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Empowering women and girls

November 21, 2013

Many students who leave home for university find it a life-changing experience, but for Narmatha Thevarajah the move from Sri Lanka to the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh opened up a new world of opportunities.

“My hometown was vulnerable to ethic conflict,” she says. “I grew up with fighting, killing, kidnapping and bombing, and that was one reason I decided to leave.

“The thought of studying in a different country with students from different cultures, religions and traditions made me excited to apply for the university. Also, since I received an IKEA Foundation scholarship, my family didn’t need to spend money.”

AUW provides a four-year undergraduate programme in the liberal arts and sciences. More importantly, it gives young women leadership opportunities which they can use to help resolve conflicts in their homelands and create a more equitable environment for women.

The IKEA Foundation is providing scholarships for 100 young women from across Asia–including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan—focusing on women who are generally discriminated against or discouraged from higher education.

We fund AUW because we believe that women’s education plays a key role in improving the lives of children in developing countries, helping them create more opportunities and a better future for themselves and their families.

“One of the key benefits I gained at AUW is confidence to face obstacles and challenges, and to take failures as lessons,” Narmatha says. “The courses I took helped me understand the world, understand people and, most importantly, understand myself. It helped me decide my future path.”

And what does the future hold for Narmatha when she becomes part of AUW’s first graduating class in 2013?

“My aim is to become a social entrepreneur who does business with a purpose, the purpose of solving social problems.”