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News & Blog > News > Meet IDS Scholarship Students > Meet Scholarship Students 2020-2021

Meet Scholarship Students 2020-2021

Meet this year's (2020-21) IDS Graduate Scholarship Students- Dolapo, Gertrude and Atefeh. Learn about their journey to studying at IDS and plans for the future.
L-R Dolapo Olaniyan, Gertrude Ashilley, Atefeh Asfari
L-R Dolapo Olaniyan, Gertrude Ashilley, Atefeh Asfari

IDS would like to say a massive thank you to all IDS Alumni who have supported the IDS Scholarship Fund. Your donations are essential to help students like Gertrude, Dolapo and Atefeh get to IDS and enjoy the unique experience of studying here.  It is only with the generosity of IDS alumni that we are able to offer these scholarships. To find out more, including how to donate to the Scholarship Fund, please visit our Support Us page.

Once again, IDS has the very difficult task of reviewing the hundreds of scholarship applications we receive, as young people all over the world strive to further their education. It is a rare privilege to see how much young people are able to achieve these days, to read their statements and to select the most creative, innovative and inspiring to study at IDS.  The IDS Alumni have made these scholarships possible because of their commitment to work with IDS to address inequality, poverty and injustice in order to help create a world in which everyone can all live secure, fulfilling lives. I join our scholarship applicants and IDS in offering our Alumni a massive thank you for investing in these leaders of the future. Linda Waldman, IDS Director of Teaching & Learning

Read on to find out more about this year's IDS scholarship students.

Gertrude Ashilley, MA Poverty and Development

The high rates of poverty in rural Ghanaian societies, especially the northern parts of Ghana has economically disadvantaged the region and created both social and economic inequalities in the region. Even though these development challenges affect all individuals, discriminatory gendered practices have intensified the effects of poverty and inequality among women and children, particularly, girls. Cultural practices like child marriage, female genital mutilation and abuses like child trafficking and child labour have also undermined the rights and wellbeing of rural Ghanaian children, especially, girls and have become a bane to realizing and achieving their full potentials.

I believe that, neglecting a generation of children’s right to quality education is a sure means of passing poverty and inequality to the next generation. It is against this background that I volunteer as the Right to Education Coordinator for the Child Education and Women’s Empowerment for Development in Africa, a local non-governmental organization which works to promote children’s right to education and empower women.  As the Right to Education Coordinator, I am responsible for ensuring that, all children above four years in the Daffiema-Bussie-Issa District of the Upper West Region are enrolled in school. With the assistance of Field Officers, surveys were conducted in households to identify children who were missing education. These children were supported with school uniforms, books and other supplies based on their needs and enrolled in schools.

I also volunteered as the “Shepreneur” Project Coordinator, an intervention by the same NGO which provided vocational training for women in soap making, fabric weaving, dress making and bleach making. This project was implemented to make available skills for women to embark on entrepreneurship as a means of improving livelihood and alleviating poverty in the district. It is also forecasted to help bridge the gendered economic inequality gap and empower women economically.

Reduced inequality, both social and economic and reduced poverty are a gateway to development. The Institute of Development Studies’ MA Poverty and Development programme will present to me a deeper understanding of contemporary development theories and more importantly, practices that are relevant to reducing poverty and bridging the inequality gap in Ghana, especially in the northern part.

My studies will not only equip me with the knowledge, skills and experiences to address poverty and inequality but will also empower me to conduct independent research into under development in totality and provide expert contribution to the Child Education and Women Empowerment for Development in Africa, state and non-state organisations that share in my interest of alleviating poverty and bridging gaps in inequality in Ghana and beyond.

During the period of my studies, I will build a strong network with professionals, professors, students and colleague scholarship holders to share ideas and opportunities.

When I return home after my studies, I will effectively utilise my knowledge and experiences to enhance and expand our women empowerment programmes to other regions of the country.

I will also retain my current role as Child Protection Practitioner at the Department of Children (Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection) and the Centre for Child Rights and Welfare so I can integrate the new knowledge, skills and exposure into our Vulnerable Children and Family Welfare interventions to ensure that they are relevant, evident based and effective to addressing the welfare needs of children and their families.

My long term career goal is to become a Social Development Consultant. It is my dream to establish a consortium on Social Development to provide expertise on bridging the gap between development policy and practice in the areas of poverty reduction, women empowerment and child protection.

Dolapo Olaniyan, MA Power, Participation and Social Change

Just like 15 million girls across Africa, who yearly face inequalities that affect their well-being and overall productivity, I experienced the lack of access to contraception and gender-based violence before the age of 20.  These experiences augmented my desire to explore inclusive ways that promote the rights of young women and girls and enable them to exercise their rights without fear and limits.

I have garnered over 5 years’ work experience in active citizenship, advocacy and influencing on gender related issues.  In 2018, I was one of the 6 young policy leaders recognised in Nigeria under the British Council Future Leaders Connect Programme. Through this platform, I engaged 20 key community gatekeepers, 5 youth influencers and 6 traditional birth attendants across 5 female genital mutilation (FGM) high practicing communities in Ola-Oluwa local government area of Osun State to publicly declare abandonment of the practice and protect the rights of their women and girls, on the 6th of February 2019.  This was achieved with collaboration from high level stakeholders like the British Council, Action Health Incorporated and the Local Government Chairman of the area.  This victory accounted for a reduction in the practice across the communities; many citizens have since then taken it upon themselves to protect their daughters.  

In 2019, I worked with 44 young activists across Africa to develop a policy brief and petition on behalf of in commemoration of the International Women’s Day.  This brief helped us share our vision for gender equality and boldly demand accountability from African Leaders concerning the progress of gender equality in their respective countries.  We demanded a gender equality financial commitments package, a global, independent accountability mechanism, modelled on the Open Government Partnership, to promote gender equality, and finally, allocation of at least 85% of overseas development assistance to gender equality, of which 20% should promote gender equality as its primary purpose. Our petition was signed by 149, 891 Africans; this was a great success because our target was to reach out to 150,000 people across the continent.  

I currently use my platforms, the UnCUT Initiative and the Gender Network on Twitter to mobilize Africans to abandon FGM/gender-based violence and increase investments in women and girls respectively.  Since 2018, we have reached over 300,000 people across these platforms with key messages to change their behaviours.

Having an MA in Power, Participation and Social Change through the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) will complement my experience and enhance my work, where I amplify the voices of young women and girls in marginalized communities through evidence-based research, advocacy and sustainable programmes.  I look forward to learning at IDS, the dynamics of change, effective citizen engagement and participatory processes where ordinary citizens can demand for their rights and hold the government accountable to improve their outcomes.  

I will apply all what I have learned in IDS to augment my work as a young activist by ensuring interventions are human-centred and sustainable.  I will also start off initiatives where young people can highlight policy gaps, engage policymakers, and key decision-makers to demand accountability based on identified gaps.  While I hope to work closely with United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and top policy institutions, my long term goal is to work in academia and offer consultancy services to institutions and nations.

Atefeh Asfari, MA Globalisation, Business and Development

I was brought up in a religious city in Iran, where daily life brings a lot of challenges, from wearing compulsory hijab as a 6-year-old girl to normalisation of gender inequalities. I've always tried not to be silent toward discriminations, inequalities and imposed hardships.

Besides my professional career as a biomedical engineer, a desire to 'make a difference' made me participate in social campaigns. One of them called the 'Salam Project' and was run by a group of HIV positive individuals and aimed to break the taboo of HIV/AIDS in Iran and increase the community's awareness. I also freelanced as a journalist in a private news media, 'Roozarooz', covering sociocultural issues, namely women issues. Also, I voiced my opposition to the organs trade; since kidney trading is legal in Iran, most people suffering from poverty engage in the market. As media plays a vital role in enriching public perception, I wrote an article titled "Kidneys on sale, in alleys of Tehran", dated November 21, 2013, in Shargh Newspaper, the leading Iranian reformist outlet.

Before joining IDS, I collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) country office in Iran as the technical consultant in Iran Covid-19 Emergency Response Project (ICERP). ICERP was supported with a loan from the World Bank to improve the availability of essential, life-saving medical devices and laboratory equipment for the national COVID-19 response. Throughout my 7 years of professional experience as a business developer in Iran’s public and private healthcare sectors, I built a strong relationship with medical device and pharmaceutical suppliers, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MOHME), women's rights activists, NGOs and international organisations such as WHO. I worked part-time with a team of data scientists at Iran Health Information Observatory, focusing on monitoring and analysing health data for the minister of health and policymakers.

I enjoy volunteering and have a strong sense of responsibility towards people. In the future, I would like to establish an NGO to improve women and girls' health in rural and marginalised areas of Iran and increase the community's awareness about child marriage, female genital mutilation, sexually transmitted disease such as HIV/AIDS.

Studying (MA Globalisation, Business and Development) at IDS is a game-changer for me and a stepping stone for my future career path. IDS Graduate Scholarship has provided me with an opportunity to study in a world-class teaching environment and broadened my knowledge and critical thinking in the development sector. I'm so grateful to the generous IDS Alumni for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

By making a gift to the Scholarship Fund you’ll help people with great potential, like Gertrude, Dolapo and Atefah, to realise their dreams and to contribute to building a better world. Find out more.

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