This Saturday, 31 young women who have received a scholarship from the IKEA Foundation will graduate with a university degree from the Asian University for Women (AUW).
They are among the university’s first graduating class of 138 women from across Asia, who have spent the past four years not only studying hard for a degree but also learning leadership skills that will empower them to help break the cycle of poverty in their home countries.
Scholarships for women lead to a better future
AUW, based in Bangladesh, is a university whose mission is to empower the next generation of women leaders from Asia through a liberal arts and sciences education.
The IKEA scholarship programme at AUW aims to graduate skilled and capable women who will return to their communities and provide leadership to help break the barriers that restrict opportunities for generations of women and their families.
Kamal Ahmad, Founder of AUW, said: “The IKEA Foundation’s support enables the Asian University for Women to serve extraordinary women, regardless of their economic circumstances, so we can focus on women who have few opportunities to pursue higher education.”
Women’s education is key to ending poverty
In total, the IKEA Foundation is funding scholarships for 100 AUW students to study and receive a degree by 2017, focusing on women who are generally discriminated against or discouraged from higher education. The recipients come from nine Asian countries: Afghanistan (7), Bangladesh (40), Bhutan (3), Cambodia (2), India (15), Nepal (13), Pakistan (2), Sri Lanka (16) and Vietnam (2).
The Foundation is providing the scholarships because it believes that empowering women is one of the best ways to create better opportunities for their families.
Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation, said: “Women’s education is no doubt a powerful tool for improving the lives of children in developing countries. Having personally met some of the students, faculty and staff, I am excited and optimistic that this partnership will be of enduring value.”
From war zone to university
Many students who leave home for university find it a life-changing experience, but for Narmatha Thevarajah the move from Sri Lanka to AUW in Bangladesh opened up a new world of opportunities.
“My hometown was vulnerable to ethic conflict,” she explained. “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.”
Narmatha credits the university with helping her gain confidence, face obstacles and understand herself better. And when she receives her degree in philosophy, politics and economics on 18 May, she knows how she will put it to use. “My aim is to become a social entrepreneur who does business with a purpose,” she said, “the purpose of solving social problems.”
By funding scholarships for promising young women from developing countries, the IKEA Foundation hopes to help the next generation of leaders gain the skills they need to change children’s lives.