It was a morning filled with much excitement and flurry of preparations as the Asha team and community in Dr. Ambedkar slum colony got ready to welcome the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Julie Bishop MP on Monday, 18th November 2013. She was accompanied by the Australian High Commissioner, HE Mr. Patrick Suckling and Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Peter Varghese.
Ms. Bishop’s visit was primarily focused on gaining an insight into the life of slum residents and to hear more about the Asha Higher Education Programme. She spent a lot of time interacting with the university students and women from Asha slums who shared their stories of hopes, challenges, dreams and victories.
Speaking in fluent English, Babita, a recent political science graduate from Delhi University, said "I remember being a shy and hesitant girl. I didn't even think that I would go to a college. But that was before Asha and the High Commission stepped in. Interning at the Australian High Commission opened up my horizons and made me more confident. It also erased all my fears and inhibitions. Now, I have hopes and dreams, and enough confidence to go out and accomplish them."
In her address to those present, Ms. Bishop said, "Young people now have an opportunity to have an education, the women are becoming more self confident and are able to take the role in their destiny. And, it's often said that if you educate a man, you have educated one person, if you educate a woman, you educate an entire family, indeed a village. And so, I am very pleased to see the number of women who are taking up the opportunities, women and girls taking up the opportunities, to be educated." She also presented a cheque of Rs. 1,000,000 to provide scholarships for slum students pursuing tertiary education.
Ms. Bishop expressed great appreciation for the work of Asha over the past 25 years, “I am very touched by the support the Australian government has provided to Asha and clearly this is a model that deserves support from across the globe," she added.
Visits such as these go a long way in strengthening the relationship that Asha has shared with the Australian government. Asha is immensely grateful for the generous support that the government and people of Australia have extended to its work.