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Farzana Yeasmin: Champion for rural water

Posted: 28 March 2019

Scholar's Platform,

Farzana Yeasmin, from Bangladesh, is currently studying a Master of Public Health at Flinders University with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. After starting her Scholarship in 2018, she quickly found ways to further her development in her field. Notably, last year she was selected to present at an annual conference in the United States.

Before receiving her Scholarship, Farzana worked at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDRB) as a scientist. After she began her studies at Flinders University last year, she submitted an abstract to be considered for presentation at the Water and Health Conference hosted each year by the University of North Carolina’s Water Institute. The conference explores drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene and water resources in both the developing and developed worlds, with a strong public health emphasis. Farzana’s abstract (‘Tailoring the approach for implementing an integrated intervention package of WASH, maternal and child nutrition, child stimulation and prevention of lead exposure for a trial in rural Bangladesh’) was peer reviewed and selected for a verbal presentation. She then travelled to the United States in late October 2018 to take part in the five-day conference.

Farzana says that the conference was an excellent networking opportunity for the water sanitation and related health sector and that it gave her the chance to meet practitioners from across the world. A number of her colleagues from ICDDRB travel each year to attend the conference and she welcomed the chance to reconnect with them, as well as make new connections. Networking with professionals from a wide range of countries allowed her to learn best practices, with the hope of implementing them in Bangladesh upon her return.

One person Farzana connected with at the conference was Professor Stephen P. Luby, a leading American academic in her field, whom Farzana has since begun collaborating with. Professor Luby, from Stanford University, has previously conducted similar research about reducing harmful exposure to lead among residents of rural Bangladesh. He and Farzana are now working together on an upcoming manuscript. She hopes that this connection will continue to prove invaluable as she works in partnership with leading practitioners in her field on research to improve the water sanitation in her country.

While studying through her Australia Awards Scholarship, Farzana has gained a good insight into the socio-determinants of health and how they relate to water sanitation and hygiene, as well as to disease and illness. Her courses have connected her with other international students—from countries such as Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia—who hope to improve conditions regarding water sanitation and hygiene in their respective homelands. Farzana says that the Kenyan and Bangladeshi public health systems are very similar. She hopes that staying connected with her Kenyan classmates will help continue some of the exploration that ICDDRB has undertaken in terms of incorporating features of the Kenyan system.

When she returns to Bangladesh, Farzana hopes to work in rural areas where there is a high demand for water sanitation and hygiene improvement. She believes that a greater awareness is needed in water sanitation and hygiene within these rural areas. She would like to work towards introducing pilot studies providing low-cost hardware for a trial intervention in proper solid waste management.

Farzana aims to continue her research and look for ways to help influence policy implementation; she plans to disseminate the results of her studies and the policy implications and recommendations that she finds. Her ultimate goal is to work with the government and policy makers to bring about policy change and actions, but she recognises that the political environment makes this a difficult task that will require her continued determination. She aspires to become one of the top scientists in her field and eventually undertake a PhD.

We wish Farzana the best for the remainder of her studies in Australia!

Submitting an abstract for a conference, as Farzana did, can be an excellent way to raise your professional profile.  Presenting at a conference, or simply attending a conference (if you are not comfortable presenting) can be very worthwhile. Attending networking events or public lectures in your field can also be a good opportunity to meet academics and professionals and build your networks.