From Sakina: Working with PartnersGlobal, Research at Duke, and Learning in Geneva
Being a Rotary Peace Fellow has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As a student in Duke University, I had the chance to meet, learn from, and collaborate with several people who have had vastly different life experiences and professional journeys than me. With all our diversity, we had some foundational principles common to all of us – the desire for a more peaceful, just, and equitable society. The cohort of our peers, alumni, staff, and our host families are all there to ensure we succeed in achieving these goals.
My work in the past has been influenced by the idea of research and action. I have worked closely with activists and people’s movements on food security, livelihoods, health and education for women and children in rural India. I have also been involved in research work that was grounded in the questions and concerns of the people we worked with. I wanted to work with the same idea, however, on an international platform. Therefore, I chose to do two internships as a part of my Applied Field Experience. One internship is as a research assistant for a research project to evaluate the female downstream expenditures of households that receive income support in Pakistan with Prof. Kate Vyborny at Duke University. The other is a more action-oriented internship with PartnersGlobal – a global organization that works with civil society partners to increase the resilience of civil society where there are constricting civic spaces.
As a researcher, my goal is to understand all aspects of the program, the households it caters to, its operations and then design the research goals with the broader team of researchers and academics. I began this work as an independent study during the spring semester. The project aimed to understand whether the income support program of the Government of Pakistan was more effective when the delivery of cash was through a biometric based verification system for withdrawal of cash. The component that I am currently working on is to see if the expenditure patterns of the beneficiary households have changed over a certain period. This has been a steep learning curve in terms of the research methods, but also learning a few software tools to conduct the analysis. However, one I have thoroughly enjoyed, despite being frustrated every once in a while with my dysfunctional code 😊. I give credit to my advisor Dr. Vyborny for being patient with me.
At PartnersGlobal, my work has given me much needed inspiration and ideas. Speaking to a range of organizations that work on rights of political dissenters, prison reform, environment and climate conservation through art, and dialogue for communal unity, among others. Part of my role is to understand the needs of these organisations so that we can collaboratively build resilience of these groups and civil society at large. A job that is challenging and inspirational in equal measure.
I also had the chance to attend the Duke Global Policy Program on Humanitarian Action and Human Rights in Geneva. This was one of the most exciting parts of my fellowship. We had the opportunity to meet and learn from several groups like UNHCR, MSF, Gavi, Global Fund and ICRC among others to get a sneak peek into their work, careers in humanitarian work and the landscape of the post cold war world of humanitarian action. This program was enriching owing to these interactions but also learning from other peers who were participants of the course.
The AFE has complimented my fellowship experience well. It gave me a chance to zoom out and reflect but also hone some skills on the job.