Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an alliance between the U.S. State Department and the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University to promote Afghan women’s economic agency through entrepreneurship, workforce participation and education.
According to a memorandum written by Rachel Brulé, assistant professor of global development policy in Pardee, the alliance will provide Pardee graduate students with high-level and policy driven opportunities, position the Pardee school at the front of global thought and research and have the potential to increase research grants available to BU.
Dean of Pardee Scott Taylor wrote in an email the alliance was forged from conversations between Brulé and officials from the State Department, and the goals are “ambitious” and involve many other institutions.
“(Pardee’s role) is not to provide that implementation infrastructure, nor the vast sums of money it will require, but some of the academic and intellectual content that supports the important work of the alliance,” Taylor wrote.
Taylor wrote the alliance will generate enormous collaborative research opportunities on campus for faculty and students, driven by Brule and other colleagues.
“This project has the potential to generate fascinating data and analysis on entrepreneurship, women’s economic resilience and potential in extraordinarily adverse conditions, the power of networks, and much more,” Taylor wrote.
Taylor wrote he has already heard from students with different interests and personal connections to Afghanistan wanting to participate.
“We can generate student engagement and involvement and provide the foundations that lead not just to better scholarly understanding but, we hope, better policy and better outcomes for Afghan women and their families,” Taylor wrote.
Muhammad Zaman, a professor of biomedical engineering and international health and the director for the Center on Forced Displacement, said the alliance has come at an important time as attention has shifted away from the closure of schools for girls in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
“I am a strong believer, and I’ve become even stronger in my belief that universities have a moral responsibility beyond just teaching and research of being a force for good in society,” Zaman said.
Pardee junior Seynedhee Avenie said she was excited to hear about the alliance and Pardee’s work with ambassadors that aren’t professors is a “trademark” of Pardee. She said it’s also great that Pardee is allowing students to have an impact on what’s going on in the world right now.
“I know that hopefully the opportunities that Pardee gives, like studying abroad in organizations that deal with helping African women, would be really great experiences for students,” Avenie said.
Yasmin Lountchenko, a Pardee junior studying international relations, said she hopes the alliance will incorporate a more “hands-on” approach in classrooms.
“Starting with that knowledge base, but then going out and kind of seeing what’s actually going to be done to help promote the economic rights and well being of Afghan women,” Lountchenko said. “I hope to see greater knowledge and attention be brought to this inside the classroom, but also through this opportunity to see what are the means that we’re actually going to see the school be met.”
Taylor wrote he anticipates the major contribution from Pardee will be to bring together different stakeholders within Pardee and broader BU communities for a symposium — which has not been given a set date yet.
“Our contributions will be mainly in the areas of research, driven by Rachel Brule and other colleagues, and our convening power,” Taylor wrote. “We can help bring attention to these critical issues around women’s economic resilience and empowerment.”