Thank you for taking your time out to read this.
I am Varsha Venugopal from Kerala, India. I have received an offer from Australian National University, (QS World Ranking 27) for a Master’s course in ‘Environmental Management and Development’. Being able to do this course would bring me closer to fulfilling my dream of being an ‘environmental policymaker’ and equip me with the knowledge and skills to frame policies that take humanity closer to sustainable development. The following paragraphs would give you a better understanding of why this course is so important to me.
It was during my post-graduation in Physics from the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar that the havoc humans inflicted on the environment came to haunt me deeply. One incident I specifically recall is witnessing dead sea turtles wash up on the shore of ‘Department of Atomic Energy’ township in Kalpakkam, next to the nuclear reactor where I was doing my final year project from. This is when I decided to leverage my strong background in science and turn my career around to sustainable development in which I have been working for the past two and a half years.
I took up a job in the sustainability division of ‘Alterneit Lifestyles’, a private social enterprise. My work brought me closer to topics such as sustainable development goals, food security, climate change, etc and I widened my knowledge further through free online courses. I was part of the team working on the project ‘sustainable park’ in which I was responsible for researching and identifying climate-resilient sustainable solutions and nature-based adaptation techniques in the water and sanitation segment. This project is being converted into a ‘Centre of Excellence in water and sanitation’ project, supported by the Government of India. Afterwards, I joined Eram Scientific Solutions where I was responsible for designing and implementing business models combining sanitation and livelihood to empower marginalized women in India and make them climate-resilient. This micro-enterprise business model is being scaled up in India with the support of organisations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These work experiences have given me good exposure to market research, business model innovation, and project management in sustainability.
Living in India, a developing country with 86 million people living in extreme poverty and a country experiencing extreme weather events for the past few years, it is hard to ignore the economic and social impacts of climate change. In my home state Kerala, we have been witnessing extreme weather events for the past three years including floods, landslides, and cyclones in the Arabian sea which were a rarity in the past. Kerala also faced an outbreak of the zoonotic Nipah Virus in 2018 spread from bats to humans that occurred due to habitat destruction and encroachment into the forests. COVID-19 is yet another example of the same. All these disasters give me a sense of how imminent the climate crisis is in India.
I believe that meticulous policymaking and extensive awareness of the environment and climate change is crucial to ensure a sustainable future. The gender-differentiated impacts of disaster and climate change, with women and sexual minorities bearing a disproportionate burden, invigorated my resolve to become a policymaker in social and environmental sustainability. The first step towards that goal would be to acquire in-depth knowledge about the environment, eco-systems, climate change, disaster risks and this is why I vehemently aspire to do this course.
The only thing that is standing between me and my dream is money as the university does not have many scholarships for Indian students. I have mentioned the minimum expense I will have to incur below. The course fee along with living expenses mentioned below have been taken from the offer letter and university website. (Link: Cost of Living- ANU)
Total course fee: A$ 93820 =~ 52,00,000 INR
Initial establishment cost: A$ 2640 =~ 1,50,000 INR
Average living expense for six months (I plan to find a part time job by this time) A$ 9200 =~ 5,00,000 INR
Total = 58,50,000 INR
I would not be able to finance this huge amount on my own as I come from a middle-class family. I am the single daughter of my parents who are financially dependent on me. I would be very grateful if you could help me out in any small way you can if you think I deserve it.