Project to Help Southeast Asian Women Wins $10,000 Grant

The Future Grant Competition award ceremony.

NYU Abu Dhabi student Dhia Fani and a team of university-student colleagues from Indonesia and Thailand, recently won the $10,000 Seeds for the Future Grant from the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI), a program started by U.S. President Barack Obama to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia.

Fani and her team secured funding for their project called "Our Book", which aims to educate and empower former and current sex trade workers, and human trafficking victims in Indonesia and Thailand. The project goal is to use socio-entrepreneurship and soft skill training to teach women how to transform waste paper into a high quality, marketable notebook.

Fani's team drew their inspiration from studying human trafficking and prostitution in Southeast Asia.

"'Our Book' is one way of addressing a complex problem that lacks solutions," said Fani, who hopes the project will empower women to make positive choices. "Many women rarely have legitimate work opportunities available to them, or mentors in their lives. Even women who have escaped prostitution face the risk of returning because they have no skills or reliable sources of income."

This summer, Fani and her team will work with a local community-based NGO to move the project forward, which includes awareness campaigns in both nations focussed on environmental sustainability, entrepreneurship, and women's safety.

The project development process, which took about a year, has been educational beyond Fani's expectations: “I learned it's important not to generalize these issues. Women in Thailand face entirely different circumstances than women in Indonesia. We need to adjust the way we think and work to accommodate their differences."