Subat 2011 E.bulten
Aylık Elektronik Haber Servisi
Ağustos 2011
Orta Avrasya liderleri kampusumuzda toplandı.
2002 yılından beri yaz akademilerini kampusumuzda gerçekleştiren CELA (Central Eurasia Leadership Academy), bu yaz da Temmuz ayında misafirimizdi. CELA direktörü Adam Smith Albion ve katılımcılardan Sadiqa Saleem Basiri ile CELA ve çalışmaları hakkında konuştuk.

Could you please introduce yourself?  

My name is Adam Smith Albion. I was the director of CELA (Central Eurasia Leadership Academy) from its inception in 2002 until 2009. I am now the director emeritus and a member of the CELA Board of Directors. I am an American citizen, but have lived in Central Asia -- Uzbekistan, to be precise, one of the central countries of the CELA region -- for a dozen years now. For your interest, I spent two years in the mid-1990s living in Trabzon, writing about Turkey and its relations with its Black Sea neighbors, as a journalist fellow for the Institute of Current World Affairs.

What is CELA? What is its history, purposes and objectives?

CELA was conceived in late 2001 as a joint initiative of the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF) -- an organization of some 450 business and community leaders based in the United States -- and a NY-based international think-tank called the EastWest Institute. Especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the fractured, volatile, yet poorly understood region of Central Eurasia was attracting a great amount of world attention. The idea was to develop a regional platform for development and region cooperation by supporting and linking the new generation of mid-career leaders from eight countries of the former Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) and Afghanistan. In terms of general worldview, culture, society, language, professional and personal goals at a time of regional transition, it was found that these people had much in common and much to share. CELA created a platform and network that allowed them to make these personal connections, open professional channels, and do projects together.

Who attends CELA? How do you reach to this community?

CELA members are citizens of one of the nine countries of the Central Eurasia region, typically in their 30s, and working in the sectors of business, government, or NGOs/civil society. They are the innovators, the do-ers, the agents of change -- the ones who want to make a positive difference in their societies. The gateway to membership in CELA is an intense 10-day leadership academy: this is the event that Koc University hosts so generously each summer. There is a highly competitive selection process. Approximately 40 new CELA members are selected annually and inducted in the network. In addition, over a dozen members of the SIBF come as presenters, instructors, facilitators and mentors, bringing their real-life experience to the program to ensure it has a highly practical flavor.

What are the outcomes of CELA?

The pillars of CELA are learning, linking and working together. Learning comes in the form of the leadership education which members experience in the annual summer leadership academies, and then the follow-up events held in the course of the year in the countries of the region. These have ranged from business roundtables in the Caucasus, or a conference on tourism development in Central Asia, to workshops on mountain development in Tajikistan or corporate social responsibility in Georgia. In each case, best practices and lessons learned are shared among participants from different parts and perspectives of the region. This is the point about linking and working together in CELA -- it means pooling knowledge from within the region itself, and turning them into actionable ideas appropriate to the local circumstances.

How did your relationship with Koç University start?

The initiators of CELA were looking for a fresh, neutral venue outside the Central Eurasia region to hold the first summer leadership academy in 2002. Turkey seemed ideal. At that time Mustafa Koc was a Board Member of the EastWest Institute. I visited him in his office in February 2002 and he proposed the KU campus. A colleague and I went to visit it, and we could hardly believe how perfect it was for our purposes -- size, location, infrastructure and logistics, and modernity. The KU administration partnered with us closely to make the first academy in July of that year a thundering success, and we have never looked back. There are now some hundreds of CELA members who have attended programs on the campus and feel, in a sense, that they are honorary alumni and alumnae of KU. They think of it as CELA's home, tell their friends and colleagues about it in their home countries, and cannot imagine the CELA academies taking place anywhere else.  


Could you please introduce yourself?

I am Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, Executive Director of Oruj Learning Center a local non-profit based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Through Oruj I have been able to establish girls schools in rural areas of Afghanistan. Since its establishment, Oruj has opened six girls schools and educates over 3700 students in the most remote areas of Wardak and Nangarhar provinces.

As soon as I graduated from Mount Holyoke College in the United States in 2009, I returned home with plans to establish Afghanistan's first women community college. Indeed, I was extremely inspired by the founder of the college, Mary Lyon, who built the first women college of the globe in Massachusetts in 1836. To have explored and

learned about college administrative and leadership roles, besides investing in the community college, I worked with USAID/ Afghanistan Higher Education Project (AHEP). As a senior manager, I was able to travel to all 18 higher education institutions of Afghanistan and learn about system and best practices. My position at AHEP and the growing needs for expansion of higher education sector encouraged me to plan transitioning the two-year-college to a four-year-degree program. Early this year, over 170,000 high school graduates filed their applications at the Ministry of Higher Education to get into one of the higher education institutions of the country. Unfortunately, only about 24,000 applicants made it to the college level programs and less than 7% have been women. The rest of the students were left with no plans to pursue. The government does not have enough seats and resources to enroll more students.

This fall, the Oruj Learning Center, backed by well-known professors particularly, Ustad Khwaja Musa Fariwar, of Kabul University, will have the honor to inaugurate Afghanistan's first women college called Oruj, which means ascent.

Is this your first time in CELA? How did your roads cross with CELA?

Yes, this is my first time that I have joined CELA. I am so very fortunate to have known a few CELA Alumni in Kabul. Shukria Kazimi is one of our board members at Oruj and CELA-7. While introducing this great academy, she warned me that it is a highly competitive process; yet encouraged me to apply. I applied and a few months later, I received a call for interview. At the end of the interview I was told that I am the first being interviewed and that they have received over 170 applications. I left with mixed feeling until I received million dollars worth phone call saying that my application has been approved!

What were your expectations about CELA? Did the program meet your expectations?

Although I had learned about CELA from Alumni, but it turned out to be one of the most outstanding academies anyone could ever imagine. It is about learning and sharing. It is about inspiring and being inspired. It is about connecting societies and enjoying the long-term friendship not only in the region but across the world. I extend million thanks to our superb facilitators. I have learned so much and I think that I owe a lot more to everyone at CELA. It will be an honor to volunteer in putting together future CELA programs.

What do you think about Koç University? Did you enjoy your stay here?

Koc is unique! It is a perfect venue for this quality academy. I think CELA and Koc complete each other. Koc University President's Barbecue Dinner cannot be forgotten. As a CELA Alumna, I sincerely thank the University for its hospitality.

You are involved in women's education in Afghanistan? What is the current status of women, there?  You founded the first community college in Afghanistan, how did this project start?

I think I have already responded to the second part of the question. Let me share my understanding of the status of women in Afghanistan.

Thanks in part to support from the international community, we have witnessed tangible progress in the lives of Afghan women, who are vital members of Afghan civil society. There have been significant policy developments that favor women. Women's equal rights are protected in Afghan constitution. Afghanistan's millennium development goals include specific targets for advancement of Afghan women. The Afghan government has ratified the Convention on Elimination of Domestic Violence against Women. Afghanistan national development strategy considers gender as a cross-cutting issue. The national action plan for women of Afghanistan has been approved by the Afghan cabinet. The Elimination of Violence against Women Law has been passed. The overall effect of these strategies is already evident. Women have vied for presidential election. Sixty-eight of 249 seats in the national assembly are now reserved for women. Women have actively participated in conferences that are determining the destiny of Afghans. Women who ensured revocation of the Shia Family Law that prevented women from working and traveling alone. Women's progress in the public sphere is stunning. Women working in education, health, capacity-building, security, agriculture, etc. lead more than one-third of local NGOs. Women who were confined under the Taliban now run businesses and their goods reach international markets. Under the Taliban, sports were forbidden for girls and boys. Today we have over 100 female athletes playing internationally. One-third of Afghan schoolchildren are female.

That being said, women are still being harassed. Aisha's butchered face on the cover of Time magazine will not be forgotten for decades. Civil-society workers, particularly women teachers and police officers, have been assassinated. Women have been stoned to death, and acid is being thrown in teachers' and students' faces. Women in rural areas may not have received a dollar's worth of the $40 billion in aid received by Afghanistan in the last nine years.

The security situation is also worse than at any point since the Taliban's fall. The Taliban have a presence in thirty-three of thirty-four Afghan provinces of Afghanistan and are increasing their focus on military-led approaches. Attacks on schools have doubled since last year. Over 650 schools have been closed down; 250,000 students and 13,000 teachers cannot go to school in southern parts of the country alone. We also need significant attention in the health sector, as at least one woman dies in childbirth every twenty-nine minutes. In short, Afghanistan still is the world's second-poorest country, the state with the second-highest rate of female illiteracy, and has the second-highest rate of maternal mortality – 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Evidence shows that the Taliban do not have the will to make peace. In the past two peace assemblies, the Taliban leaders were invited to attend but did not respond. However, they made absurd demands such as changing the Afghan constitution, removing articles that protect rights of Afghan women, removing their names from the U.N. blacklist, and releasing Taliban prisoners.

Early last year President Karzai provided fifteen former combatants with immunity. Women civil-society activists fear release of those who have committed crimes such as assassination of civilians, including women working for NGOs; and splashing acid in the faces of schoolteachers and students. The release of war criminals led to the assassination of thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children. In a suicide attack in January this year, I lost a dear friend-Hamida Barmaki-and her husband and four children. Hamida was not an ordinary woman but a talented professor who was hired for the Law Faculty of Kabul University when she was only twenty. If the international community continues to be silent about violence such as this, women will again be confined at home, either by the Taliban or because of the security situation. This is why the women of Afghanistan question the wisdom of withdrawing troops before restoring peace to Afghanistan.

The Afghan people are tired of war. Afghanistan's current generation has been born in war, grown in war, and lived in war, but we do not want our children to go through this agony. We have learned that war is not the solution. This is why we want peace that benefits our nation and brings about long-term stability. For the past nine years, both Afghans and the international community have paid a heavy price. Terrorism has not only destabilized Afghanistan and Asia, but it also has affected the entire world.

We Afghan women are desperate for peace. We do not want an endless military presence. We want time to strengthen our own national security force, equipped with sufficient number of female officers. We want time to strengthen our judicial system so that formal justice replaces the traditional and informal system. We want to make peace with the Taliban-when they appreciate civil society and understand the role of women in promoting it. We want to make sure the Afghan government does not compromise the constitution's clause of gender equality for a peace deal. We want to make sure that-before any deal-both parties understand and have set clear benchmarks to achieve our national strategic plans and a proactive civil society.

To accomplish all this, we need healthy leadership from the Afghan government backed by a proactive international partnership.

What do you think about women issues in Turkey?

I think I know too little to comment on women's issues in Turkey. Yet, as an International Relations major, while at College I had learned that domestic and gender based violence is an alarming issue in Turkish society. If this is the case, I think it is a common story of everywhere nation where women are less literate, their participation in public and political life is discouraged and their employment marginal. To change the status quo in short run, positive discrimination in economical, social, political life is required as is happening in Kabul. I believe that as soon as security is restored to Afghanistan and positive discrimination is implemented on rural level, women's fortune will change across the country.

What are some of the political challenges around the world regarding women?

There are many global challenges with regard to women. Gender inequality is the one from which other challenges stems. The world will be a better place if women and men are equally respected in all walks of life. According to According to Economist 2011 Fortune 500 companies with higher representation of women in management positions have 35% greater return on equity and 34% greater return to shareholders. Investing in girls' secondary education increases their wages by 15-25%. Women reinvest 90% of their income in thei families and communities, compared to men, who reinvest 30-40%. Yet, women own only 1% of property globally. More than 70% of those living in poverty are women. Half a billion women are illiterate. This must change. Women's leadership, skills and dedication can ensure prosperity if they are given chances to exercise.

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