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Tania Afrin Tonny Awarded the ADB Thesis Award for Human Development

18 May 2023
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By AIT Public Affairs

18 May 2022 – Tania Afrin Tonny, a graduate of the Gender and Development Studies Program (GDS) at the Department of Development and Sustainability of the AIT’s School of Environment, Resources, and Development, has been recently honored as a winner of the prestigious ADB-JSP Thesis of the Year Award 2023. Tania’s remarkable achievement has secured her third place in the “Cluster Cluster Award for Human Development” category.

The ADB-Japan Scholarship Program Secretariat recently revealed the winners after a rigorous evaluation process conducted by a screening committee led by Dr. Peter Morgan, Advisor to the Dean of the ADB Institute. The committee comprised esteemed ADBI research fellows and ADB specialists, who carefully assessed the thesis submitted by participants.

Prof. Kyoko Kusakabe, Program Chair of the GDS Program, expressed immense pride in Tania’s dedication and excellence in Gender and Development Studies. “Tania’s research and insightful analysis have made valuable contributions to the advancement of knowledge in human development and will have a positive and influential impact on society. The selection of Tania as one of the winners reflects the rigorous standards and outstanding merit of her work. It also highlights the quality of education and research opportunities provided by AIT’s GDS program. We wish her success in her future endeavors, hoping her journey will be filled with many more milestones and accomplishments,” she said. 

Tania’s thesis is titled ‘International Labor Migration amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Vulnerabilities of Returning Bangladeshi Migrant Women Workers from the Middle East Countries’. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global supply chain, causing disruptions and affecting both social and economic aspects. Many migrant workers, particularly those from poorer countries like Bangladesh, were forced to return home. This study focuses on the vulnerabilities experienced by returning Bangladeshi migrant women workers during the pandemic. 

It aims to understand why these women returned from the Middle East countries and how they are coping with vulnerabilities in Bangladesh. The study utilizes qualitative research methods, specifically in-depth interviews, to explore these research questions. The findings reveal that these women faced numerous crises in the Middle East, leading to their return, including lockdowns and isolation, low pay, physical and sexual harassment, mental torture, sleep deprivation, COVID-19 infections, high medical costs, mistreatment, termination of employment, and difficulties in sending money back home.

Gender plays a significant role in exacerbating vulnerabilities for migrant women workers, both in the destination countries and upon their return to Bangladesh. The study identifies unsupportive attitudes in the community and limited employment opportunities as major risk factors contributing to their vulnerabilities. The returning women workers experience social vulnerabilities such as low acceptance, domestic violence, and exploitation, as well as economic vulnerabilities, including financial hardship, unemployment, increased dependency, and limited participation in productive work. These vulnerabilities are rooted in social and economic factors and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expressing her immense joy upon receiving the award, Tania shares, “Receiving this award is undeniably one of the most significant milestones in my life, and I am deeply grateful to my supervisor, Prof. Kyoko Kusakabe, my committee members, the GDS family, ADB-JSP, and the evaluation committee for their unwavering support and recognition.”

She recounts the moment she learned about the award, saying, “I vividly remember that day when I was diligently working at my desk and received a notification from ADB-JSP. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read my name on the list. Those tears were not only tears of joy but also a poignant reminder of the challenges I faced while working on my thesis at AIT, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout my two-year journey at AIT, I wholeheartedly poured my passion, hard work, dedication, and sincerity into my research,” she added.

Tania emphasizes the significance of simplicity, stating, “Our world needs fewer unnecessary complexities and more streamlined approaches. By striving to make things easier for everyone, we can significantly contribute to human development.”

The winners, including Tania, will be formally recognized during the upcoming Graduation Gathering in August. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to present their theses at the highly anticipated TOYA Workshop in September, further showcasing their outstanding research contributions.