Dr Ahmed Shahid, Australia Awards alumnus, is using the knowledge and skills he gained during his doctoral studies in Australia to oversee high-quality research in his home country of the Maldives and to consult on human rights issues at an international level.
Prior to his Australia Awards Scholarship, Dr Shahid worked as Secretary General of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), where he was responsible for managing the Commission’s programmes and activities. It was during this time that he became aware of the enormous challenge the Maldives was facing in strengthening the human rights culture in the country. He resolved to study human rights at a doctoral level so he could further use his knowledge to advocate for change.
With the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship, he travelled to Australia in January 2012 to undertake his PhD on human rights at the University of Sydney. His thesis focused on how state resources can best be used to promote economic, social and cultural rights.
“Australia Awards provided me with the most valuable opportunity to build my academic profile and establish a career path in academics,” he says.
Since returning to the Maldives in late 2015, Shahid has worked in senior positions in two higher education institutions while providing consultancy services to a number of local and international organisations such as government ministries and United Nations agencies, developing national policies and action plans on human rights and governance.
He is currently Dean of Research at the Institute for Research and Innovation at Villa College, the leading private tertiary education institute in the Maldives. Dr Shahid is responsible for promoting research amongst students and academics in the college while ensuring that the quality of research output is relevant and of a high quality. He develops policies, guidelines and procedures for maintaining quality research and works on proposals for research grants and funds for the college, ensuring that the college maintains a high academic reputation, both nationally and internationally.
He also provides consultancy services as the Special Advisor to the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Denmark), supporting the capacity-building of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) around the world.
Dr Shahid says that Australia was the ideal environment for his doctoral research. He learned and internalised the values of Australian society and how each and every person can contribute towards the greater good.
“The opportunity to study in Australia was really valuable and fulfilling for me,” he says. “Although I had been to Australia and to Sydney before, settling down as a student was a new experience.”
Dr Shahid says he enjoyed adjusting to student life in Australia. He particularly appreciated the opportunity to immerse himself in the Australian culture and make new friends both within and outside the university. He is also grateful to Australia Awards for providing the chance for his family to join him, with his children attending school in Australia during the course of his studies.
He remembers with fondness how friendly and helpful Australians were: “I felt more at home in Australia than anywhere else in the world, even compared to the Maldives. My family also found Australia to be the most ideal place to live and we still maintain a very close touch with what’s going on in Australia – including watching ABC News regularly.”
During his time in Australia he was the international consultant to the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (based in Sydney), on 10 international projects – including working with NHRIs in the Asia-Pacific region conducting capacity assessments and various development activities.
With the support of Australia Awards he was able to build a strong network of scholars and established academics, which allowed him to conduct collaborative research with Australian academics even after his return to the Maldives and to publish articles in international refereed journals.
Dr Shahid’s goal is to continue advancing his academic career and contribute to the intellectual and social development of the Maldives. He aspires to build a strong presence in the field of international consultancy, particularly in the area of human rights and governance.
He acknowledges the role Australia Awards has played in his career advancement, and the support it has provided in educating Maldivians, especially those who are willing and able to make a difference in society.
“Australia Awards has undoubtedly helped build a strong momentum in the development efforts of Maldives,” Dr Shahid says.
“Despite the enormous challenges we have in this country – particularly in the areas of democracy, governance and human rights – there is always hope and possibility to steer the direction of the nation with the full commitment and involvement of educated youth. With a large number of Australia Awards alumni in the country, there is a critical mass of educated youth to make a difference.”