Gabrielle Szabo completed her Master of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development while working in human rights on two different continents.
At the start of her Masters, she was in Bangkok with the UN Population Fund and focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Next, as a private consultant, she advised on gender based violence and HIV with UN Women, and with community-based organisations, for men who have sex with men and transgender people.
“Being based in Bangkok allowed me to work across a number of Asia and Pacific countries including with the Global Fund Advocates Network on a ten country study for the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria,” Gabrielle adds.
Then, a year out from finishing her degree, she moved to London and began working for Save the Children as a health policy and advocacy adviser.
“I've always wanted to do work that made a difference,” she says. “To work on something that does nothing to address the injustice and suffering that so many people experience has always seemed a waste of time.”
“I quickly saw that delivering the rights that I studied in law school would require systemic change, to address inequalities between countries and to include voices excluded from development policy and programming, particularly through gender norm change.”
Gabrielle completed her Bachelor of Law (Honours) at ANU, alongside a Bachelor of Arts, followed by a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. When it came time to do her post-graduate degree, she was actually looking to study at an international university – but had trouble finding one that combined development and gender studies. It was in Thailand, of all places, where Gabrielle met someone who was doing the MAAPD by correspondence.
“I saw how highly regarded the qualification was within the sector. And the fact that I could study by correspondence at a reputable university, whilst continuing to gain experience in the field, was a huge plus point,” she says.
So began the start of what would become ten years at ANU – on campus and off. And Gabrielle certainly took notice of the technological advancements across that time.
“When I started my undergraduate degree, lectures were just starting to be recorded and by the end we were hovering around the few available power points having just transitioned to taking notes on laptops,” she recalls.
“We still had to visit the actual library and find a book on a shelf or in one of the compactus rooms with a warning sign on the door about spending too long down there because of the air quality!
“Now I've dialled into online classrooms from places as diverse as Bangkok, Johannesburg, Harare and London, posted podcasts as assessment items and been able to access complete, interactive books without leaving my bedroom.”
In reflecting on her experience doing the MAAPD, Gabrielle expressed her appreciation of the way her lecturers linked the theoretical and the practical, given their roles as both academics and practitioners.
“The participation and development focus of the degree also lent a practicality to the gender component that is not always available in gender studies courses and built a familiarity with gender analysis tools commonly used by development agencies and NGOs,” she adds.
In studying by correspondence, Gabrielle also found herself part of a small community of students with shared, but diverse, experiences.
“Students [were] often based in multiple continents [and] engaged in wide-ranging types of development work,” Gabrielle says. “As well, there were students from developing countries who were able to share valuable insights into the political, historical and cultural contexts that development practitioners would need to negotiate.”
Upon completing the MAAPD, Gabrielle promptly landed a new role with Save the Children UK, as a senior gender advocacy and research adviser within the International Development Division. She says the combination of impact analysis, gender and development theory and practice covered in the MAAPD helped her to secure the position.
“It’s exactly the sort of role I hoped that the course would prepare me for,” Gabrielle says.
“I look forward to applying what I have learned through my MAAPD degree and to getting better at what I do through increased experience on global level strategy and work in the field.”
Gabrielle blogs for Save the Children. Find the blog here, and follow her on Twitter @GabrielleSzabo.