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Academic Holhuashi 2023: Exchanging ideas to facilitate community development

Posted: 23 June 2023

Maldives, Experience, Impact,

Academic Holhuashi is an important platform initiated by Maldives Australia Alumni (an association for Australia Awards graduates in Maldives), based on the strategic priorities of alumni relationship building, promoting education in Australia, alumni development and community development.

The name ‘Academic Holhuashi’ derives from Maldivian cultural resting places, ‘Holhuashi’, where people gather to discuss day-to-day community issues as well as national and global political, social and economic topics. Inspired by this concept, Maldives Australia Alumni created a platform to develop partnerships with different educational institutions in the country to exchange ideas that can positively affect community development.

The first Academic Holhuashi was a public research forum held in August 2018, in collaboration with the Maldives National University, with the aim of fostering academic dialogue among Australia Awards alumni, university students and the general public.

Australia Awards alumna Dr. Fathimath Nishan raising a question following a presentation.

This year’s Academic Holhuashi was held in partnership with the Institute of Research and Innovation at Villa College, a prestigious private education institution in the country. The event, which was supported by Australia Awards, took place on 11 February 2023. The forum focused on community development projects, with inspiring individuals delivering presentations about their efforts through eight separate projects in different parts of Maldives.

The projects showcased at the forum covered a variety of fields, such as security, sustainable development, environment, agriculture, education, health and gender. The specific topics of the projects ranged widely, from renewable energy to the role of public librarians as community mobilisers. The participants presenting these projects represented non-governmental organisations (such as Hoadehdhoo Rehendhi Jamiyya, Maldives Wetlands Foundation, Small Island Geographic Society and Island Wetlands), government ministries (including the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology and the Ministry of Education) and the education sector (in the form of the Maldives National University).

Australia Awards alumna Mariyam Rifga presenting her work.

As has been the case at previous Academic Holhuashis, bringing together participants from different areas of expertise proved to be very fruitful. This year’s forum facilitated impactful and meaningful discussions regarding developmental issues at both national and community levels across Maldives.

In addition to the project presentations, the Academic Holhuashi also included workshop components such as a brief about the Australia Awards Small Grant Scheme 2023 by Andrea David (Program Officer from Australia Awards – Sri Lanka and Maldives) and an overview of impact assessments and insights into developing monitoring and evaluation frameworks from Fathimath Shamah, Dr Sheena Moosa and Aiman Rasheed.

Participants involved in a group discussion following the end of the presentations.

This year, the Academic Holhuashi was conducted in a hybrid format, with approximately 20 participants attending the forum in person and five other participants joining online. In addition, staff from Australia Awards – Sri Lanka and Maldives also joined the forum.

The workshop concluded with remarks by Sajani Ranatunge (Country Program Manager of Australia Awards – Sri Lanka and Maldives) and Hawwa Leesha (Chairperson of Maldives Australia Alumni).