I had been working in the development sector for nine years when I decided to further my studies. My main areas of interest to explore were gender, health and disaster response.
I chose to study in Australia because it is a peaceful country with a diverse and tolerant community. So, in 2019, I applied for an Australia Awards Scholarship and was accepted.
I studied a Master in Public Policy and Governance degree at Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. ANU was a good choice for me as it has Asia and the Pacific's leading graduate public policy school, The Crawford School of Public Policy.
Teaching in Australia is evidence based, which has made me more research oriented.
In class, we were encouraged to ask questions and offer differing views to our teachers. We were taught to explore all sides of arguments and look at evidence, facts and data, and to understand them in the relevant context. I now make sure that all my decisions are evidence driven in my professional life.
The Australian research facilities and environment encourages learning and critical thinking. I had great access to knowledge and resources that supported my interests in working towards women’s welfare and development back home in Pakistan.
Education in Australia goes beyond the classroom. I came across activities and interests that I may never have discovered otherwise. I was active on student committees, and President of the Student Advisory Board, responsible for looking after the policy issues of 200 students.
I participated in the university’s elections for the position of Women’s Officer. I gave presentations at peer learning sessions on my research on gender and community policing in Pakistan, and introduced others to Pakistan’s history, culture and music.
Studying in Australia gave me the opportunity to interact with people from diverse nationalities, helping me expand my worldview, learn new perspectives and develop cross-cultural awareness.
My program had students from Indonesia, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Pacific Islands, giving me a first-hand experience of interacting with people from different cultures. Consequently, I have become more comfortable working with people from different backgrounds and value their unique experiences.
While studying in Australia, I was able to live, learn and travel independently, and had the freedom to make my own academic and personal decisions. Australia gave me the opportunity to experience life without fear of failure or judgment.
Besides acquiring a world-class education, I also saw more of the world, developed appreciation of arts and culture, attended concerts, and ballet and theatre performances, explored beaches, saw kangaroos and penguins, tasted Korean food and made friends with people from around the globe.
I am now the Head of Program Development, Development Consultant at Community World Service Asia, Rozan-an. This NGO works particularly with women in shelter homes, on economic reintegration, skill building and psychosocial support.
I also teach Globalisation and Development at Iqra University Islamabad, drawing upon my ANU learning experiences to teach and mentor students.
In addition to this, I am a fellow of the Legislative Fellowship Program for India and Pakistan, organised by the U.S. Department of State, for policymakers and development practitioners.
I am grateful for my time in Australia, which has helped me to get to where I am today.