It has been almost 08 months since I have been here in DC under the Atlas Corps Fellowship. I am sure all of us fellows have had unique experiences while being on this fellowship, mine has not been a smooth ride, with a proper beginning and end. I started off with an organization, which unfortunately was not the right fit for my skill set and temperament. A month into the fellowship I realized that and as most of you know by now that I switched my host. It was not as easy as it sounds now but it worked out fine and I started off at National Democratic Institute in August 2013 with the Women’s Political Participation Team. I found myself loving the work I was assigned and along with the professional development opportunity that it offered me, it also allowed me to assess myself and learn from my team members; each one of them enriched me in some way. Having a regular conversation with them always left me thinking. I thought all these big organizations are like NATO, where they have solutions looking for problems. However, working with the Women’s Political Participation team members changed that perspective and helped me in looking at the work I was engaged in, differently – more positively of course. It reminded me of Henry David Thoreau’s approach, according to which every change starts with sowing the seed and that the process could be tedious and exhausting, but we should continue to strive regardless. So, the Women’s Political Participation team was doing that in essence. My boss cultivated an understanding of ‘why women’s political participation is so important?” which was my knowledge gap area, given that my non-profit work experience had been limited to humanitarian work and rural development. This helped me understand the democracy and governance work around the world. With a few days till I board the plane to Pakistan, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect and write about it. I think despite the challenges I faced and overcame, this fellowship has been a good opportunity as I learned a lot about myself and realized that I am stronger than I thought I was. I am hopeful about my future. I just need to defrost myself in Pakistan first and take a brand new start. I enjoyed all the challenges, the fun times, forming new bonds with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, making some life time friends here.
By Nafeesa Mushtaq January 26, 2014