Eight enthusiastic leaders from Indian Ocean Rim countries have gathered at the University of Western Australia (UWA) for the first time since beginning an educational journey aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The Tsuha Global Fellows Program was established in 2021 thanks to the generous support of Tsuha Foundation, a US based Foundation that strives to provide hope and inspiration by helping people overcome disadvantages from low income and break the cycle of poverty.
The program seeks to support the next generation of leaders from low and middle-income countries through targeted educational, mentorship and networking opportunities, to implement projects in their home country. Each Fellow has been assigned an academic mentor to help them realise their goal for the benefit of their communities.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the program has been conducted online until now, when the Fellows have finally been able to meet each other and their mentors face to face and participate in workshops and dialogues with key people in Western Australia.
Coming from a range of countries, each fellow aims to tackle varied local challenges from different study areas.
Guided by Associate Professor Ian Li of UWA’s School of Population and Global Health, palliative care nurse and researcher Tara Devi Laabar wants to educate Bhutanese healthcare professionals, policymakers and the public on palliative care and establish palliative care service at three hospitals in Bhutan.
Also under the mentorship of Associate Professor Li is Mahbub Ul Alam, who is working on predicting sanitation behaviour by understanding the willingness to pay for sanitation services in urban Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Image: The Tsuha Fellows are focused on a variety of world-wide challenges.
In line with environmental goals, marine conservationist Anna Oposa is developing a science-based, socially just, and enforceable legal framework for shark conservation in the Philippines.
At the same time, Tanzanian climate change and governance advocate Anabahati Mlay is designing a training programme for female parliamentarians and corporate leaders to increase women’s voices and engagement in climate action, policy and decision-making. Professor Erika Techera of UWA’s Law School is mentoring both Anna and Anabahati.
Anabahati believes having had that face-to-face connection was an important aspect of the program. “Meeting everyone and gaining a deeper understanding of our backgrounds’ is very inspiring – it gives us the motivation to want to do more.”
Another fellow with a focus on women is Nkechika Ibe from Nigeria, who is seeking to improve the level of women’s participation and representation in conflict prevention, peace building, diplomatic and mediation processes while protecting their rights and human security.
Associate Professor David Mickler, the Dean of Global Africa at Curtin University, mentors Nkechika along with Beatrice Baiden. Beatrice, a gender peace and security analyst from Ghana, is developing and implementing a public advocacy campaign and series of platforms to promote peace education, with a focus on youth and women.
The final mentor in the program is Professor Petra Tschakert from the School of Geography and Global Futures at Curtin University. Professor Tschakert is mentoring Dr Cyan Brown and Venessa Mehlhorn.
Dr Cyan Brown, a South African medical doctor turned environmental leader, is creating a course and community focused on African healthcare workers looking to put sustainability at the centre of their lives and work.
Venessa Mehlhorn, a monitoring and evaluation specialist, is developing a localised and customised monitoring and evaluation system to improve tracking and reporting of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Seychelles.
“What I have valued most during our visit so far is the opportunity to connect one to one about the essence of our projects, so we can find common ground,” said Venessa, agreeing with other Fellows’ sentiments.
Of the program, Jennifer Pelling, Tsuha Foundation Director said, "I have been inspired by the generosity of the academic mentors, who have poured their time and energy into supporting the personal and professional growth of our Fellows.”
“I am also delighted to see the spirit of connection among the Fellows. They are working on challenging problems, which can be hard to accomplish alone, so it is fantastic to see them forming bonds and creating a network that will assist their work,” Jennifer said.
Program leaders Associate Professor Justin Denny and Leah Cronn, who hold positions with both UWA and Oregon Health & Science University, expressed their gratitude to Tsuha Foundation and the mentors for making the program possible.
“We are excited to see this program grow and in awe of the change that we will see because of the projects initiated by these emerging global leaders. We are also grateful to Professor Colleen Fisher, Head of School of Population and Global Health, for enabling us to create this cross-border collaborative program.”