Neha D’Souza – Winner of the 2012 Dean’s Prize for the Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation Program
Neha D’Souza’s keen sense of social consciousness appeared early when she stated she would grow up to be an environmentalist in her third grade exercise book. Thirteen years later, she graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of International and Global Studies during which time she volunteered regularly with UNICEF Australia. In 2012, Neha worked at Amnesty International Australia as an Operations and Marketing intern extensively promoting the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations using social media and street petitions. Neha is currently employed in a graduate development program with the Australian Public Service and she plans to continue promoting social justice and human rights in this new context.
“The first semester of the Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation Program (Asia Pacific region) has been a whirlwind affair. In just thirteen weeks I forged deep and sincere friendships with talented and passionate individuals from over thirty different countries. Not only did I gain amazing theoretical insights from the personal experiences of my colleagues, but also the lecturers Dinesh, Michael and Elizabeth, who excelled at presenting a crash course in human rights and democratisation theory and research methods for those students (like me) who have had few experiences in the field. Through coursework, I became acquainted with the tactics of human rights activism in a variety of different media formats from writing press releases to producing emotive videos and conducting information gathering interviews. The support from the administration staff was exemplary, in particular the enthusiasm of the 2012 course director Susan Banki, who took special pains to design simulation assessment tasks so that they mirrored the kinds of challenges activists would face in real life. Overall, the MHRD program gave me foundational knowledge about the way in which the NGO sector operates and innumerable ideas on how activism can be tailored to suit organizational needs. The highlights of the program included being flown to Darwin to meet refugees in detention, collaborating in groups to stage a demonstration that expressed solidarity with the West Papuan people and being lectured by fascinating and renowned guest speakers from organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. I am honoured to be a recipient of the Dean’s Award and I am grateful to be a part of the extensive network of human rights defenders that was established as a result of this experience.“
Statement from former MHRD Director Dr Susan Banki:
“Neha exemplifies the best qualities of the Master of Human Rights and Democratisation. She is an excellent writer, an industrious researcher, and possesses a fine ability to marry theoretical and practical concepts in her written work. In addition, she presents exceptionally well in spoken assignments and offers rich insights in class discussion. More importantly, and relevant to the degree, she has a commitment to developing a nuanced understanding of the roots of human rights violations through critical examinations of inequality and injustice. Her intellectual prowess and maturity are a credit to the program.”