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To pursue her career goals and pave the way for other women wanting to do the same, Crawford graduate Naomi Mathotho paid a high price – she had to leave behind her husband and her small daughter thousands of kilometres away in Zambia. But that didn’t keep her from becoming living proof that nothing is impossible.
When Naomi moved across the globe to pursue her dream of studying public policy, regular video chats with her daughter became a strong motivator to keep going and pushing her own boundaries.
“She has been my constant source of inspiration, and she has handled my absence so well. We’ve become such great friends over the phone,” she says.
“Coming to Canberra was way out of my comfort zone. But I had to pull through for my daughter. She inspired me to work even harder.”
On 12 December, Naomi got to reap the fruits of her hard work and take home her degree – with her husband who came all the way from Zambia in the audience.
Another highlight for her was receiving the Master of Public Policy prize at Crawford’s graduation party – an achievement that she says she owes to her husband as well.
“It was so good to see my husband. He handled it all so well. I owe this success to him. He would always be on his feet, caring for our daughter when she was sick – I’ve had the best support system.
“My personal highlight was winning the Master of Public Policy prize. It is a symbol of all the hard work that I put into this program, and I hope it will be an inspiration for other women coming after me, particularly my daughter.
“Sometimes you don’t have to wait for the most opportune time. This journey, with all its hurdles and sacrifices, made the outcome so much more worthwhile.“
To support her studies, Naomi received an Australia Awards scholarship allowing her to nominate a university in Australia to study at. Working in the policy section of Zambia’s Ministry of Mining, she was set on learning from the best.
“I wanted to further my skills in public policy, so I applied for an Australia Awards scholarship and was successful.
“When searching for a place to study, Crawford School really caught my eye. It was just what I was looking for. The Master of Public Policy has so many specialisations, which was particularly attractive to me.”
Initially, Naomi wasn’t sure which specialisation to choose, but after having finished her core courses, she became increasingly interested in the issues arising from the internationalisation of public policy.
“Normally, when we think of public policy, we think about it as associated with a nation. But there are myriad actors that influence policy on the local, national, and international levels.
“I wanted to more deeply explore these issues, so I chose to specialise in global development policy.”
The Global Social Policy course with Professor Sharon Bessell particularly stood out for her, as she had the chance to look deeper into an issue that was close to her own heart.
“For this course, I looked at maternal health in Zambia, and how global ideas and norms shape national policies in the country,” she says.
“I found how hard actors worked to get maternal health on the global agenda, the issues Zambia is grappling with specifically, and how progress is being made.
“I was so touched by how many women die giving life. It should be a thing of the past. But I was very happy to see how much effort is put into improving the situation.”
Having been on study leave for the duration of her degree, Naomi will now return to her old job at the Ministry of Mining, but with a new perspective on policy-making and more questions than ever before.
“I’m returning to my old workplace, but the interesting thing about learning about all these other aspects of public policy was that it showed me how interconnected sectors are in terms of policy. As I look at mining policy, I will now look at it holistically.
“Having taken Professor Helen Sullivan’s class Case Studies in Contemporary Public Policy, I also realised that a huge part of policy-making is asking the right questions to the right people, at the right time.”
Talking about her time at Crawford Naomi said that studying here exceeded her expectations.
“Every course was a new adventure and brought a new perspective on public policy that didn’t know much about,” she says.
“When you’re so far away from home, you have no choice but throw yourself into the experience.
“I met people from all over the world and made some friendships that will last a lifetime. They also greatly expanded learning beyond the classroom, because they all come with such rich sets of backgrounds and hands-on experiences.
Naomi is excited to take on whatever challenge might come her way, but for now, her main focus is to return to Zambia to finally be re-united with her daughter.