Australia Awards alumna Jhuma Dewan completed a Master of Environmental Science at Australian National University in Australia in 2006 through an Australia Awards Scholarship and has since worked to apply her newfound knowledge towards sustainable development in Bangladesh.
Her father was a great support to her when it came to selecting study options. When Jhuma was approaching her Scholarship application, her father encouraged her and discussed with her the employment opportunities in the field she was considering. Together with her awareness of “Bangladesh having an image of being affected with natural calamities but staying resilient”, she says this influenced her to choose the field of Environmental Management.
Jhuma believes that studying in Australia as an Australia Awards scholar was a life-changing experience for her. “It immensely helped to increase my knowledge about various global development issues, especially in the field of sustainable environmental and natural resources management,” she says. Jhuma also learned how these issues have “close linkages with the socio-economic improvement of local people”.
Jhuma’s involvement with Australia Awards highly motivated her to build a successful career in the development sector of Bangladesh.
She currently holds a senior management position, managing multiple components of the United Nations Development Programme’s Strengthening Inclusive Development in Chittagong Hill Tracts project. Jhuma finds great satisfaction in working for the most marginalised sections of society, helping to ensure no one is left behind.
“I am involved in conceptualising innovative program design, strategy formulation and the implementation of interventions on conflict prevention, justice, community cohesion, gender equality, empowerment of girls and women, among other areas,” Jhuma says.
Jhuma is proud of being able to act on the internationally recognised Rohingya refugee crisis. She identified that, beyond weakening local law and order and social cohesion, the influx of Rohingya refugees has significant potential to cause land and forest degradation in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
“While most of the international response to the Rohingya influx crisis has been concentrated in Cox’s Bazar District, it is important that the neighbouring Bandarban District under the CHT region is not forgotten,” she says. The project she is involved with has contributed to intensifying efforts to improve the quality and inclusivity of local governance and helped to promote social cohesion by applying a conservation approach. “I have contributed to formulating and successfully implementing a multi-stakeholder engagement innovative program on promotion of conflict prevention, social cohesion and conservation of natural resources management for the Lama, Alikadam and Nakkhyonchari Upazilas of Bandarban District,” says Juma.
“I feel that every woman goes through different types of struggles in her career path to maintain work-life balance… I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with a unique team from diverse backgrounds who always extend their support… [and] my family is the ultimate source of my inner strength and peace”
Since the beginning of her career, she has worked with international development organisations and the United Nations. Gender parity is fortunately a priority goal in such groups. However, she believes that there is still a long way to go to achieve this goal. Being a woman in senior-level positions, “I always need to prove my quality, ability, dedication, knowledge, strength and multi-tasking skills,” she says. She believes work-life balance can also be difficult. “I feel that every woman goes through different types of struggles in her career path to maintain work-life balance. Always be prepared and open to all sorts of changes in life and have trust in your positive self-esteem,” she advises.
Jhuma praises her colleagues for being friendly and supportive. “I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with a unique team from diverse backgrounds who always extend their support for any assistance I need in my professional and personal life,” Jhuma says. She is also very grateful to her loving family. “My family is the ultimate source of my inner strength and peace to take any challenging decision in my day-to-day life,” she says. “Due to the nature of my work, I end up travelling in the country and abroad very frequently. Still, I have never experienced any resistance regarding this from my family.”
Jhuma is pleased to now be a member of the Australia Awards alumni community. She is an active member of the Bangladesh chapter of the Australia Awards Women in Leadership Network (WiLN), helping establish it in 2015 and organise events thereafter, as a member of the WiLN’s core group. She also feels more equipped, as a result of her studies in Australia, to give back to her nation and district.
“In the future, I want to stay as energetically involved as I am now in making positive changes in peoples’ lives. In particular, I aim to use my knowledge and skills to help girls and women of the CHT through creating environmentally-friendly education facilities, and boosting their employability in both traditional and non-traditional fields.”