New York, NY – Anika Rahman, President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, will address graduating master’s and doctoral students of the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) at their commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. The ceremony will be held at the Beacon Theater at 2:00pm.

 
“We are pleased to have Anika Rahman, a Columbia alumna, serve as our Commencement speaker this year. We selected Ms. Rahman because her story and her personal and professional commitments have much resonance with our profession and all that it represents,” says Dean Jeanette Takamura. “While she is leading a national organization, her dedication is to improving the quality of life of all women around the world so that they are empowered to bring about positive changes in their communities and countries. This, too, is among the most important commitments that social workers have and among our greatest aspirations for women worldwide.”
 
Ms. Rahman has spent her life and career fighting for women’s rights and dignity.  Her passion was ignited by her childhood where she watched as her grandmother, mother and aunt struggled against the institutionalized sexism in their native Bangladesh.  From them she learned courage, tenacity and the will to always fight for justice.
 
Upon graduation from Columbia Law School, Ms. Rahman joined the New York law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Following her passion for social justice, it wasn't long before she made the jump to nonprofit work. She began her nonprofit career as the staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the world's foremost legal organization for women's reproductive rights. Ms. Rahman became the director of International Programs, where she developed a global program dedicated to helping women around the world fight for equality and legal protections. She also led the Center's policy team and gained important experience in the connections between advocacy, legal and communication strategies to effect change. While at the Center, Ms. Rahman built her nonprofit management and fundraising skills, growing a staff of 20 and raising an annual budget of $2.25 million.
 
In her work she saw firsthand the broad and devastating impacts of discrimination and injustice. In 2004, Ms. Rahman became the president of Americans for UNFPA (United Nation's Population Fund). The United Nations Population Fund is the world's largest funder of reproductive health programs and an anchor for women throughout the world as they strive for health access and equality. As the president of Americans for UNFPA, Ms. Rahman focused on significantly expanding their fundraising, dramatically increased their resources during her tenure and negotiated a $37 million bequest for UNFPA and Americans for UNFPA. She was instrumental in raising awareness in this country of the global fight for women's rights and of America's critical role in it. 
 
Ms. Rahman joined the Ms. Foundation for Women, the leading national social justice foundation committed to building the collective power of women to create positive change, as CEO in February 2011.
 
“At the Ms. Foundation for Women, I see each day how passionate advocates for social justice can change the world around them," says Ms. Rahman. "The graduates of Columbia University's School of Social Work have been exceptionally well-prepared to eradicate injustice where they see it, and improve the lives of individuals and communities across the globe. Their commitment to building a more just future fills me with great hope.”
 
The Columbia University commencement exercises will be held from 10:30am to 12:00pm in front of Low Memorial Library. The CUSSW commencement ceremony will be held from 2:00pm to 4:00pm in the Beacon Theater.  For more information, please visit http://www.commencement.columbia.edu.

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