Since I last wrote, I’ve had a few weeks back in San Francisco and then time traveling again, this time to the diverse territories of Mongolia, Cape Town and Kauai. So, in my letter below, I share some of what happened, at home and away, over the last month or so.
What happens when you get a woman judge appointed to a courthouse in Pakistan? Aside from perhaps a different take on the factors fueling violence and crime, there is the sudden creation of a female toilet.… Continue Reading
I recently travelled to Laos to join The Asia Foundation’s country representative there, Nancy Kim, to visit local women artisans and some of the other work supported by the foundation. My colleague and filmmaker, Whitney, accompanied me to capture the stories and voices of the women we visited.
When we arrived in the villages near Savannakhet, the women brought out reams of exquisitely textured fabrics that had been created by women in their villages.… Continue Reading
My colleague, Whitney, and I are walking up seemingly hundreds of steps to the 2,600-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda. This is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, as it’s adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems, and is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former buddhas.
At the bottom of the stairs to the pagoda I collect from a woman at a street stall an armful of gorgeously scented roses and then at the top of the stairs I’m stopped by a guard who places a wrap-around sarong on my dress to cover the bare flesh of my legs.… Continue Reading
Indonesia has held a special place in my heart for many years. It’s the country of my mentor, the late Ibu Gedong Bagus Oka, who taught me so much about women’s involvement in peace processes and about the theory and practice of conflict resolution. As a member of Indonesia’s parliament and the founder of a Gandhi ashram in Candidasa and a civic world leader engaged in interfaith dialogue at the UN, she showed that you can inhabit many worlds to lead social change.… Continue Reading
I’d wanted to go to Bangladesh ever since I heard the story of the sari shop with a secret door to a bookshop for women who wanted to read feminist books. The women would emerge from the change rooms to greet their husbands with books discreetly hidden under their saris. In joining The Asia Foundation, I finally got my chance to go to Bangladesh, and in the right role too as head of women’s empowerment.
I arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to news that draft legislation to lower the age of marriage was under discussion.… Continue Reading
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