Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Her PhD research focuses on indigenous communities facing water crises in Rajasthan, India, says Renu Sisodia who came to AUT as an international student to study a PhD in public health.
“Globally, indigenous communities, such as the Sahariya community in rural Rajasthan, face deprivation and discrimination in regards to accessing safe water. In India, the extreme marginalisation of indigenous communities is a major concern, and population increase and climate change are putting greater pressure on scarce resources, including water, and providing further challenges for them.
“My study used participatory action research to create a space for youth from the Sahariya community to share their innovative ideas, expert knowledge and experiences to improve access to safe water. Forty-eight youth, women and men from three villages participated in the project, and the stories and opinions of the Sahariya youth formed an activist film,” Renu says.
“The current policy paradigm is that everything will be taken care of by the government, but this is an illusion. The Sahariya have formed a village level association to mobilise around land, water and forest. The community also plans to use the activist film that has been produced for advocacy and fundraising purposes.”
Her research will help empower the Sahariya community, says Renu whose PhD is supervised by Dr Cath Conn. She already had the opportunity to present her research at the 23rd IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion in Rotorua.
The right fit
Deciding to study at AUT for her PhD was easy, Renu says.
“I chose AUT because of the good reputation of the university, and I liked the profile of my supervisor, Dr Cath Conn from AUT’s public health department. At PhD level it’s very important to have a good supervisor. I also appreciated being able to pay domestic fees for my PhD because I was based in New Zealand for my studies. That was a big help.”
She would recommend the programme to other students interested in public health.
“It gives you resources, support, time and space to study. If you’re an international student at AUT, it will also provide a culturally safe environment. You will feel safe and supported by AUT staff.
“What I’ve enjoyed most about my studies is learning about participatory action research methodology, which was new and challenging for me. My supervisors helped me a lot throughout my PhD journey.”
A bright future
Expecting to complete her PhD in 2021, Renu already has a good idea what she would like to do next.
“Once I complete my doctoral studies, I would like to work in community development or in the academic sector.
“In addition to my studies I also work as a kaiako (lecturer) at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. I enjoy bringing my PhD experience into the classroom and talk about my research experience with my students.”