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A day in the life of an Ambassador by Shadow Ambassador 2019

The Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh, H.E. Winnie Petersen, selected one young woman from 312 applicants to experience a day in the life of an ambassador. The winner was, Ms. Asma-Ul-Husna, who was selected for her passion and commitment to the cause of gender equality. This year's Shadow Ambassador day was in light of the upcoming International Women's Day. Below is Asma's account of the day.

I first learned about the Shadow Ambassador competition through the Danish Embassy’s Facebook page. I am a young professional working in the development sector and this seemed like was a superb opportunity for me to spend a day with Ambassador Winnie.

I heard that I was selected from 312 applicants. I travelled all the way from Bagherhat to meet the Ambassador for this special day. I was so excited for the day to start. An Embassy car picked me up. It was amazing to see the Embassy’s impressive security system.

Ambassador Winnie Petersen and Deputy Head of Mission, Refika Hayta received me with a warm welcome. In the morning, I also got a tour of the three Nordic Embassies through which I met both the Ambassadors of Sweden and Norway.

Soon after Ambassador Winnie and I zipped off to our first meeting. On the way there, Ambassador Winnie spent the time telling me how broad her portfolio is – ranging from managing Danish Development Aid (DANIDA) funding in Bangladesh to supporting Trade Council activities, or working with the EU in Bangladesh to management of the entire Embassy’s staff. Denmark and Bangladesh have truly enjoyed a long-standing and successful relationship. I was amazed by how many countries in the world she has worked in – from Nicaragua to Bolivia and from Mali to Bangladesh.

I learnt that the Embassy supports various themes from Agricultural Growth and Employment, Human Rights and Good Governance, Climate Resilience and others. DANIDA also supports some special issues in Bangladesh and one of them is irregular migration and the reintegration of returnee migrants who suffered human rights violations during their time abroad. In this regard, the Embassy of Denmark supports at BRAC Migration Programme for the social and economic reintegration of returnee migrants in different districts around the country. BRAC was our first meeting of the day.

BRAC gave us a very special welcome and their whole migration team gathered to discuss the heart wrenching stories of the men and especially women who return home after great suffering. It was so clear that many Bangladeshis’ dreams for a better future are broken with the violation of basic human rights as people take advantage of their vulnerability.

Given that my selection was dependent on my commitment to gender equality, the discussions turned to the gender strategy at BRAC internally. I found that BRAC has many gender-sensitive policies to promote and protect women working there but they acknowledged that there still needs to many more women at decision-making levels.

After returning to the Embassy, my afternoon was full of meetings with the various department heads. My reflection is that trade is taking a very important position in the portfolio as trade relations between Bangladesh and Denmark grow and thrive. Indeed Bangladesh’s exports to Denmark are higher than Denmark’s exports to Bangladesh. On the other hand, as an emerging market Bangladesh is indeed a top choice for many Danish small and medium Danish businesses looking to expand.

In the evening, I met several CEOs of Danish companies and their Bangladeshi partners at a Business Get Together hosted at Ambassador Winnie’s residence. I learnt how Denmark’s innovative ideas and technologies are shared with different countries because the commercial solutions are largely sustainable solutions, which benefit people and the environment. One example was the co-host for the evening, Viking Wind. They make some of the best technology to development wind turbines, which can be used by the private sector or in remote areas to provide clean energy.

As far as learning is concerned, I think the most important learning was how to be a good leader. Seeing so many great leaders at work, I now know that leadership has to have a dimension of empathy and harmony. It is not easy being a woman in leadership, but hard work and persistence pays off.

I am grateful to the Danish Embassy for creating this opportunity for young women like myself. I hope similar initiatives would continue to promote women’s leadership and empowerment. 

Thank you.