Students & Campus
06 September 2021

A Semester Full of Opportunities: Learnings, Accolades and Gratitude

Mukta Dhere is a second-year master’s candidate in International Affairs (MIA). As a young researcher of blue humanities, she was presented with an opportunity in March 2021 to undertake fieldwork for her master’s thesis in Reyhanli, a southern Turkish town bordering Syria.

For two weeks, Mukta explored the role of participatory water governance in building social cohesion in conflict-prone regions, presenting the case of north-western Syria. She conducted more than 30 interviews with beneficiaries, actors and stakeholders in the communities, as well as non-governmental organisations and interim government actors working in the water sector in northern Syria. 

In her words, she owed this opportunity and research journey to her late supervisor, teacher and eminent researcher, Ronald Jaubert. It was also during this journey that she learned the sad news of his passing. 

“This is a serious loss for a lot of people, but I am determined to do justice to his belief in me with whatever small contribution that I can make with my work”, said Mukta. “It was under his kind guidance, that I could step out of my comfort zone and undertake research in such a critical global context”.

Mukta’s research project is a collaboration with the Graduate Institute and Geo Expertise, a Swiss-based NGO that is part of the Swiss Water Partnership. Representing both Geo Expertise and the Graduate Institute, she presented a part of her research at the largest World Water Week ever, with 13,000 participants from 188 countries. 

Her case study focused on an innovative conflict-financing model for ensuring sustainable water infrastructure in north-western Syria, which can be potentially scaled to other fragile contexts. She shared the stage with other distinguished water and finance professionals, discussing the amplified financing challenges in the water sector situated in conflict societies. She recalls it as a “remarkable experience” very early on in her career.

“Water is an archetype of hope, life, and resilience across communities and it holds a universal meaning. While some parts of the world are facing severe conflicts and the gravest water crisis, I find it important that we understand and analyse the hydro-social interconnectedness and the role of water in building peace.”

Passionate about water, Mukta is also a development communicator and participated in World Water Week’s Communications and Behaviour Change Accelerator. In addition, her poetry, “Ripples of Change”, was featured at the Centre Stage along with other artists, poets, dancers and speakers. “Poetry is one of the most powerful and less explored ways of storytelling, making people feel, connect, and care about water. My verses focus on the power of expressive art and aim to make the audience care, and connect with water; first, as an element of nature, but also as the reason for their own being.” 

Reflecting upon this journey so far, Mukta is determined to finish her thesis writing process by the end of 2021. She remains grateful for these tremendous opportunities in terms of research, networking and meeting new people. 

“I am excited to see what life brings to me next. I am eager to learn more and do more. In the end, isn't life all about doing what you like and liking what you do?”