12:00 AM, January 15, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 15, 2012

Women's empowerment: one bright spot

With economic progress in Bangladesh, the status of women has gone up in the last decade: US envoy

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Arun Bikash Dey, Chittagong

Dan Mozena

The progress of women in Bangladesh in the last decade was immense, said US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena.
“I was here a decade ago and what I saw 10 years ago has changed. I can now see that the status of women in Bangladesh has changed,” he said.
He visited some remote places in Bangladesh and saw uneducated women who took charge of their own lives, determined to improve their lives and the well-being of their children for a bright future.
“That's what I have seen,” he said. “At the Asian University for Women (AUW), women from all over Asia are coming here to develop their skills so that they can become leaders in their respective countries, leaders of the future.”
This university did not exist 10 years ago, said Mozena, who was excited to be in Chittagong to visit AUW and exchange views with the students and hear their stories on how they became involved with the university.
“We have a very active programme in Bangladesh,” he said. “This year, we have given assistance worth more than $82 million, working with women to improve maternal health, improve newborn and child health, help women with family planning, especially in the Khulna division, where climate change is very significant.”
The US programme is going on in regions that are vulnerable to climate change, he said. “So our programmes are focused on helping farmers, especially women, to cope with the challenges of climate change.”
“I am here because I love this country,” he said. “I am here because Bangladesh matters very much to the peace and stability of this region and the world.”
“That is why I asked to come back to Bangladesh as an ambassador,” Mozena said.
Working hard to fulfil his mandate, he said, “I have a heavy mandate. I have a mandate to broaden, deepen and strengthen the relationship between our two countries.”
“I have come here to promote a Bangladesh that is peaceful, a Bangladesh that is secure, that is prosperous, that is helpful and that is democratic. That is what I am doing,” he said.
Mozena believes that Bangladesh is a country of great wealth and potential. “I believe the economic progress of Bangladesh over the past 20 years, averaging at about 6 percent growth per year, is impressive,” he said.
“When I look ahead, I have a vision of a very prosperous middle income Bangladesh.”
“I have a vision of Bangladesh being the world's largest exporter of readymade garments,” the ambassador said. He also sees the potential of the country in exporting household textiles, towels and linens.
“I have a vision of Bangladesh thriving in information technology, IT industry, exporting shoes and leather products,” he added.
The US is pleased and supportive of strengthening the democratic institutions of Bangladesh, he said.
This is a new country, he said. “It's 41 years old. As a new country, it is building and strengthening these institutions.”
The US will continue helping its economic development, he added.
The United States is the largest investor in Bangladesh, Mozena said. “And I believe that if the investment climate were to improve then much more investment would come here in Bangladesh.”
“I would like to see investment here in power generation, and in other sectors like IT and leather,” he added.
He said Bangladesh is already the number two supplier of readymade garments to the US, and the US is the number one market for Bangladeshi exports.
“We are now involved in AUW,” he said, The US government is very supportive of this institution and most of the professors have come here from the US, he added.
“I came to AUW as I believe in women empowerment,” he said.
Many of the volunteers are also here from the US, he said. “Empowering women is good for the region, is good for Bangladesh, is good for the world and good for America. This is not my last visit here and I will be back.”
Mozena said: “When I look at Bangladesh, I see a huge country, I see the world's seventh largest country. I see the country that has a future that is moving towards that future, and a good future.”
“Of course there are challenges,” he said. There are challenges of human rights, critical dynamics, investment climate, so that both domestic investors as well as foreign investors will invest more here, he added.
And Bangladesh is addressing these challenges, said Mozena.

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