Financial independence is key for young women
This week I got some amazing news!
The young woman that I mentor has been accepted into a prestigious university conference at Harvard next year and she is very excited to attend. The excitement is short lived however as we both look up the financial realities of attending the conference.
Firstly there is the conference fee itself. Strangely, this needs to be paid and confirmed before my mentee is notified if her scholarship application to attend the conference has been granted.
Then there is the visa fee. As a young Bangladeshi, my mentee is worried that she won't even be able to get a visa into the USA with the current political climate and immigration laws.
Finally the return airfares are a huge expense along with basic accommodation, internal travel and food for her time spent abroad. This exciting opportunity that once looked great on paper is unfortunately looking more and more like a financial burden that my Rising Star can't afford.
As a young Bangladeshi woman who is already attending university on a scholarship, my mentee has very limited opportunities to make her own money. Job prospects for students in Bangladesh are extremely limited and even more so if you are a woman. It's culturally expected that as soon as a young girl finishes studying she will be married and her husband will take care of her financially. Therefore the workforce is predominantly men and it's expected to stay that way.
This is why I believe that economic and financial independence is key for young women globally. Whether in Bangladesh, Bangkok or Boston, financial freedom and having the ability to earn your own money is key to living a life that you choose.
To have the financial backing to be able to pursue your own goals, provide for loved ones and invest in the way you want is a powerful tool. It also gives freedom and power to women who need to get out of abusive situations, escape poverty and live a dignified, active life.
Additionally, research has shown that when women are active participants in the workforce, business is stronger and more resilient and the communities and networks around women benefit.
My mentee has not yet given up. She is searching for ways in which she can save, apply for other scholarships and find different ways to fund her conference attendance at Harvard next year.
She is determined and resilient and I know that whatever happens will be the best outcome for her, but it's days like today that I continue to fight for what I believe in. For equal opportunity regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, class or bank account balance!