Alberta Christina Cahya Pertiwi shares her experience as a student in the Human Rights Studies M.A. Program so far.
In which program are you enrolled and when is your expected graduation date?
HRSMA, Fall 2023
What is your research focus? What drew you to this particular issue/set of issues?
My research focus has revolved around Indigenous issues and sustainable development for the past five years. As a trained anthropologist, I've always had a deep appreciation for the immersive research methods of participant observation and in-depth interviews. In 2018, during a research project centered on the Baduy peoples, an Indigenous group in Indonesia, I was captivated by their way of life, knowledge systems, and governance structures. This experience served as a catalyst for my commitment to Indigenous issues, as it became evident that these communities often face discrimination and injustice.
Which class would you recommend to other students interested in the same issues as you?
"Indigenous Peoples Movement" by Elsa Stamatopoulou; "Gender and Development in Southeast Asia" by Kristy Kelly; and "Oral History and Justice: Memory, Power, and Trauma" by Zoe West. They are amazing professors and you will learn tremendous things if you talk to them!
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
"Global Indigenous Youth: Through Their Eyes" (2019). This book was written by Indigenous young people from different areas.
What has been your favorite moment in the program so far?
One of the most memorable experiences I cherish is the field research I conducted for my thesis in the summer of 2023. During this period, I had the privilege of interacting with numerous Indigenous women hailing from diverse regions. This invaluable experience significantly enriched my knowledge, honed my skills, and deepened my understanding of my own positionality within the context of my research.
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to be a founder of an NGO focusing on underrepresented women, especially Indigenous women, women living in rural areas, and domestic women workers. The organization will focus on building the women's capacity to be involved in many forums and discussions, even policy process. In the long run, I hope to be involved in the decision-making processes related to women in the government. My goal is to work to open access for the women experiencing injustice, so they can speak for themselves and their communities.
What is your favorite spot to study (or spend time) on campus?
What is your hometown/area famous for?
Indonesia is popular for multiple things, but I would highlight its food: fried rice and satay!
If you were to start a book club, which book would be first on your list? Why?
"The Will to Improve" by Tania Li. I would say it is a comprehensive book telling us about the complexities of development programs at community levels and how a capitalistic approach exists in everything, but only in different forms.
Anything else you wish to share about yourself or your experience in the program/Columbia so far?
Firstly, I want to emphasize the significance of prioritizing our well-being while delving into the complexities of human rights issues. The ability to reflect, process, detach, and re-attach is essential for maintaining our accountability to the work we're passionate about while also preserving our mental and emotional well-being. Secondly, while absorbing the content of the courses I've undertaken is vital, it's equally important to actively engage and cultivate meaningful connections with professors, fellow cohort members, and colleagues. These interactions have been instrumental in opening doors and taking me to places I never envisioned I could reach.