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Alumni Spotlight: IDHA Alumna Sadia Bangash, National Project Officer UNESCO

Learning for Empathy, closing ceremony

Sadia Bangash is a graduate of the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA), offered through Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Apart from overseeing grassroot interventions, Sadia is currently working for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Pakistan’s regional initiative as a focal point for preventing violent extremism. She has also worked on projects funded by renowned donors from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Qatar Foundation / Educate A Child (EAC), the British Council, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (JMOFA), and various other international and humanitarian organizations.

Accompanying students of Madrassa and school for cultural visit for peace

Sadia belongs to a Pathan family of Hangu, a district in the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , Pakistan. A hardworking and determined young woman, she was eager to take further her educational journey despite her country’s controversies concerning women’s access to advanced education. A mother of three and a wife at the age of 25, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree and completed an MBA in her home country. Sadia is currently en route to earning a Master’s of Science degree in Sustainable Development at the University of Sussex.

Sadia was working for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in 2018, where she met her colleagues who spoke high of the IDHA’s learning outcomes. Once she enrolled in IDHA, she grew fascinated by the course layout and the diversity of students’ backgrounds in her class. She recalls having many positive experiences in the program, including attending security training at a New York military camp. “The real-time activity had provided ample learning and lovely role-playing opportunities, thus making it enjoyable yet productive. Our teachers, especially Larry, were full of enthusiasm and fun.” Upon completing the IDHA in July 2018, she joined the World Health Organization (WHO) and worked on Health Systems Strengthening. There, she was able to draw upon her learned knowledge in the classroom to understand how to provide health-related assistance and provide technical expertise in public health sector. Later, in April of 2019, Sadia joined UNESCO Pakistan, where she began working on the project designed for Education and a Regional project called “Learning for Empathy.” by UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education. Her dedication towards peace building strategic interventions is motivating youth to be part of the cause.

UNESCO Regional Initiative, Learning for Empathy (PVE)

When asked what she would tell her younger self before she began a career in humanitarian aid, Sadia said that she would want her younger self to gain more experience in the field: “Working in the field with the affectees gives a lot of empathic sense, patience and reason to have a hardworking lifestyle. Humanitarian aid workers have to compromise on many daily life luxuries, and thus a person must have some volunteering background of serving for any humanitarian cause.” The commitment to the humanitarian sector requires one to be knowledgeable, organized, and experienced, and it is no doubt that Sadia strives to exemplify these characteristics through her current role at UNESCO Pakistan.

Student of madrassa dressed in his traditional attire of tribal area, showing an antique camera

If Sadia’s experiences do not already indicate her commitment to the humanitarian sector, her dedication is exemplified in one of her favorite sayings: “action speaks louder than words.” Carrying out one’s word through action is especially crucial to Sadia. “Whether we are working for the humanitarian sector, development sector or for an organization, which works in a blend of humanitarian, and development; if financial and programmatic commitments are not fulfilled in right times, it can have magnified adverse implications along with loss of trust amongst beneficiaries and government.” As evidenced by her work, Sadia makes a clear effort to impact her country and the world positively. Her life is an example where excuses of not being ambitious and productive becomes void. As she shares with her fellow colleagues “Regardless of the hurdles and social and cultural constraints , every girl can continue learning and contributing in society, provided she has the inner desire of doing so!!!

Sadia was recently interviewed by an IDHA colleague and talked about women’s rights in Pakistan here on Youtube. She can also be found on Twitter.

Written by Lena Rose, IIHA Marketing and Communications Intern

About the IIHA
The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) prepares current and future aid workers with the knowledge and skills needed to respond effectively in times of humanitarian crisis and disaster. Our courses are borne of an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines academic theory with the practical experience of seasoned humanitarian professionals. The IIHA also publishes on a wide range of humanitarian topics and regularly hosts a number of events in the New York area, including the annual Humanitarian Design for Humanity Summit.

For more information or media inquiries, please contact: Camille Giacovas, Communications & Research Officer,



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