University | News
Meet Rokeya & Sima

13, Mar, 2018



Rokeya Khatun

Hometown: Narail, Bangladesh
Major: Politics, Philosophy and Economics
Class of 2021

Growing up in Narail, Bangladesh, Rokeya never dreamed that she could one day get her higher education. For most women in her community, the opportunity simply doesn’t exist. “No girls in Narail attend university, they will just get married.”

Rokeya’s father is chronically ill, leaving him unable to work, so her mother stays at home to take care of him as well as her younger brother who is still in primary school. Rokeya’s younger sister is married already. For nearly four years, Rokeya supported her family financially through her job at a garments factory in Bangladesh.

While working in the factory Rokeya learned about the Pathways to Promise program, which allows garment workers to attend AUW on a full scholarship while their employers continue paying their factory wages. This program has
allowed Rokeya to attend university while still supporting her family financially, an opportunity she never could have dreamed of otherwise.

Now at AUW, Rokeya is studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics and is involved in the numerous clubs, including Traveling Club, Women Across Boarders Club, and Speak Up Club. Rokeya remembers her first few weeks at school, when she could barely speak a word of English and was unable to participate in class. Now just a few months later she is able to converse with her classmates, excel in her coursework and take part in everything that university life has to offer.

When Rokeya graduates, her goal is to improve the lives of poor women and children in Bangladesh and the region, and to take care of her parents and her family.

Sima Usufi

Hometown: Kabul, Afghanistan
Major: Economics
Class of 2021

Sima grew up in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, living together with her five siblings, parents and grandparents. Her father is now retired and her mother stays at home to take care of the family, while her eldest
brother works as a shopkeeper to provide their only income. Both of her younger siblings are in secondary school in Afghanistan, and they hope to one day follow Sima’s footsteps and also attend university.

Before AUW, Sima studied at Kabul Education University of Rabbani for one year. During this time she faced judgment from the people in her community who felt that she should not continue her education and belonged at home. Sima chose to apply for AUW so that she could leave Afghanistan and the patriarchal ideas and culture that she was faced with.

“I chose AUW because I did not want to continue my education in my own country. I wanted to be far away from the ideas of my people who think that girls should get married instead of continuing their education. I wanted to receive an international education, and show my people that girls can do anything if they are given the opportunities. “

Sima learned about AUW from her cousin, who is now in her fourth year of undergraduate studies at AUW. “My cousin told me, it’s great- you can find your goals and become a good leader. You can lead your life by yourself and make your own decisions.”

Sima’s family was supportive of her decision to attend AUW, though at times it was difficult for them to accept. Sima leaving Afghanistan worried her father, who was nervous about the safety of a woman studying abroad alone, and her grandmother had hoped that she would stay in Afghanistan and get married like the rest of the women in her community.

When asked why she wanted to go to AUW, she said, “People say girls should just grow up and get married, but I wanted to go to another country and get experience, and now I want to be a leader and change the ideas of my people. People believe that between 16 and 18 is the age for a girl to get married. But it shouldn’t be like that – women should go to university and work with men, build the future of their countries, and have equal opportunities and resources. Men are equal to women.”

After AUW, Sima hopes to attend graduate school and one day become an economist, helping other women and girls like her. When asked how AUW has prepared her for her future, Sima said, “AUW has helped me to accept different cultures and be brave, accepting other ideas and helping one another to embrace diversity.”

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