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Australia Awards alumni scale up innovations

Posted: 5 March 2019

Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Impact,

Australia Awards supported alumni and alumni groups from South and West Asia to implement innovative activities through the Alumni Innovation Challenge in 2017.

As a part of the activity, 35 alumni, including alumni groups, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka received grants amounting to AUD 84,000 to implement innovative solutions to development issues in their respective countries. The participating alumni presented on their innovations and attended professional development activities during the Regional Alumni Workshop, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in November 2017.

Recent updates from the Australia Awards alumni about their innovations reflect the difference they are making in their home countries.

Engr Asfia Sultana initiated a project to minimise accidents and health hazards among workers involved in road construction in Bangladesh.

Engr Asfia Sultana conducting a training program on occupational health and safety in Bangladesh

As a continuation of her project, she conducted training programs for new officials of Bangladesh’s Road and Highways Department on occupational health and safety to demonstrate her ongoing interest and commitment to address the issue. She continues to receive support from her supervisors and her organisation, which has facilitated the expansion of her road workers’ safety program.

Using her grant, Dr Shashini Gamage created an alternative media space for women leaders in Sri Lanka. In the process, she documented the leadership journeys of Sri Lankan women across the country and from different fields and disseminated these inspiring stories through an online platform/blog called Women Talk.

Dr Shashini Gamage conducting Women Talk booth the at Good Market in Colombo

Since the launch of Women Talk, she has shared these stories and her work with other Australian alumni during the launch of the Australia Awards Women in Leadership Network in Colombo in March 2018. She is also actively sharing her work in different community activities in Sri Lanka. She set up an ‘experiential booth’ during the anniversary of Weekend Good Market in 2017. She was also a speaker during the International Women’s Day event at the Australian High Commission in Colombo in 2018. Shashini is now working to include Sinhalese and Tamil versions of the stories on her website in addition to the English versions that are currently on the website.

Dr Randika Jayasinghe’s project involved raising awareness about waste up-cycling and its economic benefits for small-scale businesses.

Dr Randika Jayasinghe speaking at the Regional Alumni Workshop 2017 Reception

Randika has presented her project at several events in Sri Lanka and in other countries. In 2018, she was recognised as a Green Talent by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research for her work in improving sustainability efforts in Sri Lanka. Some of the small businesses assisted by Randika’s project have started working with private sector partners.

In Nepal, Bishal Kumar Chalise has expanded and formalised the women’s group he organised as part of the digital savings for a women entrepreneur’s initiative.

Bishal Kumar Chalise (far right), with fellow Australia Awards alumni at the Regional Alumni Workshop 2017


The group is now in the process of formalising their business on digital saving. Bishal has used his learnings from the Alumni Innovation Challenge and the Regional Alumni Workshop in providing advisory support to the women’s group.

Each year, Australia Awards invite alumni from South and West Asia to participate in a Regional Alumni Workshop where alumni can learn, present their work and share experiences with fellow alumni and develop formal and informal networks. Topics that have been covered during the Regional Alumni Workshops include: women in leadership (2015), inclusive education (2016), development innovations (2017), and environmental protection and climate action (2018). The next Regional Alumni Workshop will be in September 2019 and will focus on alumni success stories.

Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships, Fellowships and Short Courses funded by the Australian Government. They offer the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia.

In the last five years alone, more than 1,000 Australia Awards Scholarships have been offered to individuals in South and West Asia to study in Australia. As of 31 December 2018, there were over 6,700 Australia Awards alumni from South and West Asia.

Australia Awards applications for study commencing in 2020 are now open and will close on 30 April 2019. For more information visit  https://www.australiaawardssouthwestasia.org.