Asians awarded for their work on human development

Bangkok, Jan.13: Journalists from Bhutan and India and researchers from Indonesia and Vietnam have been recognized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for their work on women's status in the region and climate change, themes that are central to progress on human development.

This year two journalists and two researchers have been awarded fellowships under UNDP's Asia-Pacific Human Development Fellowships to deepen their analytical capacity for cutting edge research on human development and to strengthen policy advocacy.

The Fellowships, initiated in 2005, offer grants each year in two categories: to Asia-Pacific PhD students to pursue academic research and to mid-level career journalists from the region for more in-depth research and to develop media products in their chosen field. Both fellowships are rooted in themes that reinforce human development and are critical for the region in achieving the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The media award supports Ms. Kesang Dorjee (Bhutan) and Ms. Naghma Iman (India) for their pioneering work on advancing the status of women in their countries. The academic award supports Ms. Abidah Billah Setyowati (Indonesia) and Mr. Ngoc Ho Son (Vietnam) for their ground breaking research in assisting their countries' policy makers to address the human impacts of climate change.

"The true spirit of the Fellowships lies in their ability to engage and promote change from within and to push the boundaries of human development thinking and advocacy" explained Dr. Anuradha Rajivan Team Leader for the Asia-Pacific Human Development Reports.

Kesang Dorjee, an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker in Bhutan has sought to address issues concerning women and children in her country over the past 13 years. Her work under the Fellowship focuses on visual media, an interactive website forum and a series of regional workshops to inspire a new generation of women leaders. Bhutan made its transition to a democratic constitutional monarchy in 2008 and while more than fifty per cent of Bhutan's population is female, their political representation is critically low. Kesang hopes that with her project, "Inspiring Women to Lead", Bhutan will see many more women leaders in the forefront participating and making Bhutan a vibrant democracy.

Naghma Iman is an independent filmmaker based in New Delhi, India. For the last twelve years she has been making contemporary documentaries covering gender issues in her country. Under the Fellowship, Naghma will produce a short film on girl slum dwellers in Jogeshwari, Mumbai - India's commercial capital. Through the eyes of one resident woman, "The Shifting Line" will analyze issues of education, hunger and the aspiration to learn among girl slum dwellers.

Ho Ngoc Son is a PhD student at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra. His thesis analyses the processes and factors that shape people's vulnerability to climate change in the northern uplands of Vietnam. The aim of his study is to develop a framework for policy and management responses which enable local communities to improve their livelihoods and manage natural resources sustainably under conditions resulting from climate change. Insights from this study suggest that building resilience into both human and ecological systems is an effective way to cope with environmental change, including both future and uncertain risks.

Abidah Billah Setyowati is a PhD student in political ecology in the Geography Department of Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. Through an in-depth study combining multiple methods, her thesis will explore whether and how Indonesia's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus (REDD+) project can contribute to human development in the region. The research will specifically focus on exploring the social benefits of the REDD+ project in Ulu Masen, Aceh. The broader aim of her research will be to assist policy makers to develop better tools for the assessment of climate change mitigation projects, so that such projects are more likely to empower forest dependent communities.

"The Fellowships continue to inspire young people from Asia-Pacific developing countries to work toward promoting human development and achievement of the MDGs," added Nicholas Rosellini, UNDP's Deputy Regional Director for Asia-Pacific.

An international panel of judges including Asia-Pacific experts from universities, media, and international agencies determined this year's winners.

Mumbai News

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