Student Award Winner, Nicole Paprocki heads to Bangladesh for UNFPA

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I am a young American woman with dreams of future professional achievement, personal fulfillment, and committed relationships. I acknowledge and appreciate generations of women across the globe whose struggles provided us with opportunities for higher education, greater political voice, and human rights. Still, I long for the day when all motherhood is safe, when the violence stops, and when every girl can walk carefree to school. But today is not that day. Therefore, I am an American for UNFPA.

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I am honored to be traveling with Americans for UNFPA to Bangladesh this summer. And by "honored," I mean that I feel surprised, excited, completely undeserving, and even a bit nervous. This will be my first time traveling outside the United States as a young adult. Terming my trip as "a learning experience" would be the biggest understatement of the year!

I await the many lessons Bangladesh has to teach me. As an agricultural country with one of the highest population densities in the world, Bangladesh faces unique challenges economically, socially, and politically. However, the country's dynamic culture has allowed UNFPA to propose and implement creative solutions in family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention, and women support services.

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For example, human rights defender Monira Rahman started the Acid Survivors Foundation in Bangladesh in 1999 to empower women who have overcome gender violence and to engage men and boys in the vision for a safer world. Rahman's dedicated advocacy inspires me. She has called people at NGOS, law enforcement, media, celebrities, and us everyday folk to awareness and to action. Her efforts have not only upheld the health and dignity of Bangladeshi women, but have—most importantly—saved lives.

Rahman and the women and families she has assisted have stories to tell. Undoubtedly, they may be much like those women who suffer from abuse in Serbia, in the Congo, and in our very own neighborhoods. Violence against women occurs most notably in the home. It seems private, it is personal, and its prevalence remains silenced.

But silence keeps us from the truth. Silence prevents our solidarity.

I hope, then, that this trip and this blog serve as the beginning of a conversation: a dialogue about our diverse experiences and our daily lives as women, about our health and our needs, and about our individual and collective dreams for the future.

I invite you to share your story and for all of us to learn together. Let's start this conversation so change can begin.

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