Alumnae from Bangladesh leading sustainability, gender equality and climate action initiatives
Posted: 7 March 2022
As the world comes together to mark International Women’s Day in 2022, we highlight the leadership stories of three Australia Awards Bangladesh alumnae personifying this year’s theme of “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.” Their efforts and achievements are helping build a more sustainable future for all.
Mosammat Rashida Akter
Australia Awards alumna and agriculturist Mosammat Rashida Akter is helping improve the management of coastal and marine fisheries as well as the sustainability of production and livelihoods activities in the coastal areas in Bangladesh.
Rashida is an Assistant Project Director of the Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries Project implemented by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock – Department of Fisheries. Funded by the World Bank, this project aims to increase coastal and marine fisheries’ contributions towards the economy, poverty reduction and environmental stability. Rashida, along with her team, implements activities and designs plans to regulate harvesting and end overfishing, unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices. She is also contributing to implement science-based management plans to restore fish stocks in the shortest time possible.
Rashida completed a Master of Development Practice from James Cook University in 2015.
“The course provided me with a strong foundation on sustainability, natural resources and management. It has boosted my skills and confidence in implementing projects and activities for sustainable fisheries investment and growth, as well as improvement in production practices,” she says.
After Rashida returned to Bangladesh, she acted as one of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s focal points for Bangladesh from 2016 to 2018. During this period, she co-compiled the annual Bangladesh National Report to the Scientific Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.
As a female leader in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, Rashida strongly supports strengthening the role of women in marine fisheries. The Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries Project focuses on empowering women through skills development and nutrition awareness activities. The Project aims to provide around 60,000 households with financial assistance and technical support to help female beneficiaries establish micro-enterprises.
Rashida is proud to be a part of one of the largest projects in Bangladesh in mainstreaming the restoration of marine fisheries and preservation of ecosystems through collective action.
Alumna Sinora Chakma (pictured above) is a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion consultant at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Bangladesh Resident Mission. She provides technical inputs to mainstream gender concerns in ADB-financed projects in the transport, water, urban development, energy and education sectors.
Sinora has been instrumental in developing Gender Action Plans (GAPs) and Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Action Plans (GESI-APs) to benefit women and vulnerable communities during the design of relevant climate resilient projects. These plans ensure that gender and inclusion issues are properly considered in every project component, including through adequate budget allocation for capacity building and human resources.
Sinora completed a Master of International Development and Environmental Analysis from Monash University in 2008.
“My Australian degree and experience provided me with the strategic guidance on developing gender strategies and action plans to achieve overall project objectives by promoting gender equality and facilitating gender transformative climate change action,” she says reflecting on her Australia Awards journey.
Sinora recently worked to improve the gender responsiveness of two important ADB projects, namely, the Coastal Towns Climate Resilience Project, and the Climate Resilient Livelihood Improvement and Watershed Management in Chittagong Hill Tracts Sector Project.
As a woman from a local indigenous community and a development activist from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, she has witnessed women and girls face multiple forms of discrimination. These experiences strongly motivated her to strive for a gender-responsive and inclusive approach to development.
“I actively monitor and supervise the GAPs and GESI-APs of the ongoing projects and provide gender sensitisation training to advance the gender lens in climate action in each phase of the project cycle to ensure the sustainability of the interventions,” Sinora says.
As Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, alumna Asma Shaheen is actively involved in environmental protection. She has been instrumental in developing and enforcing legislations and policies, preparing strategies and plans, and contributing to Bangladesh’s transition towards becoming a green economy.
As part of the Environmental Pollution Control Desk in 2020, Asma worked to produce air pollution control guidelines for Dhaka City. These guidelines include suggested measures and actions for different ministries and organisations to implement to reduce air pollution in Dhaka. In addition, she was involved in developing a policy requiring all state construction projects to only use eco-friendly blocks (made of sand, cement fly ash or materials other than clay) instead of kiln-fired clay bricks by 2025.
Currently, she leads project management and development activities for the Ministry. The projects she is overseeing ensure environmental conservation, protection of coastal and hilly areas, and increase vegetation to reduce the negative effects of climate change. Implementation of these projects increases climate change adaptation and resilience among women, children, and vulnerable groups.
Asma completed a Master of Public Policy and Management from the University of Melbourne in 2015. The lessons that she learnt while in Australia are now providing her with the tools to draft the necessary legislative frameworks, develop strategies and policies, set standards governing ecological protection and sustainability, and strengthen environmental control and law enforcement.
“My Australian degree and experience have helped me in implementing policies and programs relating to the conservation of the country’s natural resources and preservation of biodiversity. While implementing these policies and programs, I always uphold the core principle of sustainable development and enhancement of human wellbeing,” she says.
Inspired by these stories? Applications for Australia Awards Scholarships for study commencing in 2023 are open until 29 April 2022. Learn more here.
Image on top: Alumna Sinora Chakma