Professor Muhammad Yunus Receives Congressional Gold Medal

Professor Muhammad Yunus poses for a portrait at the Gibson Guitar Lounge during Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on January 24, 2010. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Robert Blake serves as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

Last week, I had the honor of attending the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for Professor Muhammad Yunus. Eight Members of Congress representing the leadership of both chambers and both parties, came together to pay tribute to this remarkable man. As Senator Durbin pointed out, Professor Yunus is just the seventh person in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is also the first Muslim of any nationality to receive the award. Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award in the United States.

The ceremony was a moving tribute to a man who has dedicated his life to eliminating poverty, first in his native Bangladesh and later across the globe. As the founder of Grameen Bank, he not only created one of the world’s most instantly recognizable…more »

Support for Entrepreneurship and Women’s Empowerment Among U.S. Priorities in South and Central Asia

Afghan women gather during the opening ceremony of the Sahar Gul net cafe, the first internet cafe for women, opened in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 8, 2012. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Robert Blake serves as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

Rabia Mariam is a businesswoman who employs an all-women workforce to manufacture scarves and rugs from silk, cotton-silk blend, and wool in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. Working with the USAID IDEA-NEW program, she employs nearly 1,000 women — many of them widows. Many of these Afghan women raise silkworms at home and boil cocoons, and go to weaving centers to weave the scarves and other handicrafts. Rabia’s work is bringing economic opportunity and hope to Afghan women.

I had the privilege of meeting Rabia and learning about her work at the South Asia Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, which was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh last month. The event exemplifies several of our bureau’s highest priorities… more »

Developing Marine Protected Areas in the Maldives

Local fishermen identify areas of high usage within Rasdhoo Atoll, Maldives, November 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Deepa Ghosh serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

I was recently invited by the Maldivian Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) to join them on a site visit to Rasdhoo Atoll. The Maldives are well known for their natural beauty, coral reefs, and pristine beaches. Ensuring the country preserves this unique habitat is a priority for the dynamic staff of the MEPA.

The Maldives is a long, narrow country in the Indian Ocean formed by 26 natural atolls covering 90,000 square kilometers over a submarine ridge. Atolls are ring like coral reefs that surround lagoons. They are formed as coral builds up around eroding volcanic islands. The Maldives is also the lowest country on earth, measuring only 2.4 meters above sea level at its highest point, making it particularly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. Protecting the country’s reefs from pollution, poaching, rapid development, and other hazards is vital to… more »