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Alumni in South and West Asia mark World Environment Day

Posted: 12 August 2020

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, Environment, Impact,

Since 2015, Australia Awards – South and West Asia has founded alumni Communities of Practice (CoPs) to link together alumni working in similar fields. These CoPs are normally launched as part of the annual Regional Alumni Workshops. To date, four CoPs have been established: the Women in Leadership Network, the Inclusive Education Group, Development Innovators, and the Champions for Environment and Climate Action.

The CoPs lead and contribute to country-level and multi-country events, including those held to mark significant United Nations days. On Friday 5 June 2020, more than 70 Australian alumni from South and West Asia took part in an online forum to mark World Environment Day, led in part by the Champions for Environment and Climate Action alumni CoP. Other alumni initiatives were also rolled out across the region to mark the day.

World Environment Day forum

Consistent with the theme of the forum, which was ‘Biodiversity Conservation in South and West Asia’, alumni and other key speakers discussed common environmental issues in the region, concerted actions taking place or needed, the role of women and youth in biodiversity conservation, and best practices from policy to implementation.

The speakers included Australia Awards alumni from Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka who are working in the field of biodiversity conservation and environmental protection in their respective countries. Learn more about the forum speakers here.

Speakers and participants during the World Environment Day forum on ‘Biodiversity Conservation in South and West Asia’

Social media contest

The forum concluded with alumni being encouraged to join the World Environment Day 2020 #ForNature campaign, and contribute to climate action by learning, sharing and acting on environmental issues. Specifically, a social media contest was launched to provide an incentive for alumni to take climate actions in their communities or organisations.

The social media contest aimed to support the United Nations’ World Environment Day campaign to promote worldwide awareness and to encourage action to protect the environment. Over the years, World Environment Day has grown to become one of the largest global platforms for environmental public outreach and is now celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries each year.

Throughout June 2020, alumni and alumni associations undertook various environmentally-friendly activities as part of the contest. Alumni showcased their activities through social media, using the hashtags #ForNature, #WorldEnvironmentDay and #AustraliaAwards.

The three most impressive climate action activities promoted on social media were initiated by the following alumni:

  • Tashi Wangdi, an Australia Awards alumnus from Bhutan, ran a tree-planting drive on Social Forestry Day, which coincided with the anniversary of the fourth Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan’s coronation and was also the third anniversary of iHub, Tashi’s start-up company. His initiative aims to organise tree-planting events every two months over a 12-month period.
  • Dr Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiyan, an Australia Awards alumnus from Bangladesh, led activities through his employer, the Organisation for Human Development Initiatives through Research (OHDIR) Foundation, including partnering with Probritto to organise online events to engage the youth on climate change issues. Mahfuzur was also part of the OHDIR team that organised Naturenival 2020, an initiative to raise awareness about environmental issues through art.
  • Samar Sultana, an Australia Awards alumna from Pakistan who has been creating awareness of the environmental footprint of restaurants, intensified her advocacy in this area. She worked with fellow restaurant owners and renowned personalities (chefs, social media influencers) to reduce food waste and plastic pollution in the food industry in Pakistan.

Other notable activities promoted on social media included those of Bhaskar Saha, Australia Awards alumnus from Bangladesh, who led a tree-planting activity with his colleagues from Bangladesh Police, and the partnership of Tshering Palden and Ugyen Penjore, Australia Awards alumni from Bhutan, who cleaned a brook in Thimphu as part of an activity of the Bhutan Australia Alumni Association.

The Youth Caring Community (YCC) won the Bhutan Australia Alumni Association Trash Challenge in Thimphu

Activities of alumni associations

Alumni associations in the region also organised activities related to environmental protection for World Environment Day.

The Bhutan Australia Alumni Association, supported by the Australia Awards team, held a Trash Challenge. This involved six registered groups competing to clean areas in and around Thimphu, with the groups taking ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos for assessment by the coordinators from the alumni association. Evaluation of entries was based on the difficulty of the location that was cleaned, the size of the area, the quantity of waste collected and a public vote on social media (Facebook).

The Maldives Australia Alumni Association organised an online discussion on ‘Sustainable Living’ on 8 June through Zoom and Facebook Live. The session featured alumni and industry experts; more than 1000 views were recorded on Facebook Live.

If you are an Australia Awards alumni and you would like to join one of our Communities of Practice and/or would like to offer ideas for future alumni activities within these themes, please email us at alumni@australiaawardssouthwestasia.org

Image at top of page thanks to Freepix