The First Lady of Syria at Harvard

 

 America is notorious for its policies concerning our region, but it is also a great country with many achievements, among its greatest, in my opinion, is its educational system. This statement comes from someone with first hand experience with the Syrian, French and British educational systems.

Allowing that American universities are the best in the world, among them Harvard ranks at the very top, and the Harvard Business School is the jewel of the Harvard crown. To this school the brightest students go to study business theory and practices, and it was to this school that I headed with my family last week. The reason behind the visit could not have been more exciting: the students have elected Syria to be their theme of study and research. For a whole month they have researched the newly emerging business environment in Syria, and the initiatives taken by various civil societies and NGOs. On April 29, at 8 am, the students of Professor Robert Eccles started discussing one major project undertaken by NGOs in Syria; that of establishing a children’s educational park in Damascus in the now vacant old grounds of the Damascus International Exhibition.

And who was the invited guest from Syria chosen to discuss the whole project? None other than Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad.

 At 8:30 am (sharp), a video-conference with the first lady was set up. Beginning the conference with icebreakers, the first lady told the students about a student’s delegation from Harvard that met with her a fortnight earlier. For the following 90 minutes, the first lady, from her office in Damascus, my husband and I in the auditorium at Harvard, and a number of invited guests followed a fascinating discussion and analysis of the children’s educational park project presented by the students. The discussion highlighted any potential problems, dissected all aspects of the project management, debated the possible cultural misunderstandings among the various stake holders of the project, and wondered about possibilities and expectations upon the completion of the project.

 Following the discussion, Assad gave her own reflections on what the students had presented, and reminded them that this project is a unique experiment in developmental education that is arguably unparalleled around the world. She was friendly, passionate, candid, and straightforward, her attitude completely down-to-earth and non-ceremonial. Within minutes, it was apparent to my husband and I that she had won the hearts and minds of some of the brightest students on the planet.

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Syria’s first lady meets the Indian poor

  New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) Syria’s first lady Asma al-Assad, the wife one of the world’s most powerful leaders, Wednesday drove to a slum in the Indian capital and interacted with its women to learn about micro-financing. A graduate in computer science from King’s College in London, the 33-year-old spent about an hour in Harsh Vihar, close to the Uttar Pradesh border where the slum is home to about 50,000 poorest of the poor.

 True to her image as one who likes to interact with people, Asma spoke to a tailor woman and a vegetable grocer among others, with the help of Preeti Sahai, a senior manager of Basix, which promotes micro-financing.

 "We demonstrated how to open a no-frills savings account, using just a laptop, a digital camera and a fingerprint scanner," Sahai told IANS. Such accounts are opened in the slum area for its many residents who find it difficult to access banks.

 An investment banker earlier, Asma posed several questions to the slum people.

 Sahai said: "She interacted directly with three or four women. She had many questions. What will they do with the loans? Do they have insurance? Why did they open this account? What businesses are they engaged in?"

 The Syrian president’s wife appeared fascinated by the responses of the slum women, who expressed their desire to go up the socio-economic ladder with the small loans provided to them.

 Asma took everyone by surprise by expressing a desire to open an account.

 Said Sahai: "We promptly took her picture and scanned her fingerprint. But we could not open an account as she did not have the basic documents."

 And Sahai added, jokingly: "She is not really our target!"

 Before leaving, Asma greeted some of the slum children and spoke to them.

Earlier, Asma, who founded Syria’s first NGO, the Fund for Integrated Rural Development of Syria (Firdos), interacted with about 30-40 activists working in rural development and women’s empowerment at the Institute of Social Studies in south Delhi.

 She spent more than two hours at the institute, double the time she was to spend there, witnessing presentations on capacity-building of elected representations and an artisan project artisans. She also saw a documentary on a south Indian village.

 She heard the experiences of a district panchayat president from Haryana, on the challenges and success in combating gender bias.

 "She spoke about her experience in the rural sector in Syria and her NGO Firdos," the institute’s A.N. Roy told IANS.

 She received a gift of a brass peacock. "The first lady mentioned that she was fascinated by India and wished she had stayed longer," Roy said.

  

 

 

Syria’s First Lady Meets  Indian Women

New Delhi, Jun 19 As in India, there is a debate going on in Syria on whether there should be reservation for women in Parliament, Syrian First Lady Asma Assad said here today while interacting with a group of Indian women journalists.

 "There is no quota for women in politics in Syria. There is a national debate. One side of the argument says we need quota system to encourage, to allow more women participating in Parliament," Assad said at the event organised by the Indian Women's Press Corps.

 Assad informed that Syria has the highest percentage of women in Parliament at 13 per cent in the Arab world, which she said was higher than some European countries.

 "I don't want to be complacent. This needs to be higher," said Assad, who is accompanying her husband Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on an official visit to India.

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The First Lady of Syria 'Al-Watan' Interview

 Mrs. Asma Al-Assad’s Interview Given to the Syrian ‘Al-Watan’ Daily, July 2, 2008:

In reply to a question regarding the newly-founded ‘ The Syrian Development Secretariat’ (SDS) , Mrs. Al-Assad said The SDS  “is a legislative and administrative umbrella for several standing projects, which I supervise like ‘ MASSAR’, ‘ SHABBAB’, and ‘ FIRDOS’,  with the aim of encouraging the Syrian individual as to play the role of the basic dynamo for development, through the stimulation and developments of the individual skills enabling him/her to get integrated with the efforts for development,” noting that the SDS work is to be based on three basic principles: Learning & Culture, Heritage, and Rural Development, within the frame of a constitutional work based on a national plan for development, as well as on a scientific research approach.

Mrs. Al-Assad went on to say “The Learning and Rural Development target the largest class of the Syrian Society” noting that, for example, FIRDOS is based on the principles of partnership and dialogue with the rural societies, as to create a new rapport between the citizen and official, on the basis of participation in defining the priorities, working on their implementation.

“FIRDOS was the first national project to grant loans for small business investment projects; introducing in practice a new means for development work, to be later translated into a law regulating the establishments work of granting of small loans. FIRDOS exists today in 5 Syrian Governorates, as the backbone for rural development in SDS.”

In reply to question about FIRDOS role in Ebla Archaeological Site region, H. E. Mrs. Asma Al-Assad said: “Ebla is an important archeological and touristy zone of the Syrian countryside; what is taking place in Ebla can be considered as an example to follow in other Syrian Archaeological sites. Recently, the work has focused on the investment of this important Archaeological Site, as to meet the needs for sustainable development for the populations of the nearby villages, which are mainly concerned with the development of their region. FIRDOS offers small loans to the populations there, as to create their private projects supporting them to participate actively and make direct or indirect benefit from the natural resource nearby their village or city, represented in the presence of archeology. FIRDOS activity in Ebla leads naturally to deepen the awareness of the citizen regarding the Archaeological Site, to work as to protect and give rebirth to the site to be part of his/her life, and source of living, using the natural resources of the region as to develop it.”

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The First Lady Siriana Incanta Parigi

 

La first lady siriana incanta Parigi

 Occhi puntati sulla first lady siriana Asma el Assad, che a Parigi ha rubato per qualche ora la scena al marito Bashar e, in visita alla sede dell'Istituto di cultura arabo, incantato gli ospiti sfoggiando trucco leggero e un elegante abito scuro. Unica «intemperanza», la vistosa collana. Nata a Londra nel 1975 da genitori originari dell'antica città di Homs, Asma ha studiato informatica e letteratura francese, per poi intraprendere la carriera finanziaria; attualmente guida l'organizzazione non governativa «Firdos» (Fund for Integrated Rural Development of Syria). Tornata in Siria, ha sposato Bashar nel 2000 (nel luglio dello stesso anno lui è diventato presidente). Hanno tre figli.

Asma,  «perché si vede che anche lei è spontanea, e poi ama le scarpe elemento oggi fondamentale per il vestire, e ne sceglie di meravigliose ».

 “la first lady siriana Asma Assad, che ha saputo conquistare l'attenzione dei media: elegante, alta, longilinea, dal look raffinato e fine. La moglie del presidente siriano ha approfittato di questi due giorni per visitare il Louvre ed il Centre Pompidou. “

LE FONTE: ( La Repubblica), ( Corriere della Sera), (Il mattino)

 

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