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Education being a significant factor in human deployment is a part of the national and international agenda in the contemporary world.  In a World Bank report, Knowledge for Development (1998-99), it was suggested that knowledge gaps between the developed and developing countries led to economic gaps between them. This is in line with the increasing awareness in the contemporary world about the significance of knowledge economy.  The countries that are leaders in development largely rely on their human capital, enriched and empowered through education which is contemporary in nature and relevant in purpose.  The literate, skillful, and healthy human capital of a country paves the way for its progress and development.

Realizing the significance of education in the process of socioeconomic development, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), established in 1966, offered a partnership to the South Asian countries to fund them in achieving the educational goals. This was in line with the professed mission of the Bank, i.e., “prosperity and poverty reduction.”  In Strategy 2020, an ADB document, it is claimed that “Change is at the heart of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) experience.” To realize the dream of change it is crucial to enhance the life chances of the people living in this area by enhancing the educational opportunities and ensuring maximum access of the masses.  To attain this goal, ADB has lent sizeable funds to the South Asian countries in the areas of technical education, teacher education, distance education, and management, etc.  According to Loxley, “Educational lending since 1991 amounted to about U.S. $3.8 billion or about 6 percent of total ADB lending…in 2001, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea borrowed about half of the total ADB lending.”

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With the Arab Spring hitting Tunisia, a remarkable chapter in world history began to unfold as the revolutionary upsurge began to spread across many countries in the Middle East. The Libyan conflict has heated things further. The oil rich Arab world speaks of some of the worst political freedom records in the world and has long been subjected to geopolitical games to safeguard energy resources of the developed world. It was due to this that the humanitarian intervention in Libya was viewed through the prism of suspicion.

Libya is neither as geopolitically important as other countries experiencing uprisings in the region (like Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain) nor does it boast of having much influence over the greater Arab world. Its oil deposits are not as vital as those of Iraq or Saudi Arabia, although some of the European nations do have strong interests in the Libyan reserves. The terrorism and nuclear track record of the country has bettered in the past. The possibility of Gaddafi exploiting the political vacuum in Egypt and Tunisia is real, but intervention does not make it impossible. The humanitarian crisis, although severe, is not as worse as in many other countries in Africa. So then, why Libya?

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Rajmohan Gandhi is a Research Professor at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Illinois. A biographer and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, he has written widely on the Indian independence movement and its leaders, Indo-Pakistan relations, human rights and conflict resolution. He is also a former member of the Indian Parliament and a recipient of several international awards including the International Humanitarian Award.

Associated with Initiatives of Change, Rajmohan Gandhi has been engaged for half a century in efforts for trust-building, reconciliation and democracy and in campaigns against corruption and inequality. He talks about Indo-Pak relations and other subjects to Mashal Usman in this exclusive interview for SouthAsia.

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Empowering women means empowering the nation. The economic empowerment of women is considered as one of the basic sources of progress for a country; therefore the subject is of paramount importance to social scientists, political thinkers and reformers. Women entrepreneurs can ultimately be an authoritative resource for the development and the economic growth in any society. Empowerment of women is observed as a significant issue in the recent times.

People of Afghanistan suffered a lot of damage as a result of war. The condition of health, shelter as well as education needed serious attention, particularly for afghan women. In order to ensure the development and growth of country and to recover social and economic conditions, there was the requirement of urgent aid and consideration of international community.

Published by the World Bank, the Country Gender Profile deplores the fact that the working status of women in Pakistan is amongst the lowest in the world. Increasing at a steady annual rate of 2.1 percent, the female population of Pakistan is estimated at 78 million. An increase in the number of females, however, has not been met with a corresponding increase in the employment share of women. In 2008, the female labor force participation rate was recorded at 21.8 percent. Compared to the global and regional standards of 52.6 and 35.6 respectively, the figures for Pakistan are disturbingly low.  Domestically, even more alarming is the fact that female labor force participation is a quarter of the 82.4 percent participation rate for males.

These statistics help illustrate the extent to which females in Pakistan remain largely excluded from the formal economy and as a result, the economic growth of the country. The significance of female labor force participation for Pakistan lies not only in potential economic growth but additionally, in the economic independence and overall empowerment and welfare of women. Even though the reasons behind this dismal situation are many, the low visibility of women in the formal economy, however, is usually attributed to supply side factors such as cultural restrictions, domestic responsibilities and low levels of education and skill. Due to the rigid social barriers in place, an increase in female economic inclusion requires one of two approaches. Firstly, the more lengthy approach would consist of efforts to boost female education and skill levels on a nationwide scale, thereby creating a more competent workforce over time. The second, relatively shorter method would seek to create formal employment opportunities for women by working within the existing social constraints. Allowing women to work from within the private sphere of their homes, entrepreneurship is one example of this approach. 

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If anyone or anything has put Bangladesh on the world map, it is Dr. Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank. Muhammad Yunus is the micro-credit guru, the banker of the poor, the founder of Grameen Bank. Supporters and detractors alike, anyone will have to admit he has changed the face of rural Bangladesh. Armed with their micro-loans, the hitherto purdah-clad women have emerged from behind the curtains with the proud new identity of entrepreneurs. And the Grameen Bank model is being replicated the world over, like Khushali Bank in Pakistan to similar institutions as far as the U.S. state of Arkansas.

Indeed, Grameen Bank’s success has made Muhammad Yunus into an icon of micro-credit, particularly in the western world. He received one international award after the other, the icing on the cake being the Nobel Peace Prize. He became an international personality and the darling of the West. If there were any anomalies in Grameen Bank, this was covered in an avalanche of praise and adulation from abroad.

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