In honor of the International Day of the Girl Child (October 11th) and UN’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week (October 24th-31st) we are highlighting the expertise and experience of a few of our authors whose own research investigates topics related to gender and education. Here we're sharing a guest blog from Dr Arshima Champa Dost, an independent researcher and consultant who supports families and schools seeking to enhance their learning by using holistic methods to overcome personal, professional and organizational challenges.
I work as an action researcher, consultant and mentor for young people, parents, educators and professionals in different parts of the world to help them solve various problems in their academic, family, social and work life, by building their understanding of how to enhance their own emotional, intellectual and organizational capacity.
I trained in medicine at the University of Cambridge, did my PhD on individual and organizational capacity building from King’s College London, and completed my post-doctorate on education and aspirations. Through my experience as a researcher and practitioner in underprivileged rural as well as elite urban areas, I gained intersectoral and interdisciplinary expertise to assist individuals and organizations to boost their motivation and capabilities to work on a wide range of activities.
My work is directly related to SDG 4. Through work on education, I aim to build the hearts and minds of young people so that they later enter the workforce to develop programmes and policies that affect all other SDGs.
My main focus is to develop approaches to education that address both intellectual and emotional needs, to impact the hearts and minds of young people whose role is most significant in shaping the future of our world. I guide parents of school-going and homeschooling children to overcome their social and academic challenges.
My work with children and educators involves resolving the emotional barriers that affect their learning and teaching, particularly to enhance their positive behaviors with one another and to resolve academic and socioemotional problems in the classroom. When presenting my work in academic forums, I aim to enhance the awareness of researchers of how to develop meaningful research questions and methodologies in order to carry out research that is compassionate, hence having a greater positive impact on the world.
I believe that meaningful work must create impact first on my own character and behavior – I am also part of society, and if I am seeking to change the world without changing myself for the better, then there is a likelihood that I am unknowingly causing others greater harm than good. My work explores the complexity of social problems and their root causes, including the individual’s role within them, in order to help myself and relevant stakeholders to understand how these problems can be resolved at varied individual, interpersonal, collective and institutional levels of society.
Processes of change begin at the personal level, given that individual transformation is a necessary prerequisite to enabling institutional change. Whether problems concern demotivation at work, difficulties in learning, bullying in the classroom, or organizational challenges, I take a multidimensional approach to enhance the individual’s inner potential within the complexity of their family and professional context. My every mentoring experience with individuals and organizations gives me insights that I can share online with the public so that others can create similar impact elsewhere.
Gender equity is not simply a matter of targeting equal numbers, but about substantively changing our ways of working. My work on individual and organizational capacity building takes a bottom-up empathy-based approach rather than the dominant ‘hypermasculine’ efforts of top-down rigid mechanisms and instructional pedagogies. As a result, my work involves continuous mutual learning from young people and families, and so necessitates organic efforts to co-create change in society, rather than utilizing a rigid, structured, pre-planned approach. I work with both mothers and fathers as key change-makers in society, enhancing their involvement in the upbringing of children to strengthen their sense of belonging to wider communities. Enhancing empathy and building the maternal instinct of nurturing among stakeholders of all genders is key to my work.
Publishers should make educational writings more accessible to a wider range of audiences, in local languages, and at affordable costs in different parts of the world. Academic writings need to be simplified so that common people can benefit. Efforts should be made not simply to publish for the sake of publishing, but to ensure publications are truly novel and beneficial, rather than assimilating and rewriting previous ideas. Efforts should also be made to publish educational materials written by young people themselves, whose writings would be less alienating and more accessible for children, and can be more creative, innovative and heart-based than many educational materials produced by us as adults.
Funders and institutions need to be open to learning the dynamic and localized needs of beneficiaries in diverse and rapidly changing contexts. Being open-hearted, empathetic, listening, and willing to change one’s own prior notions as an institutional leader or funder is essential. Approaches to funding should be open to understanding beneficiaries’ real needs, rather than imposing preconceived needs that can result in harmful interventions.
Funding should prioritize research that strengthens processes and not only outcomes, given that genuine processes of substantive change, in which individuals and communities experience real empowerment, take considerable time. Demands to see immediate outcomes will often lead to either false impressions of benefit, or enforce impact that is superficial and temporary at best.
I seek critical feedback regularly from all the people I work with and value their opinions greatly, seeing how to improve my weaknesses and better direct my strengths. I reflect upon my own actions with a critical eye and considerable self-examination.
Most of my work involves action research, where I observe and sensitively look out for potential benefits and harms of my engagement with stakeholders during the research itself. I also strive to maintain long-term relationships with people so that the effects of my engagement become more evident over the years. In more formal qualitative/quantitative studies, I employ outside researchers to study the impact of my interventions so that more objective results can be demonstrated to the public that are academically rigorous.
Dr Arshima Dost is an independent researcher, consultant and mentor for young people, parents, educators and professionals.