The audacity to dream
Growing up in Chittagong, Bangladesh, Montaha Chowdhury made a solemn promise never to give up her goal of becoming a scientist.
The 21-year-old faced a variety of challenges in realizing this dream: uncles who objected to the idea of her studying because it would “lead to her going astray,” the inability to afford tuition, and pressure from her extended family to marry as soon as she graduated high school.
“My audacity to dream of pursuing a career in STEM has always drawn incredulous looks of concern, especially considering it is relatively new and very male-oriented in my country,” Chowdhury says.
“But my mother always told me that education is the key to freedom. I’d seen her sacrifice her own dreams due to society’s expectations, which is why I knew I had to continue and further my academic achievements in order to be able to stand on my own feet.”
Deftly overcoming every obstacle blocking her path, and more determined than ever to defy the odds, Chowdhury decided to alter the course of her own future. She applied to Asian University for Women (AUW), put in the hard work and earned a merit-based scholarship.
In a part of the world where women are seldom encouraged to seek higher education, AUW – Bangladesh’s first liberal arts institute – creates an opportunity for women like Chowdhury to become community leaders, pioneers in male-dominated fields, and role models who inspire other young women to follow in their footsteps. The university brings together women of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, who share the common bonds of intellectual curiosity and untapped potential.
“AUW was like a ray of hope for me,” Chowdhury says. “At a time when I felt that my achievements were nothing, this place became a safe haven.”