In her latest "Report from a Pashtun Teen" on The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's blog, 17-year-old Sher Bano, who spent last year in the United States as an exchange student on the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, talks about the practice of arranged marriage and how it is viewed in the United States and in Pakistan. Sher Bano's first Report from a Pashtun Teen focused on her experiences as a student in the United States and in Peshawar.
Through her YES experience, Sher Bano says, she became aware of the “reservations and misconceptions” that Pakistanis and Americans have about each other's countries. The Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, established by the Department of State in October 2002, provides scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend up to one academic year in the United States. Students live with host families, attend high school, engage in volunteer activities, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. Since 2003, over 2000 young people from countries such as Pakistan, Ghana, Turkey, Egypt and Indonesia have come to the United States on the YES program.
As the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, I find it extremely rewarding to see the many wonderful things YES students accomplish during and after their time on the program, from creating a volunteerism program to contributing blogs to The New York Times. I believe, as does Secretary Clinton, that people-to-people exchanges such as those sponsored by our Bureau play a significant role in 21st century diplomacy, helping us to engage with young people around the world and increase mutual understanding. I hope you'll enjoy reading Sher Bano's posts as much as I did.