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Tag: student voices


Student voices: Understanding the role of fathers in their young childrens care, health, and development


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This is part of a series of reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Joshua Jeong, Doctor of Science Global Health and Population 2019

Through the generous support of the South Asia Institute’s Winter session Research Grant, I was able to travel to Pakistan this January to launch a primary qualitative research study, which will comprise one chapter of my doctoral dissertation. More broadly, my dissertation utilizes a variety of methodologies to better understand how fathers contribute to their young children’s early well-being in specifically low- and middle-income countries. For my qualitative study, I am focusing specifically in Pakistan and employing both in-depth interviews and direct parent-child observations with mothers and fathers to understand drivers and experiences around parenting in the particular cultural context of rural impoverished Pakistan.

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Student voices: Tiger reserves and nature preserves


YinThis is part of a series of reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Mei Yin Wu, Harvard College ’17

This wintersession I interned with the Wildlife Conservation Trust as a fellow working in the economics division. Having had traveled a fair bit, I was surprised to find Mumbai a beast of its own. During the first couple of days in the city, I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of people and traffic. Mumbai is one of the ten most densely populated cities in the world (8 of which are in the Indian subcontinent). Due to the enormous size of the population, there is a large demand for motor vehicles, which inevitably contributes to higher levels of particulate matter in the air. Issues such as air pollution and water sanitation safety, however, are by no means unique to India. Most developing countries face these problems and in fact, most developed countries have experienced these issues in the past. But generally with consistently high growth rates, like the ones India has recently enjoyed, comes increased expectations of standards of life. I believe that India will face increasing pressure to combat the environmental issues that seem inherent to the process of economic development.

Despite the initial discomfort that came from adapting to new traffic patterns and air quality, I grew to appreciate the abundant diversity of Mumbai. Being a financial hub, Mumbai attracts people from all over India and as such, is home to many diverse cuisines and religious practices. I was able to sample Southern Indian street food at Matunga and “sizzlers,” Chinese Indian fusion dishes, in Nariman Point. According to my peer fellow, Pooja, people celebrate all religious holidays in Mumbai. In her circle of friends, her Muslim friends would invite her over for Eid, and she would return the favor when it came time for Diwali. Many people I spoke to seemed to disbelieve the claim of religious differences being the primary factor behind Indian-Pakistani conflict and instead viewed the conflict as a matter of politics. While the conversations I had were by no means necessarily indicative of popular opinion, it was interesting to hear local perspectives as a supplement to the views posited by Western professors.

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International Photo Contest Winners


Congratulations to the following Harvard College students, who were chosen by SAI as winners for the Office of International Education’s Annual International Photo Contest. Each year, undergraduates submit photos from their summer travels around the world, whether from study programs, grants, or internships, and SAI selects winners for photos from South Asia. The winners were announced at a reception on February 10.

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Student voices: Forest Practice in India


House_inside_areca_garden_at_Kabbinale,IndiaThe following report was written by Aaron David Mendonca, Master candidate in Design Studies, Energy & Environments, Harvard Graduate School of Design. Mendonca is the founder of the Craftsmen, the runner up in SAI’s 2016 Seed for Change Competition. The Craftsmen is small forest enterprise facilitator that creates new value chains, provides year-round employment, and trains communities in sustainable harvesting practices.

Mendonca received a summer grant from SAI to conduct further research on forest practice in India. The following is a report based on his summer.

The deadline to apply for this year’s Seed for Change Competition is February 15.

Organizations In The Field

Meetings and engagements were held with various entities ranging from Forest Communities, Village Economic Development Committees,  Producer Companies, Cooperatives, Self-help Groups, Chief Conservative Officers, Divisional Forest Officers, the Forest Research Institute Dheradun, Tourism Bodies, Research Organisations, Forest Product Enterprises, Investors and Support Institutions.

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Student voices: The Politics of Knowledge


In search of a South Asian climate: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

In search of a South Asian climate: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

This is part of a series of reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Joshua Ehrlich, PhD Candidate, Department of History

A summer research grant from the South Asia Institute took me recently to a handful of archives across the UK: three in Scotland and one in London. The research was primarily in English and Indo-Persian source materials connected with my dissertation, “The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge.” These materials ranged from the mundane to the mystical; from the collections and correspondence of administrators to the poems and petitions of scholars. My project aims to give a new account of the political and ideological uses of knowledge in South Asia, in the eventful decades around 1800. Such materials are its evidentiary bread and butter.

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Student voices: Jousting over Jurisdiction


S16_Priyasha_Entrance to NAI New Delhi OfficeThis is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Priyasha Saksena, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School 

In my doctoral dissertation, I am interested in unpacking the relationship between international law and empire. The existence of empires in a world of international law has always been a bit of a puzzle, since international law is supposed to be based on ideas of equality, sovereignty and justice. Some scholars argue that the existence of empires was an aberration in an otherwise equal world, an aberration corrected by the process of decolonization. Others argue that empires were central to the creation of modern international law, and particularly the concept of sovereignty, which is, therefore, encoded with ideas of civilizational difference. In my dissertation, I examine debates around the legal status of the princely states of colonial South Asia (entities that were not under British rule, but not wholly independent either) to suggest that the idea of sovereignty was a site of social and political struggle between the British and the South Asians. To support this claim, I focus on jurisdictional disputes between the princely states and the British empire to trace arguments made by British and South Asian lawyers, civil servants, administrators and intellectuals on ideas of sovereignty.

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Student voices: Teaching history through empathy


15193682_1146680992035386_9720135855591234_nThis is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Asad Liaqat, Doctoral candidate, Public Policy PhD program, Harvard Kennedy School; SAI Graduate Associate

This summer I worked with “The History Project” (THP) in Lahore, Pakistan to develop an evaluation strategy for an exciting set of workshops they are doing with school children. These workshops are aimed at improving critical thinking and increasing empathy in schoolchildren in Pakistan and India. As a researcher, my role in these workshops is to design an evaluation strategy to ascertain the impact of these workshops on critical thinking and empathy in children.

The workshops in themselves are borne out of THP’s previous work in schools in India and Pakistan, introducing children to the idea that there is multiplicity in historical narratives. They decided to place versions of the same incidents from Indian and Pakistani textbooks right next to each other and simply show that to students, taking in their reactions and learning how the rigid notions of right and wrong formed due to particular forms of socialization in formative years could be broken. Having gone through that development phase, THP was ready to start piloting its workshops this summer, and I formed a partnership with them to evaluate the impact of their interventions.

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Student voices: Underground banking in Myanmar


tumblr_inline_o8iqcdVA091rpydu2_500This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Jasmine Chia, Harvard College ‘18

This summer, I traveled to Myanmar and was able to do three things: learn Burmese reading and writing, change my thesis topic to a more suitable and interesting topic, and finally to make Burmese friends and connections. My initial objective in going to Myanmar was to research the Vipassana movement, with the intention of going to various temples that practiced this meditative form of Buddhism and interviewing participants to understand how the movement towards Vipassana Buddhism may be linked to political engagement. This was to be a comparative piece comparing Vipassana Buddhism in Myanmar to the Buddhism of the Thammakaya sect in Thailand, which also preached a form of Buddhism modernism that emphasized an individualist experience of enlightenment over a communal form of religious engagement. However, through a series of serendipitous events, I stumbled on a much more interesting phenomenon in Myanmar in explaining the links between capitalist religion and political engagement.

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Student Voices: Resilient Design to Resilient Buildings: Quality Assurance in Nepal’s Remote Mountains


This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Justin Henceroth, MDes Risk and Resilience, 2017, Harvard Graduate School of Design

There is little machinery available in remote parts of Nepal, so many construction tasks are done by hand, including bending rebar.

There is little machinery available in remote parts of Nepal, so many construction tasks are done by hand, including bending rebar.

The SUV slowed to a crawl as we prepared to cross the last of four causeways before we reached our destination—a construction site for a new police station in Dang District, Nepal. This site is not in the most remote part of Nepal, but in many ways this construction site embodies the challenges of building anything in this mountainous country. Despite being on the national East-West Highway, it took us nearly six hours to drive the 120 miles from the nearest city and the regional headquarters for UNOPS, the organization managing this project. It had not rained in over a week, so the road was clear, but the evidence of landslides lined the road for miles, and each causeway we crossed was still under a few inches of water. It was easy to understand how even a day of rain could quickly block some key section of this road—cutting off access between communities and the flows of people and materials.

As the reconstruction following last year’s earthquakes gets underway throughout Nepal, the limited access will prove a significant challenge for the communities, government agencies, humanitarian organizations, and donors that are all working to rebuild Nepal. Throughout the country, more than half a million homes need to be rebuilt, more than 30,000 classrooms have collapsed, and more than 400 health centers were completely destroyed. Many of the most damaged communities are in the remote hills that flank the Himalayas, with some villages accessible only by a multi-day walk.

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Student Voices: Women and mental illness


This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Angela Leocata, Harvard College ’18

Angela interned at Sangath in Goa, India over the summer to research community-based intervention for maternal depression

Angela, third from right, with her research team

Angela, third from right, with her research team

As an SAI grant recipient, I had the opportunity to return to Goa, India to continue research I began the previous summer with Sangath, an NGO and mental health research institution. Awarded the MacArthur Foundation’s International Prize in 2008 and a pioneer of task-sharing for mental healthcare to primary care and community workers, Sangath is one of the most influential health non-profit organizations, globally. The organization is co-founded by Vikram Patel, a world-renowned research psychiatrist, Professor of International Mental Health and Trust Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and 2015 recipient of Time Magazine’s “The Most Influential 100 People in the World.”

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