Bangladeshi group visits Iowa City


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During a visit to Iowa City, Bangladeshi leaders and activists shared ideas and education techniques with a local group in order to discuss dealing with sexual violence and violence against women worldwide.

“Here students are doing so much to advance the issue [of sexual violence],” said Shoaiba Rahman, the project coordinator of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association.

Sexual assault was at the forefront of conversation among the women from Bangladesh, University of Iowa students, and local citizens.

Rahman said during the roundtable she was so happy the younger generation is taking charge of the issue and trying to help those who are in need of aid.

“Back in Bangladesh, we just have older people working for places,” she said. “But here we have met young people, students working against the issue.”

The roundtable, sponsored by the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities, included students from the UI President’s Student Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct, as well as a few other students that spoke with visitors from Bangladesh.

The Council for International Visitors advocates for Iowa City to be chosen as a part of the State Department’s International Leadership Visitors Program, which brings over groups of leaders and activists from abroad to spread culture and bring international perspective to those in the United States.

“It is important to build global ties and also [participants] are able to learn from American professionals,” said Keelie Johnson, the council’s program coordinator.

The Bangladeshi visitors work with programs that help victims of violence against women or sexual violence.

Johnson said the roundtable was interesting for both sides and gave the group an idea of how to look at sexual-assault prevention from different perspectives.

“It is interesting for them to meet others throughout the world and talk on this issue,” she said.

The group spent the rest of its time in Iowa City visiting officials and spending some time touring the area.

The Bangladeshi visitors saw Iowa City, Boston, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., as part of their trip with the national program.

Johnson said recently the State Department made an effort to get a Midwestern city involved, and Iowa City was a prime choice because of all of the resources.

“The State Department was thrilled with the resources that Iowa City has for the subject,” she said.

Johnson said this is because of numerous programs in the area, including student programs and local advocacy groups, such as the Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

The group from Bangladesh also worked with RVAP to learn techniques and methods in how they deal with crisis counseling and education related to sexual violence.

Susan Junis, the prevention education coordinator for RVAP, said it was beneficial to have the Bangladeshi group visit Iowa City because it can help advance the issue by seeing what works abroad and what works locally.

She said getting a global perspective is important to help prevent sexual violence.

“Violence is a problem everywhere; it’s a global issue,” Junis said.

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