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US official predicts women ‘at core’ of greater cultural cooperation with Kuwait

Sports can serve as a universal language that can build bridges: Royce

KUWAIT: Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. —KUNA

KUWAIT: A ranking US official says a freshly inked statement of intent between Kuwait and her nation will pave way for greater cultural cooperation, saying it will also facilitate partnerships between cultural organizations of the two countries. Asked whether women play a role in the forecast wider cooperation in the field, Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, said in an exclusive interview that they are the “core of exchange programs,” noting that societies that empower women are more prosperous and peaceful.

Speaking on sidelines of the Third United States-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, she confirmed the signing of a Statement of Intent on cultural cooperation between Kuwait and the US during the meeting — which will encourage more cultural exchanges between the two countries. She explained that the Statement will promote the visit of experts in museum curation, artists, athletes, and speakers from the US to Kuwait, and vice versa. “We also hope that this agreement will facilitate partnerships between US and Kuwaiti cultural organizations,” Royce added. She stressed that cultural and educational exchanges are a path to a peaceful world, and to create mutual understanding among countries. Royce said that she chaired the education working group of the bilateral Strategic Dialogue with officials from Kuwait’s Ministry of Higher Education, and discussed the chances available to increase academic and cultural exchanges between the US and Kuwait. “My commitment is to increase academic and cultural exchanges between Kuwait and the US,” she added.

12,000 students
Royce pointed out that the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs works in the area of educating English teaching skills, and college admissions exchanges between Americans and Kuwaitis. She said that another area the bureau would like to arrange is working with Alumni groups. “The US remains the first destination for international students,” she said, pointing out that there are around 12,000 Kuwaiti students in the US. She confirmed that the US Embassy’s Education adviser offers free advising services to all students and can help provide resources and guidance for interested students to find their own best-fit institution in the US. In addition, the bureau and the US embassy also offer Kuwaitis professional exchange programs to promote entrepreneurship, STEM education, intellectual property rights, disability rights and gender equality. “We encourage more Americans to come to Kuwait to study and conduct academic research and to engage in various projects, such as college preparation programs, and teaching English to English teachers,” she said.

Royce confirmed that in the next year, the US State Department will work with the Kuwaiti government to sponsor trainings for English teachers and scholarship advisors who advise Kuwaitis students on how to apply to US colleges. “We will also be bringing a diverse range of artists, athletes and experts to Kuwait to work on areas such as girls’ empowerment, cultural heritage preservation, and STEM education. In the fall, we plan to offer after school English class for high school students, called the English Access Micro-Scholarship Program,” she pointed out.

“Another goal is to increase the number of students who participate in classroom exchange in Kuwait, they can work on projects together. This was applied between students from Arizona University and students in Egypt,” Royce said. She confirmed that she received a lot of support for this program, stressing that “it is another example where we can collaborate in many subjects.” She pointed out that over 2,000 Kuwaitis have participated in US sponsored exchange programs, primarily the International Visitor Leadership Program and the Youth Exchange and Study Program, and many of them have become leaders in a variety of fields. She said that she is willing to increase virtual exchanges between Kuwaiti and American students through programs such as the Stevens Initiative, which connects students in the US with students around the world to work on projects to protect the environment and strengthen STEM education. “We will soon launch an association of Kuwaiti alumni of these exchange programs, to provide mentorship, networking and knowledge sharing opportunities,” she indicated

Special cultural events
Responding to a question about arranging special cultural events for women, US Assistant Secretary said that the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs is committed to women’s empowerment, which is core to exchange programs in both cultures and education. She stressed that “societies that empower women and promote inclusion are more prosperous, peaceful and stable.” She mentioned that last year the bureau committed over $25 million and reached over 150,000 women around the world in programs specifically designed to empower women and girls. Royce added that (TechWomen) is another initiative of the US Department to connect and support leader women in science, technology, engineering and math. Women participating in this initiative are from Africa, Central and South Asia and the Middle East. It provides them with the access and opportunity needed to advance their careers, and inspire women and girls in their communities. Similar flagship programs supporting women that have been running for decades include, Fullbright Program and International Visitors Leadership Program.

Sport exchange programs
Answering another question about sport exchange programs with Kuwait, Royce expressed her belief that sports can serve as a universal language that can build bridges and mutual understanding. She revealed that the US Bureau is intending to arrange a visit for Sarah Huffman, a former US Women’s Soccer Team member, to Kuwait as Sports Envoy at the end of April. Sarah will give soccer workshops for young girls and women to promote sports as means for them to develop self-confidence and leadership skills. She said that the bureau works to empower women through its Sports Diplomacy programs that include the bureau’s (espnW) Global Sports Mentoring Program initiative to promote women in sports from grassroots to the leadership level. This program was recognized in 2018 with both the ESPN Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award and the Peace and Sport “Diplomatic Action of the Year” Award. – KUNA

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