HEC celebrates International women’s day

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Islamabad, MAR 7 /DNA/ – Higher Education Commission (HEC) Islamabad in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated International Women’s Day.

The event was aimed to announce 500+ scholarships for flood-affected university students, half of which will be awarded to female students. These scholarships will cover one academic year (three semesters) for these students at 30 Pakistani universities.

The event was graced by the presence of Federal Minister for Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Chairman HEC, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, US Ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Lt Gen Inam Haider Malik, Executive Director, Higher Education Commission, Dr. Shaista Sohail, Mission Director, and Education Director USAID, and Vice Chancellors and Students/MNBSP alumni from various universities.

On the occasion, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal complimented USAID and HEC for a strategic partnership in higher education in Pakistan. He stressed that only quality education and skills can drive the country toward progress. Pakistan is blessed with two third young population and economic development is possible only when provided with the right ideas, technology, and relevant skillsets. Under vision 2025, Pakistan has embarked upon a journey to put Pakistan on the path of accelerated development by introducing the latest technology and introducing skill sets.

He further added , “We are witnessing an unparalleled change in human history as investment in technology and higher education is a key for development .It is imperative for Pakistan to understand the direction of change to empower its youth with such skills that are relevant for its existence and progress in the future. We envisage to provide bright opportunities to every segment of society to get a leading edge in knowledge. Partnership with USAID has always helped in creating more opportunities for underprivileged students in Pakistan”. He urged female students to get an education and pay back to society with their innovative minds.

Chairman HEC, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed in his remarks, appreciated the role of USAID in the socio-economic development of Pakistan. Chairman HEC said “It is a matter of acknowledgement that the educational cooperation between Pakistan and the United States has a long history. Dating back to support for the establishment of Pakistan’s leading business school IBA Karachi, in the 50’s, the establishment and strengthening of Agricultural education by investing in University of Agriculture Faisalabad in the 60’s and 70’s training hundreds of agricultural students in the US and the TIPON Project in the 1980’s to help establish the Agriculture University, Peshawar. The strategic partnership has resulted in three research centres of advanced studies in Pakistan.”

He emphasized that our female population is very dynamic and needs collective action to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality in all aspects of society. He also appreciated the collective efforts of universities and NDMA in outreaching flood-affected people of Pakistan.

US Ambassador, Donald Blome, said that the US with the help of the Pakistani government supports women to thrive and contribute in the socio economic development of Pakistan. International women’s day is the call to accelerate the efforts to dismantle gender stereotypes.

He apprised the audience that since 2004, USAID has awarded more than 6000 scholarships to high-achieving and financially needy students, and, since 2014 60 percent of those scholarships have been awarded to women. Educational opportunities can unlock their potential and empower them and contribute to the economy, promote socio-political stability.

He acknowledged the efforts of NDMA and the government of Pakistan to partner with USAID in providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to flood-affected Pakistanis. Ambassador Blome announced additional 500 scholarships for flood affected students under merit and needs based program.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Shaista Sohail congratulated USAID on building a sustainable scholarship management model for partner institutions and contributing to merit and need-based scholarships in promoting gender equality. She said that since its inception, HEC is committed to the women’s empowerment and the provision of equal opportunities to women in higher education, as educated women guarantee a prosperous nation. It is encouraging that USAID has reserved half of the scholarships for women. With the help of USAID, university education for thousands of underprivileged students has become a reality.

During the event, a documentary video of a female scholarship recipient was played and Jennifer Andleeb, another female scholarship recipient also remarked on her life-changing journey through scholarship. HEC and USAID announced the scholarship program for female students, which will provide financial assistance to deserving female students who wish to pursue higher education in various fields. Ambassador presented certificates to three female scholarship recipients.

In July 2004, United States Government through USAID signed an agreement with the Government of Pakistan acting through the Higher Education Commission to launch the Merit and Needs-based Scholarship Program (MNBSP) Phase-I and later Phase II in 2013. The Program has so far awarded 6000+ fully funded merit and needs-based scholarships in thirty public and private participating universities under the program. 50% of scholarships are reserved for females.