Islamabad - More than 300 alumni of the US government-sponsored exchange programmes gathered at a local hotel here on Friday for the opening ceremony of the three-day 2015 International Women’s Empowerment Conference co-sponsored by the US embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan-US Alumni Network (PUAN) and the US-Pakistan Women’s Council.

Alumni from across South Asia participated in workshops and discussions about women’s social, political and economic empowerment together with prominent activists, artists and community leaders from across Pakistan, South Asia and the United States.

The conference concluded with four community service activities that brought the alumni together with various community partners, including Edhi Homes, Sweet Homes Pakistan, and the Special Talent Exchange Program.

In his keynote address to the alumni, US Ambassador Richard G Olson said, “During this conference, I encourage you to think about how the various sessions will enable you to achieve more in your respective fields and how, as a network, you can empower women across Pakistan, South Asia and the world.”  He quoted renowned American author Maya Angelou, saying to participants, “‘If you get, give. If you learn, teach.’  This is my challenge to you as you interact with one another at this conference and when you return to your homes and communities.”

The conference is one of many events sponsored by the US Embassy in Islamabad to commemorate both International Women’s Day on March 8 and Women’s History Month throughout the month of March.

The US government invests approximately $40 million annually to send more than 1,300 Pakistanis to participate in various academic and professional exchange programs each year. The PUAN is one of the largest US alumni networks in the world. Its mission is to encourage people-to-people relationships between Pakistanis and Americans. 

Comprised of more than 14,000 students and professionals who have participated in the US government-sponsored exchange programs, PUAN organises events across Pakistan, including community service projects, leadership training, roundtable discussions and community engagement activities.

The organisation has 12 regional chapters nationwide in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Bahawalpur, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Gwadar, Islamabad, Jamshoro, Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lahore, Multan and Sukkur.