I first joined POLIS as a Development Studies student in 2000. After completing the course and a year working and travelling abroad I returned to POLIS to study an MA in International Studies.
Since graduating in 2005 I have been living in London working in the charity sector, for international and UK NGOs specialising in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
My passion for development
I chose to study development at Leeds because I was passionate about humanitarian and development issues and was interested in pursuing a career in that field. I’d always enjoyed travel and had gap year before university teaching English in China which also inspired me to take the course. I visited the university before applying and really liked the feel of the campus as well as what I saw of the city.
My time at Leeds
I loved practically every minute of my time as a student in Leeds. Meeting so many other students, some who will be your friends for life, is definitely one of the highs. As well as all the opportunities to get involved in such diverse and inspiring interests and causes.
I was Campaigns Manager for the Stop AIDS society, for example, and also taught sex and relationships education in Leeds schools as part of a scheme with other students. Getting involved with societies and campaigning activities is a lot of fun, at the same time as being great for your CV and a helping hand when it comes to writing job applications.
Leeds is a great city for students. The night life is fantastic and there’s something for everyone, no matter your taste in music, clubs etc. I really liked how close the university was to both the city centre and the areas where most students lived. Hyde Park, with the student hang outs, shops and cafes was definitely the place for me.
I really enjoyed both my courses and they definitely helped me to begin a career in international development, as well as to specialise in my chosen area. Towards the end of my BA, while working on my dissertation on gender inequality and HIV/AIDS in South Africa I developed a particular interest in gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Going on to study an MA in International Studies (also in POLIS) gave me the opportunity to pursue these areas more closely. In particular, I was fortunate enough to be granted funding to undertake research in Sri Lanka for my MA dissertation.
As part of an EU Gender and Public Policy in Asia Link Scheme I completed three month’s research in areas of Sri Lanka affected by the tsunami crisis, on the topic of violence against women during natural disaster. Focusing on the role of international organisations in prevention and response to post-disaster violence enabled me to interview staff from women’s organisations, international NGOs and UN agencies, giving me a good insight into humanitarian programming. I was really grateful to my tutor, Professor Ruth Pearson for supporting me with this work.
While in Sri Lanka I used the opportunity to get some work experience through an internship with the Women’s Division of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. This experience, building on my qualifications from POLIS, has certainly benefited my career. After graduating, to publish my research from Sri Lanka, I wrote a journal article and book chapter which has also helped me in working as a researcher.
After graduating with an MA in International Studies, my first job was working for an African women’s rights organisation based in London. Initially this was mostly an administrative post, but it was a foot in the door and led to an Information and Communications role in the same organisation.
It was my development qualifications from POLIS and relevant work experience that helped me to get this first job. Wanting to work in policy and research, my next job was working as a Policy & Research Officer for a UK maternity organisation. This entailed moving out of the development field, but I continued to work on women’s health and rights and hoped that I would be able to move back into the development sector when I had more experience.
After a promotion in that organisation I moved back into the international sphere, though a little later than I initially planned. My time at POLIS, with the qualifications as well as the experience I gained, has undoubtedly enabled me to pursue a career in international development.
My current role
I’m currently working as a Research & Communications Officer for Population and Sustainability Network, a network of international organisations promoting closer collaboration between development, environment and reproductive health organisations on population issues.
My main responsibilities are undertaking research to support advocacy work, and managing communications, including the website. As a small organisation my role is fairly diverse and gives me the opportunity to get involved in many areas of work.
I also have a voluntary marketing and communications role with Abortion Support Network – a newly established charity helping women in Ireland to access safe and legal abortions in England.