What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests?
I am currently working on my research paper and policy brief for my Global Urbanism project on the “Women’s Everyday Struggles for Water Access, Sanitation and Hygiene in Dhaka”. My paper examines the everyday micro-politics and barriers faced by women especially when seeking to access resources including water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene management. I build on a feminist political ecology framework. My project has been inspired by my research interests on urban development policy in cities of the Global South, focusing on urban poverty and informal settlements and the right to the city through inclusive urban citizenship.
What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
I was inspired by my own journey and growing up as a teenager in Bangladesh. I used to see people living in informal settlements and struggle for food, money and water so often that it was a normal phenomenon for me to see someone asking for water. When I went to school as a young girl, I wondered if these people are poor perhaps because that is just their fate. It was not until I moved to Canada when I was 13 years old and continued my education further in critical thinking studies and International Development, that I was able to reflect upon the role of power and how it shapes the choices made by actors and governments and how particular actions and policies can lead to inequality, inequity, and social division, especially amongst the urban poor. Throughout my research and education, I hope to make a difference by shedding light upon the everyday struggles faced by the urban poor, and to advocate for policies that benefit them, especially regarding water access and menstrual hygiene management for women due to cultural taboos, stigma, and lack of access to resources.
What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
The project that I am currently working on is learning about inclusive community development planning within marginalized and minority communities, especially the Muslim community in Toronto, and to address Islamophobia and discrimination. Throughout this new project, I hope to create an advocacy platform for policy recommendations and best practices on how to have inclusive conversations and build relationships through critical community development planning that supports and protects all marginalized groups, especially the Muslim community in Toronto.
As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
A major lesson that the pandemic has taught me is the vitality of the ethics of care and building community through these difficult times. When the pandemic first started, I was greatly disturbed to see how people were putting their need to gain a surplus of protective resources such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer and other utilities rather than being considerate of those who may not have access to these resources. It made me realize that the biggest thing we, as a global community, need more than ever, is supporting one another through love and care and continuing to foster relationships through equity. We can easily reach out to one another especially in an era of Zoom and reflect upon the impact of the pandemic in our lives together by prioritizing our mental health. I also believe that within the ethics of community care, comes caring, advocating and providing resources, especially for those living in homeless shelters as well as those in long-term care homes.
Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
I remember the first day we had our Fellow and Academy Member orientation at the Myhal Centre. I was very excited to be a part of the School of Cities as I have been trying to be part of the Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program for over a year. I remember during the orientation, I was so happy and grateful to be chosen to be a part of a broader community of researchers and changemakers ready to showcase their passions and talents through their projects. While COVID-19 has definitely impacted the original format of the program and our lives in many different ways, I’ve learned many valuable lessons from being at the School of Cities during this time such as patience, hard work and perseverance to keep on with my research. At one point, I was almost ready to give up but I am glad I kept on pushing myself to finish my project as I had so much support from Professor Marieme Lo, my mentors Nusrat and Rebecca and everyone else at the SofC team to keep me going.
Any final word or message?
My journey being a part of the School of Cities Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has been truly meaningful and has shaped my thoughts and ideology on how to have critical research methods with a creative output in many ways. I hope to continue on this path as I go further in my studies. This is definitely not goodbye as I hope to apply as a Fellow next year.