Marije Broekhuijsen obtained a Bachelor and a Master in International Development Studies in Wageningen.
Since she graduated in 2007 she took off to what we can now say is an exemplary career in development assistance. Living and working abroad – initially in Mexico, the Philippines, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen and now her current place of residence, India – her focus shifted from disaster risk reduction and climate change to water and sanitation, though she insists the topics show great overlap.
Life at WUR
Marije: “At Wageningen University, the mostly theory-based education is enriched with the cross-pollination of field experience, brought in by the international students. Their 10+ years of practical experience places the theories in such a realistic perspective.” Dedicated to contribute, even before her graduation, she simultaneously completed two internships at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with a small NGO in India, did research for her Master’s thesis with Friends of the Earth in Ghana, and presided over the NSAC, the Dutch student climbing association. Upon graduation she combined a job with volunteer work for a climate change law campaign with Milieudefensie, Friends of the Earth Netherlands. Her studies, combined with these extra-curricular experience, formed the solid foundation with which, to this day, she sets out to analyse any field situation she encounters.
“As accurately as we may apply the theories of International Development Studies, to be able to truly grasp the essence of reality, you must head out into the world and experience the issues first hand. Only then can you appreciate the extensive capacity of the players on the ground and hence the role any NGO may be able to fulfil to support that existing capacity. And with every project we take on, remember to consider the cascading effects: What will happen if we support this group, if we solve this particular issue? Will that solve a problem or fuel a conflict?
WASH – Inspiring India
Marije currently works and lives in India, where she is part of UNICEF’s WASH programme. WASH is an abbreviation for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and the goal of the programme is to provide access to safe drinking water and functional toilets for people there.
UNICEF’s research results have contributed to Prime Minister Modi’s ambition to provide every family with toilets, allocating the necessary budget for no less than 5 years. And the subsequent government flagship programme, that of a household tap connection with running water for every family within the next 5 years, has been budgeted as well! Together, the two programmes bring a staggering 730 million people from a village-shared water pomp to flushing their own toilet and washing their hands afterwards. The impact cannot be overstated.
Obviously, the Covid-19 pandemic is an enormous problem for India. The local governments are doing the best they can, putting extensive measures in place, like the lockdown, restricting travel to a bare minimum. The biggest concern is with migrants: Are they staying put or migrating back to their home villages? What sanitation facilities do they have, if any? Are they registered at all? Marije fulfils her part by developing guidelines, providing water and soap and organizing trainings, to educate on the necessity of hygiene and physical distancing.