Alumni award winner and Business School alumna Réjane Woodroffe (MSc Development Economics 2005) returns to campus to meet students.
Réjane’s former tutor Julie Litchfield tells us more about her achievements after graduating Sussex.
Sussex alumni were in the news again recently, winning two of the three global British Council Study UK Alumni Awards 2019. Réjane Woodroffe and Mamunur Rahman visited the UK last week to collect their awards. They spent two days on campus and delivered a Sussex Development Lecture on the theme of Building Successful Social Enterprises to Tackle Global Challenges to an audience of over 200 students and staff.
As I had taught Réjane on the MSc Development Economics in 2004, and just missed the chance to teach Mamunur on the MA Gender and Development by a year or two, I was delighted to be asked to chair the lecture and Q&A session.
Working with marginalised community in South Africa
Réjane has been recognised for her work as Director and co-Founder, with her husband, of the Bulungula Incubator, a not-for-profit organisation which works with the most marginalised communities in South Africa. Réjane left behind a very successful career in finance to come to Sussex with a Ford Foundation grant to study development economics, using it to re-direct her career into international development.
Over the last decade Bulungula Incubator have worked in partnership with the community to improve access to safe water, pre and primary school education and health services, and employment for local people. The work has contributed to enormous improvements in health, education and living standards.
Social enterprises influencing policy makers
Mamunur took an equally brave decision to set up his social enterprise Ella Pad, tackling taboos about periods and menstrual hygiene in Bangladesh. A former Chevening scholar, Mamunur was inspired by his time at Sussex to find a way to address the lack of affordable period products, and in doing so uses waste material from the clothing industry and employs hundreds of women.
Both Réjane and Mamunur have used their experiences to work with government agencies and other organisations, sharing lessons, advising on policy and being asked to pilot new initiatives.
Courage to challenge discrimination
Réjane spent time in workshops with our students, describing the challenges and obstacles she has encountered, as well as the successes achieved by the community. Her own story as a woman of colour growing up in apartheid South Africa, being forcibly evicted to a township and being active in student politics, drove her ambition to work to improve the lives of people around her.
Community development for a better world
The Bulungula Incubator is a rare example of an NGO that works in partnership with the community. Everything they do is at the request of the community, and it is the community itself which runs all the projects and programmes: the incubator acts as a catalyst, bringing research evidence to inform project design and implementation, and seed funding to enable pilots and small business start-ups.
Over the last ten years they have contributed to a dramatic improvement in child survival, a fall in fertility rates and increases in employment. In turn they share their experiences with other communities and organisations, so while the immediate impact of their work is on a community of a few thousand people, it goes far beyond that.