I just ended my first round of country visits as the World Bank’s Vice President for the South Asia Region. Over and above all,
These women are succeeding in a region where it is hard for women to realize their career dreams. .
What better opportunity than International Women’s Day to give a huge shout-out and applaud those women who are role models, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the eight countries of South Asia.
It is great to see women leaders in the civil service cadre across South Asia. Take
It is no longer a surprise to see women in cutting-edge creative jobs. Take Sanchita Lama, she is the Animation Lead at Incessant Rain Animation Studios in Nepal. . I will certainly look for her credits the next time I go to the movies.
It is so great to see how women across South Asia break into traditional male jobs. Take Rasika Deepthi, who I met as she stood beside her three-wheeler rickshaw outside the Old Town Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Rickshaw drivers are usually men but Rasika said the job is still a good one for her. She has used her savings to buy a car, and now rents out one vehicle while driving the other herself.
It is fascinating to see how women organize themselves into self-help groups. Take Sameera Ibrahim, President of the Women’s Development Committee in Baa Maalhos, Maldives.
It is encouraging to hear from women who became role models for others. Take Sonia Iqbal, who I met in Afghanistan and who was the first girl in her family who went to school abroad, breaking a cultural barrier for herself and generations of women to come. She returned to Afghanistan after getting her education in the US and UK and has become a leader in civil society.
It makes all the difference when women start their own business and become self-reliant. A great example that comes to mind is Sara Khurram, the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Sehat Kahani in Pakistan. .
It is equally inspiring to see an increasing number of women in political leadership positions across the region. Take Dechen Wangmo, Minister for Health in Bhutan and the sole woman in the cabinet. .
At times, it is the women whose names we may not remember, but who one can’t forget. Take the two young mothers I met in the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. They had arrived two days ago fleeing violence in Myanmar.
These women - and many more like them who I met during my visits to South Asia - are achieving great things despite the long odds they face as they struggle against societal norms and balance family and work.
Their success makes me confident that by enforcing laws that give women equal rights, making it safe for women to work, and creating the conditions to help entrepreneurial women start their own business, we can turn the corner on the declining trend of female participation in the labor force in South Asia.
This will lead to greater social and financial benefits for their families and their nations.