Alumni of Australian development scholarships are making a lasting contribution to Pakistan’s efforts to become a country upheld by governance, effective leadership and improved access to opportunities for women.
For more than 60 years, the Australian Government has offered scholarships to countries for applicants to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia and return to their countries endowed with the skills and knowledge to make significant contributions.
In 2016, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to investigate the long-term outcomes of these programs through an Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility. The Facility’s most recent report is a case study on alumni from Pakistan who studied in Australia in the early 2000s.
Pakistan, through its ‘Vision 2025’ development policy, recognises the need for a stable democracy, strong systems of governance and the need to begin to address the issues of gender equality and inclusion. This Case Study demonstrates the leadership and governance contributions of six alumni in the public and NGO sectors. The skills and knowledge gained in Australia have been utilised by these alumni over the 15 to 20 year period since graduation to contribute to the development of Pakistan in a range of areas from governance restructures to the coordination of disaster relief missions.
One alumna, Ms Lubna Hashmat, returned from Australia and used her new skills to contribute to the development of a Pakistani NGO – Civil Society Human and Institutional Development Program (CHIP). Ms Hashmat is now the CEO of CHIP, a national leader in development activities focused on enhancing the rights of women in Pakistan as well as working on many projects designed to ensure continuity of service once funding from international donors is complete.
Mrs Hashmat developed the project ‘Happy Families’ to help raise awareness of and change attitudes towards domestic violence. She said that ‘When you talk about negative things in a positive manner, it helps. We created a lot of community support within the villages where we used to have women survivors of violence.’ Another alumna, Chief Accounts Office at Pakistan Post Mrs Izzat Jahan Aqdus, says that in order to create solutions aimed at supporting and promoting women it is necessary to operate within the cultural context of the country.
Mrs Aqdus and fellow alum Dr Kamran Ali Afzal have built their careers improving finance and governance systems within Pakistan’s highest levels of government. Since her return to Pakistan in 2002, Mrs Aqdus has been a key financial advisor embedded within numerous government departments and authorities and a member on various boards. When he returned from Australia, Dr Afzal had an important role in the renewal of Pakistan’s governance systems, noting: ‘my studies in Australia at the public policy level helped me contribute meaningfully towards the new design of governance.’
Mr Malick Shahbaz, a director of one of the largest national rights-based organisations in Pakistan, is another change leader among the alumni. Through his organisation, Sungi Development Foundation, Mr Shahbaz actively builds awareness of the rights of marginalised workers, women, children and the poor. He was involved in significant projects dealing with the aftermath of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake disaster. Mr Shahbaz led a team working in refugee camps to establish schools and implement emergency education.
Ms Shagufta Naz is another alumna driving change through leadership. Since completing her Master of Arts in Development Studies, she has led a range of development projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ms Naz’s ability to lead change in a considered, culturally sensitive and effective manner has been critical to her success. These projects include disaster recovery and response in flood and earthquakes, analysis of house construction programs, sanitation initiatives, the workforce in cotton-growing industries, conflict zone recovery, organic farming practices, refugee relocation, trade competitiveness, and capacity building of teachers.
Alumni’s experiences in Australia have also positively shaped their personal and professional perspectives of Australia, Australians and Australian expertise. The ongoing links with Australia and positive experiences at their Australian universities have been the basis for their continued enthusiasm to remain engaged with Australia through the Australia Awards Pakistan and Australian High Commission. ■
Find out more:
To read the full Pakistan case study, visit the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility website.
For further information about the Australia Awards, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.