As an undergraduate at Fairfield University, Aamina (Awan) Khan was driven by curiosity. After an eye opening summer spent visiting family in Pakistan in 2004, she returned to campus as a sophomore with a determination to make a difference in the lives of those who had so little, particularly women and girls. A junior at Fairfield, whose father was deployed in Afghanistan at the time, possessed a similar passion and after the two connected about their desire to make change, the Afghan Children’s Project was born. With humble beginnings holding clothing drives and spreading the message in campus newspaper ads, the organization earned its certified 501c3 non-profit status and continued its commitment to improving basic human rights for these vulnerable populations.
Aamina’s curiosity, however, did not cease with the inception of the Afghan Children’s Project. She spent her junior year studying abroad in Granada working to perfect her Spanish and returned for her final undergraduate year “fascinated with the world outside of the gates of Fairfield.” The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provided the opportunity to explore that world further; after happening across an article detailing the first female-run investment bank in the Kingdom of Bahrain, she realized the country perfectly paralleled her desire to research women’s economic empowerment. While a majority of her time as a Fulbright grantee consisted of empirical fieldwork which she was able to utilize later when earning her Masters degree, Aamina was also a guest lecturer at the University of Bahrain teaching a course in U.S.-Middle Eastern Relations. She reflects on this time with gratitude, recalling that “I learned more from my students than they learned from me.” In an increasingly polarized world, Aamina’s experience with international exchange proves the importance of deeply engaging with the bridge of mutual understanding, not simply discussing it in the classroom. This is why she believes that “programs like Fulbright are so desperately needed at times like this.”
An unrelenting curiosity has also characterized her professional career. Taking the self-proclaimed “least traveled route” to her current position with UN Women, no stone was left unturned as Aamina earned a U.S. State Department Fellowship, worked as a Campus Recruiter in gender diversity at Credit Suisse, and served as Head of Program at the Clinton Global Initiative University. Each skill set built on the next and soon the amalgamation of these opportunities led her to the Global Strategy and Youth Engagement Lead at the HeForShe Campaign from UN Women. Armed with years of diverse professional experiences and a Masters degree in Gender and International Development from the London School of Economics, Aamina’s passion for global gender equality has flourished alongside the success of HeForShe’s youth-driven mission of inclusivity.