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International Women’s Day: Celebrating the achievements of women leaders and progress towards empowering women

Posted: 5 March 2021

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, COVID-19, Impact, Inclusion, Scholar,

On 8 March, the world will come together to mark International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,’ celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the efforts of alumni and scholars from South Asia who are contributing towards a more gender-equal world.

Alumni achievements across South Asia

Across South Asia, Australia Awards alumnae in leadership roles are striving to make a difference in their countries, including leading on innovative COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

In Bangladesh, Dr Nazneen Kawshar Chowdhury, Rounok Jahan and Farhana Sultana are demonstrating leadership skills in executive leadership, policing and sciences to create a more inclusive and gender-equal world.

Social enterprise volunteers Anu Upadhayay and Sita Bantha Magar are contributing to sustainable practices in Nepal by promoting preloved items to help mothers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special education teacher Tara Giri Devi is contributing towards building an inclusive education system in Bhutan.

Psychology lecturer Aishath Sanoora is working to improve mental health in the Maldives.

Auditor and evaluator Raheela Saad is designing and implementing a framework to assess COVID-19 response initiatives undertaken by the Government of Pakistan and ensure they are working at optimal efficiency.

In Nepal, Latika Maskey Pradhan, Dr Anusuya Joshi, Meena Thapa and Shanti Barmashkha are all making contributions to aid Nepal’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, including addressing gender-related issues during the pandemic.

Human rights activist Rani Yan Yan (Queen of the Chakma Circle) is using innovative methods to address health and food security for Bangladesh’s indigenous peoples.

Public servant Tania Ferdous has been contributing to Bangladesh’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a vital participant in government-led relief initiatives.

Fair trade entrepreneur Taslima Miji is responding to the COVID-19 crisis in Bangladesh by producing low-cost and high-quality personal protective equipment.

Scholar and alumni engagement activities

UN Women Australia hosted an International Women’s Day 2021 Virtual Event on 5 March. Since 1990, UN Women Australia has hosted the pre-eminent International Women’s Day events around Australia and the world. Thirty Australia Awards scholars and alumni from South Asia were supported to attend in 2021. They joined via an interactive virtual hub, where they had access to the full International Women’s Day 2021 program of speakers and were able to immerse themselves in UN Women stories and projects.

Australia Awards alumna Latika Maskey Pradhan from Nepal will participate as a panellist in Scope Global’s own International Women’s Day panel discussion responding to this year’s theme.

Australia Awards alumna Latika Maskey Pradhan from Nepal will participate in an International Women’s Day panel discussion

Latika is a strong advocate for gender equity and social inclusion and has expertise in gender and reproductive health policies. She has more than 20 years of experience working in the international development sector with various non-governmental organisations and bilateral agencies, including the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Australia Awards scholars and alumni from South Asia, as well as participants and decision-makers from other Australian Government development assistance programs, have been invited to attend this panel event on 19 March.

In Bangladesh, the Australia Awards team will be hosting an online information session exclusively for female potential applicants. The session will provide information about applying for Australia Awards Scholarships for study commencing in 2022. Several scholars and alumnae will be sharing their experiences and tips with future applicants.

Additionally, the Bangladesh chapter of the Women in Leadership Network will be conducting an online forum on ‘Women in STEM’ at the end of March. The main objectives of the event are to reconnect the Women in Leadership Network group in Bangladesh (especially with new alumni), to celebrate the achievements of alumnae in STEM that can help others in their leadership challenges, and to inspire other alumnae to #ChooseToChallenge barriers and boundaries.

Alumni networks in Sri Lanka and the Maldives will also run a social media campaign to celebrate International Women’s Day. The campaign will feature images and short videos of alumni that align with this year’s theme. The campaign will commemorate the significant efforts by women in Sri Lanka and the Maldives in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. These messages will be featured on the Australia in Sri Lanka and Maldives Facebook page as well as the Maldives Australia Awards Alumni and Sri Lanka Australia Awards Alumni Association Facebook pages.

Short Courses on Women in Executive Leadership

Australia Awards delivers Short Courses on a variety of topics across the South Asia region, including Women in Executive Leadership, with a focus on building personal, team and organisational leadership capabilities and fostering the next generation of female leaders.

The recent Civil Society Women in Executive Leadership Short Course finished in January 2021 and was delivered for a group of inspiring Pakistani women leaders from across a variety of civil society organisations.

In Bhutan, the Australia Awards Women in Executive Leadership Development Short Course is currently being delivered by the University of Queensland in partnership with the Institute for Management Studies Limited, Thimphu, Bhutan. The Short Course is designed to support the efforts of the Royal Government of Bhutan’s Royal Civil Service Commission to develop the leadership capabilities of emerging and existing female leaders, and selected male ‘Champions of Change’ within the Bhutanese civil service. The course aims to develop participants’ awareness and understanding of their leadership qualities, and support the development of strategies to address the barriers faced by women in political and executive leadership roles in Bhutan.

Participants at the Women in Executive Leadership Development Short Course currently taking place in Bhutan

Gender equality and Australia Awards

Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment is a core policy priority for the Australian Government. Australia is supporting women’s leadership and decision-making in the Indo-Pacific through Partnerships for Recovery and its political and economic advocacy.

Australia Awards aims for equal participation by both women and men. All women—in particular, women from traditionally marginalised groups and women with disability—are encouraged to apply for Australia Awards. Learn more about Australia Awards’ support for women and other groups.

Participation in the #ChooseToChallenge campaign

Australia Awards – South Asia staff join the global International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge campaign (see galley below) in a pledge to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes and help forge an inclusive world. The #ChooseToChallenge campaign provides an important opportunity as active participants to celebrate women and create positive change to make a difference in the world, no matter how big or small.