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For Elizabeth Mwangi, undertaking studies in international and community development has helped her to develop a comprehensive skill set that she is using to make a difference in third world countries.
A graduate of the Master of International and Community Development program at Deakin, Elizabeth currently works as a project officer with Catholic Relief Services Kenya (CRSK) based in Nairobi.
Elizabeth says she is greatly enjoying the challenge and hard work required to undertake her demanding role within the Justice and Peace unit of CRSK.
'My work involves developing new human rights advocacy proposals, managing six human rights advocacy projects being implemented by our partner organisations and funded by CRSK, and providing technical advice to those partner organisations and their staff in the areas of human rights, governance, lobbying, advocacy, justice reflection and implementation of programs to achieve peace and further community development.
'My projects focus on advocating and putting into place measures to prevent gender violence, female circumcision, domestic violence and early marriages. Other projects include training youth in Active Non Violence (ANV) skills, developing community policing programs, preventing insecurity and violence in the slums and advocating for good governance in the management of constituency development funds-these are funds given by the government to develop our local community programs.'
'The thing I love about my role is seeing a concept develop from a proposal into a full blown project and seeing communities seeking to protect their human rights because of an intervention by my organisation. The work is challenging, especially because success with projects that deal with advocacy on human rights issues is not always tangible since these projects target behavioural change and sometimes changes in policies that may take longer than the life of the project,' she says.
It was because of her determined pursuit of social justice to ensure the observance of human rights that Elizabeth came to study at Deakin, having previously studied degrees and diplomas in anthropology, business management and training in the UK .
'I wanted to study the course at Deakin to help broaden my understanding of human rights in the international system, to better understand how policies of international organisations affect third world development and to develop professional skills in community development methodologies using learning aids like the Participants Response Analysis, and through researching the design and planning of community projects.'
While some students can often find studying by distance education a daunting prospect due to the tyranny of distance-Elizabeth achieved outstanding academic results even though she was based on the other side of the world.
'My success was partly due to the fact that lecturers and tutors were very helpful with our assignments and coursework. Deakin Studies Online (DSO) was excellent in connecting students from all over the world and we were always able to get feedback from lecturers. Even when some lecturers were working from Tibet and Aceh during the tsunami disaster-they still gave us the necessary support!'
'The prompt delivery of library books to me in Kenya was great-it took less than two weeks! All the library, DSA and finance staff were very kind and assisted every time I had a problem. The support and the follow up was terrific-Deakin ensures you do not fail,' she says.
'I would highly recommend studying the masters course at Deakin-the topics and units are very relevant and constantly updated to reflect new trends in the international scene. The lecturers are well rounded and able to steer debates in topics students choose. The skills gained in the process of doing my course, like researching, assignment writing, analysis and using new programs like Endnote to do your work, are things to die for,' she says.
As for the future, Elizabeth says she plans to take on more positions of leadership in her homeland to further the causes of protecting human rights and developing underprivileged communities.
'I aim to become a lead consultant in training, conducting needs assessments and surveys in the areas of international and community development to better facilitate for local communities to take action against human rights violations that affect them,' she says.