Kizzy Tahin is passionate about understanding the different cultures of her native Bangladesh and helping communities like the Bauls, or travelling minstrels, to preserve and promote their unique and influential music.
Even though the Bauls make up a small percentage of the Bengladeshi population, they have played a major role in shaping the country’s culture, says Kizzy. “There is a long glorious history of Baul songs and philosophy in Bangladesh’ they gave us so many thoughts and ideas.”
“My studies helped me realise that culture is an integral part of achieving sustainable development,” she says.
“[Cultural] heritage is not only buildings – or the monuments, its more than that,” she says. “It has an intangible form as well, like music, your facial expressions, theatre, weaving, rickshaw painting everything is part of culture,” she says.
Kizzy has always been interested in culture and heritage, but it was while studying for a Masters in Environmental Sustainability at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, that she realised its full significance, inspiring her to pursue a career in this area.
“My studies helped me realise that culture is an integral part of achieving sustainable development,” she says. “Sustainable development has three components: social, economic and environmental. Environmental management is part of culture; social values are part of culture and your economic life is part of culture, so without culture you can’t achieve any goals towards sustainable development.’
‘I found living in Australia a very wonderful experience,” Kizzy says. “I found friends, and philosophers in my educational institutions and in my daily life, and I am still in touch with those people,” she says.
Retuning to Bangladesh in 2013, Kizzy was quickly offered a highly sought after role at the United Nations in the capital, Dhaka.
Today, as a Programme Officer with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Kizzy’s job focuses on preserving and promoting the intangible heritage of Bangladesh.
“I found living in Australia a very wonderful experience,” Kizzy says.
She travels widely to all corners of the country, working with different stakeholders, including communities like the Baul, to shape national policies aimed at ensuring that Bangladesh’s rich and varied intangible cultural heritage is retained.
“I believe communities need to be included in decision-making because it’s the community who have been safeguarding their culture for years and who possess the indigenous knowledge,’ she says. “Without them we can’t safeguard or promote their culture.”