In 1954, The Asia Foundation, a nonprofit international development organization, was founded. According to its history, “Its 21 founding directors include the presidents of Stanford, UCLA, Columbia, and Brown Universities, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, heads of six major American corporations, and prominent figures in foreign affairs.” The foundation began to work to improve lives in 18 Asian countries, including China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Pakistan.
The founding directors claimed that the purpose of the foundation was to “support peace, independence, personal liberty, and social progress in Asia, and to foster mutual respect and understanding between Asia and the West.” For the first few decades, the organization focused on ways to expand education.
TAF has shifted its goals since 1954 to address issues that affect Asia today. “Informed by six decades …our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.”
One of the main goals of TAF is to support women and promote gender equality. “We have transformed thousands of lives through evidence-based programs that focus on expanding women’s economic opportunities, increasing women’s rights and security, and advancing women’s political participation.”
To expand economic opportunities for women, the foundation provides the necessary education and training to develop the skills needed for women to spare their families from the poverty that plagues parts of these Asian countries. Moreover, the foundation provides networking opportunities and mentoring for women to find stable jobs.
TAF also aims to increase the rights and security of women in Asian countries. The foundation combats social norms that perpetuate the systems of gender violence and exploitation. It encourages governments to strengthen laws and increase justice for women.
In addition, the foundation provides programs to inform women on political processes and legal systems. Not only does TAF help women become informed voters, but it also gives them the tools they need to become successful candidates and members of political society.
With these programs in place, the foundation hopes to achieve “increased participation of women in elections, public leadership, and decision-making; expanded opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship, education, and employment; [and] improved rights and security for women.”
Although Asian countries still face some issues, the foundation believes that these struggles are also “tremendous possibilities for the mission and work of The Asia Foundation.” With the efforts of TAF and others, women specifically and, more broadly, the countries of Asia will triumph.
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