Indrani Chakma

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Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 14:30
  • Australia Awards
  • Bangladesh

From a remote Indigenous community in Bangladesh to a career crossing the globe—all with the help of her Australian studies.

For Indrani Chakma, from an Indigenous community in Bangladesh, the opportunity to study in Australia provided more than a Masters’ degree. It expanded her horizons and gave her a new found resolve she had never previously dreamed of.

“Being a young female in Australia I had the freedom to move around which would have been very restricted in my country at that time in the 1990s. This helped to build my confidence and played a big part in my personal and professional growth,” Indrani said.

“As a graduate from a remote, hard-to-reach district it was amazing to have the opportunity to study in a country where I was able to take my thinking to a global level.”

A public health and nutrition specialist, Indrani has worked for UNICEF for almost two decades now, and her expertise in implementing and monitoring population-based health and nutrition programs has been invaluable across the globe.

Her career took off after she received an Australia Award and completed a Masters of Community Nutrition at the University of Queensland in 1993, which not only provided the knowledge but also the inspiration to take her work to another level.

“Being a medical graduate, I had a background in individual health care but my postgraduate study in Australia broadened my understanding of bigger picture public health issues. After completing the Masters I moved to the public health sector in Bangladesh, where I have worked for more than 20 years in population-based health and nutrition programs.”

“For most of that time a large focus was on public health and nutrition programs aimed at reducing the burden of preventable diseases. In Bangladesh one of the biggest challenges remains reducing newborn mortality and stunting,” she said.

In 2015 Indrani was deployed to assist in UNICEF’s emergency nutrition response during the Eastern Ukraine crisis.

“I worked with the Ministry of Health and public representative in the Ukraine to promote breastfeeding and create an environment where working mothers could breastfeed comfortably and fulfil their rights. We also promoted breastfeeding in conflict zones and worked with the private sector to stop the distribution of baby formula to these areas,” she said.

During this assignment she was offered the Health Specialist position for UNICEF Malawi, where she is currently managing the community health system.

“Integrated health and nutrition intervention is a challenge in Malawi, though there is a very good platform for community health in place. Addressing gender inequality is also a big concern,” Indrani said.

But Indrani is relishing the challenge and believes opportunities like this, to really make a difference, have opened up to her because of her scholarship in Australia.