At the end of 2014, I had graduated from my Masters of Social Sciences (International Development) with Distinction at RMIT University and was coming to the completion of my six month internship with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Hanoi, Vietnam where I was working on sexual reproductive health and gender issues. I was looking for the next step to further my career in international development and stumbled across a position on the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) website which was to work as a Public Health Officer in the Rural, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Programme (MNCH) at BRAC in Bangladesh.
Firstly, sexual reproductive health – specifically maternal health – was an issue I was highly passionate about. Secondly, the opportunity would enable me to gain experience working with one of the leading development organisations globally, BRAC, renowned for developing programmatic innovative approaches such as leveraging community-based solutions that can be scaled up to improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes across rural Bangladesh. Thirdly, women’s empowerment is at the heart of all of BRAC’s interventions. The position seemed to perfectly align with my skills, passions and experiences. The last consideration was the location. The position was in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Never had I ever imagined that I would end up working there.
I am grateful to have worked with such passionate and inspiring colleagues at BRAC. I was responsible for improving documentation processes through developing a documentation plan, identifying best practices and gaps, documenting challenges, achievements, innovations and developing recommendations on the Rural MNCH programme. This consisted of conducting a secondary desk review, as well as undertaking interviews with my colleagues at the head office and at the field level. What I really enjoyed the most was going out to the field. I was fortunate enough to undertake several field visits across rural Bangladesh including Rangpur, Nilphamari, Mymensingh, amongst others. It was here I was able to monitor and evaluate the field activities. The part that I really I came to love was conducting interviews with BRAC’s Community Health Workers – women, husbands and parents-in-law in the communities where I visited. It was here that I learnt of tales of adversity and what it was like to live as an adolescent, pregnant woman and lactating mother in rural Bangladesh.
Fast-forward a few years and my AVID experience living in Bangladesh has really shaped who I am both personally and professionally. It gave me the opportunity to further my skills and experience in international development, friendships of a lifetime, and taught me patience, courage, gratitude, determination and strength. And as difficult and challenging as things got at times, Bangladesh will always remain apart of me and I will not have changed my experience for the world.
Since completing her AVID assignment, Judy has worked with Save the Children in Bangladesh and is currently working as an Education Consultant to World Food Programme, based in Kathmandu Nepal.