This past weekend I joined over 1,000 college students from 80 countries, and over 75 youth organizations, at the 5th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) held this year at George Washington University. For many, the highlight might have been Usher summing up his sentiment about why his foundation focuses on youth empowerment by singing Whitney Houston’s “I believe the Children are our Future” (while sharing the stage with President Clinton and Secretary Albright); or the closing conversation between Jon Stewart and President Clinton.
For me however, it was connecting and interacting with the participants – some I learned already have a USAID connection. Like the members of the CGI annual meeting in New York every September, all participants must make a commitment to action in order to attend – and many of these student personal stories and commitments are extraordinary.
During the opening plenary panel, along with President Clinton, Secretary Albright, and Usher, an amazing young Afghan woman named Sadiqa Saleem inspired the crowd with her personal journey from refugee camps, to the US and back home to educate the girls and young women of Afghanistan. “We need a coalition of fathers [like hers] to fight for the education of their daughters….” Along with her follow-women founder, they went from educating 36 girls in an abandoned building, to creating and running the Oruj Learning Center which teaches nearly 3400 girls in 6 primary schools, as well as executes other womens’ education and youth leadership programs.
After the panel, I spoke with Sadiqa and she told me she worked as Manager of the professional development center under the USAID Afghanistan Higher Education Program – and that’s where she got the ideas and increased skills to enable her to establish her colleges.