An incredible initiative.

Words by

Veronica Stanford

Established in 2008, The Asian University for Women has spent the past few years dramatically improving the education prospects of underprivileged women. 

The university’s most recent venture will extend this even further, with the offer of free tertiary education to women working in Bangladesh’s clothing factories.

The scheme is funded by a range of donors including the Ikea Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The university prides itself on being able to offer cost-free education to talented females, regardless of their financial status.

As it currently stands, 65 per cent of girls in Bangladesh are married before the age of 18, and 29 per cent before they are 15. As UNICEF reports, many girls are pushed into early marriage to relieve financial pressures on struggling families. As a result, many girls are not able to complete their education.

The university's first intake was in 2011. Several women have now graduated with degrees, many of whom are the first in their villages to ever get a degree.

All schooling fees are covered by the university and placement is only given when the employer agrees to pay the women’s wages for the duration of the course. For many, it is hard to convince employers to agree to these conditions, however, the response has been slowly changing since the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. Factory owners have since been trying to improve press surrounding Bangladesh's garment manufacturing industry.

With a push toward slow and ethical fashion, hopefully we'll see the program expand, with more employers getting on board. As it stands, the Ananta Group, which produces clothes for H&M and Gap, has already agreed for its workers take part of the scheme.


[Via The Guardian]

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