswathy focused on environmental effects on human health in her Biological Sciences major, where she eagerly studied the environmental influences on prenatal and postnatal development. During one of her summers, she worked as a research assistant on a project on Infant Feeding, spreading awareness on maternal and child nutrition in the local community.

    Aswathy inherited her parents’ value on education, and is now earning a combined MSc and PhD in Nutritional Sciences and Food Management at Ewha Woman’s University in South Korea. After finishing her graduate studies, Aswathy plans on working on developing need-based nutritional guidelines categorized by genomes, with the goal of sharing her knowledge on maternal health with her native community. “Dream and never be ashamed to dream” , she advises her younger peers, “ We are more than what we receive today”


    Anna Daniel is from a small village in Kerala, India. A tourist hot spot, her village is very beautiful but is advancing slowly in accepting new ideas. With her father’s encouragement Anna was active in different social development activities. During 2006 and 2007 due to the outbreak of a plant disease, farmers in the area experienced a strong economic crisis. As a result, many farmers who had received bank loans could not repay them in time. To release themselves from the burden of debt many farmers chose suicide as an option. Her father, along with other village people, came up with an innovative concept called, “Bamboo Village”. The Bamboo Village is an organization who takes loans from the Bank, and buys cows or finds other ways to generate income for farmers.  Eventually farmers were able to earn sufficient money to repay their loans. Anna was also involved in this program because she thinks it is her social duty to work for her people.

    Anna is a conscientious citizen who is aware of her duties and rights. For example, in her village, there were some people who threw empty bottles on the streets. She came up with the idea of organizing a club named “Children’s Club”. She knew if she started telling the elders not to throw bottles on the street, they might get angry thinking she was not respecting the elders. Instead, with the help of other  club members she started cleaning their village and rail stations. Gradually, their work was noticed and the club then began other activities such as making handmade items that were sold to tourists. With the income from selling these handmade things, they started buying books for all club members. Being the President of the club, she led all the team members in these activities, solving some of the issues in her own village.  In doing so, she was working to preserve the environment and provided an income source for children and encouraged them in their studies by buying books.

    When asked what she wants to be, she replies, “I don’t know what I want to be.” Explaining it further, she says, “I don’t follow anything traditional like being a doctor or engineer. I want to be a leader, serve my community, do research and travel.” She thinks AUW is a good platform for her, where she can find out about her own leadership qualities, and build a future. She thinks that her village is headed for development yet no one is thinking about the tribal people near their area. Therefore, she is planning to work with the tribal people. The Indian government reserves some quotas for the tribal people, but the people there are often not aware of such programs, and they are not encouraged to study and work. She wants to encourage them to study and to receive training which might lead to a better lifestyle.  When she thinks about her society from a holistic point of view, she identifies a great problem.  She thinks that women are not respected in society. She wants to raise her voice against rape and sexual harassment.  Besides all her activities and plans, she cherishes the dream of one day working for UNICEF.

    Explaining her willingness to serve society, she said, “As God has sent me into this world, I have to do something for my own community and world.”  Anna believes that AUW will help her to become a good leader who can bring positive changes in society.

    Anna Daniel '18


    - Largest and poorest country in South East Asia, ranked 149 out of 187 countries in 2011 HDI
    - 11% of the female population is illiterate, compared to 4% of men
    - Women's participation in parliament at both national and state levels is less than 5%

    A shortage of data and descriptive information has led to suggestions that Burmese culture does not manifest discrimination, but this idea is far from the truth. Even if women and girls do not generally experience the violent extremes of gender discrimination, they are raised to accept gender-based inequalities as part of their social identity. Despite policies that document women's rights explicitly, women in Myanmar remain profoundly underrepresented, and are most affected by hunger and food insecurity


    “I really want to be educated “, Mwe explains, “ In my society, we need a lot of educated people right now “. Growing up in Lashio, a town in the northern Shan State of Myanmar with 4 siblings, Mwe is the only member of the family to have enrolled into a University; her elder brother attended high school but did not graduate, while her parents work in a nearby town on the Burmese border with China and send money home to her three younger brothers who are now living with an aunt. Mwe first heard about AUW through an organization called Kaw Dai, and decided to apply once she heard that she would not have to apply for a separate scholarship in order to attend.

    It had been five years since Mwe had taken a math class, and she had never before taken one in English. Yet instead of feeling discouraged, she jumped at the opportunity to learn and put in extra effort to overcome the obstacles she faced. Now, although she still finds it difficult, her favorite class is Math, along with world history; to Mwe, classes that make her think constantly are more enjoyable. In addition to her classes, she splits her time between the guitar club, the activist club, and the dance club.

    Clearly passionate about ensuring all people can obtain a good education, Mwe hopes to become a teacher once she graduates. She describes how many young people are not interested in going to school anymore, instead choosing to start working or marry. But Mwe insists “We need the young generation to be educated to make our nation successful”. As an educator, she hopes to teach people in the Shan community to value their own culture and preserve it, and actively tries to integrate it as a common theme when she teaches. For example, when teaching English, Mwe explains using the Shan language to emphasize the importance of their mother tongue.

    Aung Moh Moh Seinn '18

    “Education is what’s most needed to help my country, therefore I want to educate people, especially women and the poor who cannot afford to go to school”, says Mya. Hailing from the mountainous Mogok, Myanmar Mya’s interest since childhood has been in improving and providing education for the underprivileged in her home country. At AUW, Mya plans on pursuing a Public Health Studies major, and with the help of her professors she is working hard in science classes to compensate for her lack of educational background in the sciences. As President of the Science Club, she is responsible for working with the faculty advisor, three other executive members, and preparing for and running club meetings. Mya was also acts as an AUW ambassador for her home country, and was the Burmese representative for the Lunar New Year committee. Mya has clearly benefitted from the multicultural student and faculty bodies at AUW, and her favorite part of campus life is interacting with her Bhutanese and Afghani roommates in English, “ We mostly do things like cooking, going outside to relax, and sharing our feelings of happiness and sadness “

    Mya Yun Hlar '17


    - Pakistan has a female literacy rate of 40%
    - The girl to boy ratio in primary education is 0.76
    - Sex ratio is at an abysmal 1.06

    The gender gap in Pakistan is becoming increasingly evident, illustrated by the wide differences in educational attainment, employment rates, and socio-economic opportunities available to women. Despite existing laws against discrimination and for equal ownership rights, gender violence, harassment and sexual assault remain pressing problems, as the aforementioned laws have not been adequately enforced. This is particularly true for the areas in the nation that are considered conflict zones, which are in desperate need of basic development.


    Noreen has always been grateful to her parents for encouraging her education, and believes they are the source of her strength. However, she has always felt sympathy for her fellow women counterparts whose potential is squandered in the constant struggle to gain respect in society. Before joining AUW, she was an active member of her community, splitting her time between working at Girls’ Guide, a female student organization that nurtures future leaders, and teaching at a religious school. After hearing about AUW from her school authority, she took on the challenge of moving to a new country, relishing the chance to interact with women from all over the world.

    As of yet undecided on her major, Noreen has enjoyed sampling courses from a variety of disciplines in her first year, with Pre-Calculus, Language & Composition, and Womens Health being her favorites so far. Since coming to AUW, she has developed an avid interest in the wide range of outdoor activities offered, taking up cricket, volley ball, cycling and photography as extra-curriculars.

    Noreen dream is to be an advocate for women’s rights in her community, and has begun taking steps towards her goal. Constantly questioning the status quo, Noreen believes change will come from critically analyzing and challenging the existing societal norms. While she maintains a deep sense of respect towards her culture and customs, and suggests that through constructive discussion traditions can evolve organically. “Culture is the identity of every society but it shouldn’t be enforced” she remarks, “ We need to speak up for our rights not through conflict but through persuasion. “

    Noreen Akhter '18

    Shafia has drawn inspiration from her classes at AUW for a number of independent projects that she has completed or begun outside of her academic work. First, her Women in World History course prompted a summer project. Reflecting on the class, Shafia says, “It actually helped me think of myself as an individual and not always part of a group… I as an individual have capabilities that help me reconsider stereotypes.” Shafia explains that in class, she learned that women have often been excluded from written history. Thinking immediately of her grandmother, who has always been an active citizen, Shafia decided it would help break down stereotypes of women as passive actors in history if she could document the personal histories of different women in her village. Commenting on the need for gender equality, Shafia notes, “In my language we have an idiom: when the red beet and the green beet are not together, the beauty is missing. When women and men are not both part of something, the world is not successful – it is about equality of men and women.”

    Shafia’s other project is something she is considering working on next summer. After taking Ethics and Cultural Heritage, Shafia noticed how “it connects to my own life because it’s all about cultural heritage – we study museums, how museums collect different items.” She hopes to work on supporting the preservation of her village’s cultural artifacts.

    Finally, Shafia has recently begun a venture with other Pakistani girls, including students from other universities, to develop a student mentoring program. She explains that in Pakistan, many secondary school students are not aware of scholarship opportunities or the process for applying to university. To address this knowledge gap, Shafia and her friends are planning to “provide teaching resources to different villages where it is needed…. We will help provide transportation and microfinance so that [the mentors] can go and teach the students in different remote vollages. It would help the students get admission to a proper school.” In addition to other young Pakistan women from AUW, Shafia is also collaborating with students from Karakrum International University and Beshwar University in this project.

    When she is not busy with classes or these independent projects, Shafia stays occupied as Secretary of the Women Across Borders Club at AUW. In this club, students volunteer to teach English to local underprivileged children. She was also a group discussion facilitator in her recent leadership class. Reflecting on what she has learned so far at AUW, ranging from conversational Bangla to a stronger sense of self, Shafia says “knowledge is empowerment.”

    Shafia Mirza '17


    - 35% of married women in Gaza have been on the receiving end of physical violence
    - 40% of unmarried women have been physically abused by a member of their household.
    - Palestine has an extremely high enrolment rate for girls in school with above 95% of girls being enrolled up to secondary education
    - Approximately 50% of Palestinian women enroll in tertiary education

    Despite the trauma and tragedy that the majority of Palestinians have faced during the ongoing conflict in the West Bank, there has been a steady change of attitudes regarding gender roles, with Palestinian girls increasingly enrolled in schools, and Palestinian women actively participating both in the work force as well as resistance movements inside occupied territories. However, contemporary women in Palestine are reported to be facing continuing adversity due to political discord, lingering traditions, Israeli occupation, and the denial of their full rights.


    Drawing from her own nervous experience during the journey from Palestine to the AUW campus last year, Asmaa takes particular care to help the Access Academy students adjust to dorm-life in her role as Orientation leader. She also works at the Office of Student Activities to organize workshops for new students as the year unfolds. Asmaa says her goal for her time at AUW is “participation in each activity at AUW,” as well as improving her English skills. Although AUW students do not declare their major until the end of their second undergraduate year, Asmaa is already planning to study public health, and hopes to pursue a Master’s Degree in it once she graduates. Over the summer, Asmaa was not able to go home because of the political situation in Palestine and the difficulty of crossing the borders. Describing the most challenging aspect of the summer, Asmaa shares, “worrying about my family in Palestine, because there was war.” She is glad that with the return of other students to campus for fall semester, more of her friends are around and she can talk to them when she worries about the situation at home.

    Asmaa Abushabab


    - Malaysia ranks 102nd out of 136 countries according to the Global Gender Gap Index
    - 43.8% of the labor force are women, and 66% of females over 25 have a secondary education.
    - Yet only 13% of parliament is made up of women

    The Islamic nation of Malaysia has always walked a fine line between protecting the liberties of Malay women and upholding Islamic traditions and ideas that have become a part of everyday life; yet many of the ills of Malay society are still shouldered disproportionately by women. These include endemic poverty, human trafficking, crime, and the backlash from a resurgent Islamic movement. Laws that enable men to take multiple wives or have greater authority over their wives' property still exist, and civil society groups, in particular women’s rights groups, are at the forefront of challenging these archaic ideas in order to accelerate women’s empowerment in an otherwise rapidly developing and modern country.


    Ashwinii has always been one to forge her own path. In 2013, when she came to AUW, she was the first Malaysian student at the University. In fact, growing up in her city of Selangor, Malaysia with a mother who was a homemaker and a father who was a driver, Ashwinii felt from a young age that her ideas were different from others’. “I often used to say to my mom that I fight for women’s rights and equality, and that I was interested in issues of empowering women,” she shares. Yet, it was at AUW that she finally found a word for those beliefs: “feminism.” Now, she identifies herself first and foremost as a proud feminist.

    Reflecting on her past few years at the University, Ashwinii feels grateful that her parents were supportive of her education and of her decision to attend AUW. “Life before and after AUW—are completely different. I now know the world, I know where women stand, and I know wehre my country stands in Asia. I became brave and strong. I’ve become more open-minded.”

    In August 2015, Ashwinii was invited to attend an event in New York City to hear the First Lady of the United States speak about women’s education. This year,  Ashwinii wants to continue to break stereotypes surrounding human rights’ issues, particularly women’s rights. “In my country, there is definitely a stereotype that women have to be married and that women are always about and connected with the children,” she says, lamenting the fact that arguments for women’s education often center around the positive effects that a mother’s education can have on a child. “But women can be independent and women don’t even have to get married. I disagree with that stereotype.”

    Ashwinii Tamil Chevlan '18


    - Syria ranks 133rd out of 136 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index
    - Only 13.4% of the labor force is made up by women
    - Less than 30% of women over 25 have a secondary education

    The civil war that has ravaged the Syrian Arab Republic has had a severe impact on its civilian population, particularly women, who have faced heightened levels of sexual abuse and violence. Syrian women have seen their economic opportunities improve in recent years, with a greater number of women graduating school and participating in the workforce. Now however, archaic social norms regarding acceptable female behavior are being enforced strictly, rape is being used as an instrument of terror in war-stricken areas, and women’s empowerment in the country has been set back by decades; the number of women in the labor force has dropped to abysmal levels, as well as the number of women graduating from schools.


    Reem spent most of her childhood growing up in Deir al-Zawr in Syria with her siblings, supported by her mother, a teacher, and her father, a mechanical engineer. However, the ever-increasing violence that engulfed the area following the escalation of the civil war forced Reems family back to their hometown of Hamah. This proved a difficult time for Reem, but she persevered and continued to excel in school despite all the hardships.

    Adjusting to life at AUW was particularly challenging for Reem given the school time she lost in Syria, and this was compounded by the fact that her inability to obtain a passport and visa forced her to arrive on campus more than a month after the school year already started. However, her professors and peers have been unwavering in their support, and although she admits to occasional homesickness, she is now incredibly happy to be at AUW. Following in her father’s footsteps, Reem is pursuing a degree in Mathematics and Engineering, while she splits her free time between the dance club, the guitar club, and the public speaking club, as she sees the latter as a good opportunity to improve her English.

    When asked where she wants to go after completing her education, Reem responds, ” I want to go back home to Syria. I want to give them something to help my city, my country.” She pauses before saying “Before the war, there were no big problems in our lives. After the war, everything is broken”. Reem has had to overcome many obstacles simply to arrive here, and still has many more ahead of her. Nevertheless, Reem is not the least bit daunted by the challenges she faces. She is confident that with hard work and determination, she can overcome any difficulty. When she thinks about the future, she is unwaveringly optimistic. “When I imagine the future in my mind, I am so happy,” she says. “I know I am going to improve. I know I am going to create a better future.”

    Reem Kosay Razzouk


    - 43 to 50% of Indonesia's expatriate workforce is victims of conditions indicative of human trafficking
    - 3.2 million children are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, and 40,000 to 70,000 Indonesian children have been exploited in prostitution
    - Maternal mortality is particularly high in Indonesia, at 220 per 100,000

    Indonesia ushered in a new era of democracy in the 1990s supported by a series of political and social reforms after a long and arduous history of colonization and internal conflict. However, sectarian violence and natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami have continued to cause instability in the country. The primary challenge to gender empowerment remains sexist attitudes, and although many Indonesians have moderate ideas on gender equality and women's liberty a patriarchal mindset persists. In addition, issues like early marriage, human trafficking, and gender mutilation remain pressing problems. Despite improving education levels and labor force participation of women in Indonesia, the rate of women's participation in key decision-making still remains low.


    After coming to AUW from Kendal, Indonesia, Yulita is taking full advantage of the community that AUW offers. Although Yulita has only been at AUW for a brief time, she has eagerly become a leader both on and off campus. She serves as an AUW Student Ambassador to Indonesia and Malaysia, acts as designer and editor of multiple campus publications on behalf of the photography club, is an active member of AUW’s Model UN and is part of the public relations team for AUW’s Lunar New Year Celebration and photography festivals. In February, she entered the University’s annual inter-house sports competition and was placed third in the Karate contest. As far as her experience so far goes, Yulita says: “I would like to say thank you to Maybank Foundation who give me chance to study in a liberal arts university and experience a lot of different cultures at the Asian University for Women.”

    Yulita Muspitasari '18


    - 34% of married women had experienced physical or sexual violence from their husbands.
    - 54% of female workers are unpaid family workers
    - There is a clear gender gap in wages; women’s wages are on average 77% of men’s wages.

    The long period of socialism and the a period of rapid development following the Vietnam War has led Vietnam to score relatively high on many gender indicators and indices, particularly in regards to delivering health and education services to women. However, the country is still struggling with several gender inequalities common to other countries including a lack of access to land and property for women, violence, and human trafficking. The development disparity between different ethnic minorities and the majority Kinh population is also acting to compound gender based-disadvantages; for example, a quarter of ethnic minority women are illiterate, and one fifth of ethnic minority women have reported never attending school.


    Huong’s only regret after her first summer at AUW is not having more time to take her independent project even further to have “more impact on impoverished communities.” Returning to Vietnam, Huong completed a summer project titled, “Promoting Well-Being of Vietnamese Orphans: Changing Attitudes of Domestic Adoption and Initiating Mentorship Program in Vietnam.” Huong thoroughly enjoyed being involved with a multitude of programs within the project including interviewing adoptive parents, conducting a survey on child adoption in Vietnam, and organizing an event called “For Children’s Laughter” to promote dialogue on the meaning of adoption. Now Huong is directing her energy elsewhere by working for the Office of Student Activities on the AUW campus this semester where her responsibilities include organizing movie showings, crafts workshops, and cooking nights to give students an opportunity to relax and connect with each other. Though she is looking forward to organizing events for her classmates, Huong is also focused on her studies this semester. She explains, “My goal for myself in this year at AUW is to survive and master all the courses that I choose… Also how to apply the knowledge that I have learned into practical life.” Huong is determined to do well in her courses and gain work experience so that she can apply for scholarships for graduate degree programs after she graduates from AUW.

    Huong Nguyen '17


    - Only 18% of women over the age of 25 enroll in secondary education
    - Nepal ranks 121st out of 136 on the Global Gender Gap Index
    - Nepal has a maternal mortality rate of 170

    A research study carried out in 2008 in the Surkhet and Dang districts of Nepal reveals that 81% of women faced domestic violence frequently, which is a clear indication of the high level of domestic violence prevalent in Nepali society. As in several other developing nations, women in Nepal are vulnerable to domestic and public violence, with phenomenon such as early marriage, dowry related violence, polygamy, and marital rape still very prevalent.


    Prabisha Shrestha '13

    Prabisha comes from a town called Banepa, about a half hour’s drive from Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Although her father earns a meagre salary as a bus driver, he managed to afford the tuition fees for Prabisha to attend the sole high school in her town, for which Prabisha is ever grateful. Her parents were delighted when Prabisha was accepted to AUW as part of the first class of students, and she remains acutely aware and appreciative of her parents’ dedication and open-mindedness in a conservative community.

    The experience of meeting students from different countries and living in an entirely new culture and country left an immediate impression on Prabisha and her immaculate work ethic enabled her to thrive at AUW. She spent much of her time in AUW working as a Country Representative for Nepal to encourage other Nepalese women to learn about the AUW opportunity. Her passion for the environment allowed her to excel as an Environmental Science major, and she has recently begun her graduate studies in the US.

    Before she began her graduate studies, she spent the year following graduation working in Nepal at Adam Smith International and as an admissions officer as well as a social media optimizer at King’s College in Kathmandu. Now, she is in the process of completing a Master’s in Forestry from the Southern Illinois University, and claims that her years at AUW were invaluable preparation for doing well in an American educational context. However, her heart remains at home; ” I want to go back to Nepal and start teaching at a University ” she describes, where she envisions conducting research and promoting awareness about environmental health challenges and women’s health.


    Born in a Nepalese farming village where it was the norm to invest in the boys more than the girls, she decided that she wanted to show her village that economic status does not portent one’s abilities and set her eyes on higher education once she realized that she wanted to do more than simply support her family. She wanted to improve her language skills and expose herself to diversity, and AUW seemed the perfect match for her personal goals. Binita had once wanted to become a doctor. Her career plans have since changed; she would like to be a “Politics, Philosophy and Economics” major so that she can go back to Nepal and improve the position of women in her village and country. She understands that she must first attain knowledge and financial strength in order to have authority in her home country. AUW is a space for her to grow, learn, and become the leader she is meant to become: she says, “I feel like I made the right decision for the first time in my life.”

    Binita Jirel '18


    - 22.5% of married women suffer violence from their husbands
    - 64% of people know a husband who was violent with his wife
    - Only 12.4 % of girls are enrolled in lower secondary, and 5% for upper secondary.

    As Cambodia transitions into a modern nation, gender differentials are becoming increasingly apparent, with entrenched assumptions about gender and power relations dictating the rights and opportunities of its women. Girls are under-represented at all levels in formal education, with the gender gap widening at higher levels of education. This has in turn led to fewer women in leadership and professional positions. More worryingly, domestic violence and incidences of rape have been increasing, not to mention the escalating problem of human trafficking that the nation faces.


    Sreymom Pol '13

    Raised by a single mother in rural Cambodia, a young Sreymom could not have imagined herself working for one of the leading public health organizations in the country. Yet after her recent graduation from AUW, Sreymom began a job as a Research Assistant at the Cambodia-Oxford Medical Research Unit (COMRU), where she researches outbreaks of tropical diseases and studies the health conditions of children living in communities with limited access to medical facilities..

    Sreymom explains that it was AUW that ignited her interest in Public Health. She did not know the field existed until she took a related course at AUW. As she learned, Sreymom became frustrated with the lack of information available in Cambodia about public health. The opportunity at COMRU has been a meaningful learning process, but Sreymom still finds herself disappointed with her country’s public health system. She hopes that her work will gradually help change that. Sreymom plans to get a PhD abroad in neonatal health, and to study comparative public health in order to bring effective public health systems to Cambodia.

    Even outside of her work and research interests, AUW has taught Sreymom a lot about herself and has given her invaluable insights about what the future may hold: “AUW has changed everything for me,” she says, “especially my thoughts as I get older. The experience has taught me to be a stronger person and to look at myself in the bigger picture of society.”


    Hailing from Siemreap, a common tourist destination in Cambodia, Rithea always lamented the fact that tourists from around the globe visited her country, yet she was unable to go to any of theirs; coming to AUW was her first time out of the country and her first time on a plane. In order to gain exposure and accumulate valuable experience, Rithea took a gap year between high school and university in order to do a wide variety of work, ranging from volunteering at a local orphanage to participating in a clean water campaign. Now, Rithea wants to utilize the challenging and multicultural AUW education to work to benefit her hometown and influence a broader range of communities. Thus far, she has thoroughly enjoyed learning about AUW students who come from a culture very different from her own – about Afghan girls who have never ridden bicycles to Bangladeshi students who told her about a village where men and women are equal. Rithea hopes to eventually own a business that she can pass down to her siblings, and is studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics in order to develop the critical thinking and common sense vital to successfully starting such a venture. However, Rithea’s dreams extend beyond starting her own business: “I dream of one woman giving a speech in front of an international group, and I want to be the one. I want to tell them what I’ve experienced and change their ideas”

    Rithea Reth Leang '18


    - The civil war in Sri Lanka lasted 25 years, ending in 2010.
    - 80% of students cannot be placed in universities due to capacity constraints
    - Despite equal or higher enrollment in schools, women account for only 35% of the work force.

    It has now been five years since the end of one of the world’s most horrific civil wars between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, and the war-ravaged nation is in the slow process of rebuilding. However, some areas of the country, particularly the northern region of Jaffna, will require more than development to heal the deep psychological wounds and trauma. Despite the government actively taking steps to promote the health and welfare of women, low maternal mortality and education rates have not translated to adequate female workforce participation and tertiary enrollment.


    Aberamy Sivalogananthan '13

    Aberamy arrived at her job at Save the Children International after a rich educational experience. In addition to working as a human rights intern at the Olivetti Foundation in Italy, Aberamy attended The Hague Symposium on Post-Conflict Transitions & International Justice in 2013. She shares, “I was selected as one of 40 participants out of an application pool of over 800 to be trained by some of the world’s top peace and security leaders in the skills necessary to holistically restructure a society after the cessation of violent conflict, as well as bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice.” At Save the Children International, Aberamy goes into the field to evaluate programs and collect data from relevant populations. She says, “Field work is the best part of working with Save the Children International… When I go to field I understand the lay people needs, their expectations and struggles.” Aberamy is considering working at the International Committee of Red Cross next year, where she has a job offer. At the same time, she is continuing her part-time studies earning her Master’s in Peace and Conflict Studies from University of Colombo.