Farhana Shahnaz began her journey in the development sector soon after she completed her BSc in Economics. She went on to pursue her masters in development studies from BRAC University, and has also worked in resource mobilisation, developed programmes and effective fundraising applications in response to calls for proposals from small government and institutional donors. She currently serves as a Communications Officer at UNDP Bangladesh, where she addresses the communication needs of a project that is helping to prevent violent extremism. She was a part of UNLEASH, a global innovation lab that equips global top talents with the vision required to disrupt conventional solutions and create a better world by achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with her solution on SDG 4 – Quality Education track. In a candid chat with The Daily Star, Farhana shares her journey so far.
Tell us a bit about your work.
Since the beginning of my career I have been working in the development sector in various capacities, thoroughly enjoying every bit of it. Previously, I was a Fundraising Officer at Practical Action, where I extended resource mobilisation alongside donor communication and reporting support. I also supported the implementation of a project in the Rohingya refugee camps under the humanitarian response Programme that aimed to enhance the disaster risk management capacity of the refugees. Before joining Practical Action, l worked in Danish Refugee Council as a Programme Assistant for their Child Protection Programme. As a development communications practitioner, I wish to create a meaningful amalgamation of science and art through my work. Effective development communication is not just evidence-based and data-driven, it is also an art because the research findings are translated into powerful creative outputs that informs and inspires the intended audience. I wish to build my expertise further in the arena of social and behavioral change communications.
What was solution at UNLEASH about?
My solution at UNLEASH dealt with ensuring quality education for vulnerable populations, in our case the Rohingya adolescents. Based on my personal experience, the refugees were not delivered a curriculum that was in line with their requisites or interests. Their voices were not heard when designing the curriculum and as a result, their attendance in school was extremely low. We wanted the adolescent refugees to be a part of the co-designing process and develop a context-specific curriculum catered to their needs. To incentivize the co-designing process, we intend engage them in sports and other community building activities. Our goal is to instill a sense of ownership in the adolescents pertaining to their curriculum.
Why did you choose to work with this issue?
While working, I met some extremely promising and enthusiastic youth and children who were forced to spend their days in the camp doing nothing despite having the potential to do so much more. Unfortunately, there is no agreed curriculum and limited learning opportunities for refugees, which is hindering them from utilising their full potential. This will soon potentially lead to a lost generation of Rohingyas, permanently setting them back. This issue struck a chord with me and I wanted to do something to ensure quality education for them that can help them be more resilient.
Share a bit about your experience in China.
UNLEASH was a truly unforgettable experience. Representing my country in an international platform and being recognised as a changemaker was an honour for me. I worked with a very diverse team comprising of members from Lebanon, Liberia, New Zealand and India, and loved meeting other brilliant youths from all over the world who were also driving efforts to achieve the SDGs. We not only ideated solutions to deal with the most pressing issues of the world but also learnt a great deal about each other's culture.
What are your future plans?
I would really love to implement the solution we developed in some way. Although from my understanding, the curriculum co-design process has already been initiated by the humanitarian response coordination groups, I am still looking forward to ways I can facilitate the process.