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Shahnaaz Ansari: Gaining skills to support equitable water access in Nepal

Posted: 10 December 2020

Nepal, Experience, Impact, In Australia, Scholar, Videos,

Australia Awards scholar Shahnaaz Ansari is the first Muslim female civil engineer from Nepal. Women are under-represented in engineering worldwide and the situation in Nepal is no exception. Shahnaaz has overcome these odds thanks to her hard work and determination.

To further develop her skills and qualifications, Shahnaaz is currently pursuing a Master of Engineering (Water Resources Management) at the University of South Australia. Her goal is to become an expert in her field and serve her country when she returns home.

Shahnaaz believes that an Australia Awards Scholarship offers a life-changing opportunity to acquire the world-class education that Australian universities provide.

“I am pleased to be awarded an Australia Awards Scholarship,” Shahnaaz says happily. “I’m trying my best to use this opportunity, a lifelong opportunity, and to give my best in my studies, in my career, in my everything.”

Shahnaaz highly recommends the Scholarship to anyone applying from Nepal, and says that she chose Australia Awards “because of the support and guidance provided by the team, from the application to the pre-departure phase”. The assistance was invaluable. “This support greatly increased my confidence when preparing myself for an international degree,” she says.

Shahnaaz Ansari on campus at University of South Australia with Australia Awards alumnus Saad Ahmed Khan from Pakistan

“Nepal is recognised as the second richest country in terms of water resources availability,” Shahnaaz says, a statistic that stands in stark contrast to the fact that a large portion of Nepal’s population does not have access to clean water. She adds that Nepal faces natural calamities, with many areas being affected by floods. Due to the flooding, Shahnaaz explains, the infrastructure that is put in place for water resources often needs to be repaired and rebuilt. Her interest in studying water resource management stemmed from her understanding of this problem in her home country.

Before coming to Australia, Shahnaaz was a consultant for the United Nations International Labor Organization in Nepal. Her work for them was related to dams and other water projects, and she decided to come to Australia to gain more in-depth knowledge of the subject.

Shahnaaz shares that the structure of her coursework incorporates “real-world scenarios” that can be implemented in Nepal. She says that “every course involves analytical and critical thinking,” and that this approach to learning has provided her with “more confidence in solving technical issues with better strategies and planning”. Among the crucial skills that Shahnaaz is acquiring in Australia, “managing limited water resources” and “creating policies to develop green and clean cities” are the primary ones she wants to implement in Nepal.

Inspired by her study in Australia, Shahnaaz hopes to contribute towards sustainable development in Nepal through her new skills and knowledge in water resources management

According to Shahnaaz, the diverse and multicultural environment in Australia makes it more comfortable for international students to stay here. During the month-long Introductory Academic Program that preceded her coursework, Shahnaaz met many Australia Awards scholars from different countries and various backgrounds. “They’re all experts in their own field,” she says, adding that she was interested to learn how things worked in their countries. “It’s a platform of sharing knowledge, and I think it is quite useful,” she says. Shahnaaz feels confident that the friendships that she has cultivated in Australia “will last for a longer period, even after the studies”.

Shahnaaz believes that the main aim of Australia Awards is to build future leaders “by providing academic, personal and professional support through its various seminars, workshops and wellbeing events”.

She appreciates the opportunity to participate in global workshops that are offered by Australia Awards.

Upon her return to her home county, Shahnaaz wants to first focus on water and sanitation projects to help create sustainable development in Nepal. Through such projects, she hopes to work towards improving the lives of poor communities that live in low-lying flood-impacted areas.

In the long term, Shahnaaz wants to contribute to the education of girls, especially those coming from minority communities in Nepal. “I believe education is a lifetime investment,” Shahnaaz says, adding that teaching can change the life of a young woman and that educating a girl child ensures that you educate generations after her. “Even if one [person] can be inspired from me,” she says purposefully, “I can take that as an achievement for me.”