Bangladesh: Shadow Ambassador Program Creates Opportunities for Women

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
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160309-bd-ambassador-620.jpg North South University economics graduate Talbia Tanvir spent a day shadowing Denmark’s ambassador to Bangladesh, March 9, 2016.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury/BenarNews

Bangladeshi Talbia Tanvir says she learned a lot about what women could do with their lives and their potential as leaders through the rare opportunity of shadowing the Danish ambassador for a day.

The 23-year-old economics graduate from Dhaka’s North South University was the lone participant in a one-day apprenticeship this week with Hanne Fugl Eskjaer, Denmark’s ambassador to Bangladesh.

“As a leader you can never compromise between right and wrong and must stick to your principles with the quality of being a team player. You have to ensure that everybody’s opinion counts and be respectful to others. You must be considerate,” Talbia told BenarNews.

“Before I worked as the shadow ambassador, I knew little about the qualities of a good leader. The assignment has given me an excellent opportunity to know the traits a good leader must have. I will use my experiences to focus on eliminating domestic violence, rape and child- marriage,” she added.

The experience also taught her about the relative confidence of Western women and that too many Bangladeshi girls and women worry too much about what other people think about them.

She said her father, a ready-made garments designer, and mother, a housewife, gave her the freedom to choose her own career.

Talbia applied for the apprenticeship after learning about the program offered by the Danish embassy via Facebook. She applied online by sending in her curriculum vitae and answering some questions.

“Talbia’s appointment as shadow ambassador has created a sensation among young women in Bangladesh. More women will look for such opportunities in the future. It will ultimately create more potential women leaders in Bangladesh,” Shahnaz Sharmin, a journalist and former women’s affairs secretary for the Dhaka Reporters Unity, a local association of media professionals, told BenarNews.

Small initiative, real-life experience

Ambassador Eskjaer said appointing Talbia as shadow ambassador on Monday reflected her government’s priority of promoting women’s rights in Bangladesh.

“Even though it’s a small initiative, it will give an individual some real-life practical experiences, which may build a bridge between their aspirations and achievements and, hopefully, will inspire many others like them,” Eskjaer said.

The Brazilian Embassy in Dhaka is considering a similar appointment, according to a Facebook post.

“I am interested in applying. This is a great opportunity to work as a shadow ambassador,” Tahira Khan, a student in the English department at Rajshahi University, told BenarNews.

Eskjaer, the Brazilian ambassador and seven other foreign envoys to Bangladesh – who are all women – in December issued a joint statement calling for an end to gender-based violence in Bangladesh. According to a Bangladeshi government survey, 87 percent of women in the country have suffered abuse by their husbands.

Kushi Kabir, an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment, called these programs positive.

“Such opportunities will give the girls some sort of first-hand experience as an ambassador. But the success of the move would depend on the personal integrity and commitment of the girls chosen,” Kabir told BenarNews.

“If she utilizes the lessons learned, the shadow ambassador idea will benefit the female community in Bangladesh,” Kabir said.


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