Student Highlight

Fathia Fairuza
Thursday, February 9, 2023
Fathia Fairuza shares her experience as a student in the Human Rights Studies M.A. Program so far. 
What is your research focus? What drew you to this particular issue/set of issues?
Back when I was a public high-school student in Sidoarjo, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go for a student exchange program in Madrid, Spain, for a year. During my exchange year, I faced an unfortunate event where my rights to manifest religion and education were taken away as I was told to remove my hijab at the school I attended. It was only my first week in Madrid, yet my rights to education were taken away solely due to my hijab. For me, education should be guaranteed for everyone without any discrimination. Ever since then, I have wanted to become an advocate for human rights, particularly rights to education. 
Which class would you recommend to other students interested in the same issues as you?
Children's Rights Advocacy (Professors Becker and Bochenek), and NGOs and the Human Rights Movement (Professor Bickford).
Where did you grow up? In which countries and/or cities have you lived?
I was born and raised in Surabaya and lived in Sidoarjo, Indonesia. However, in 2016, I left for Madrid, Spain for a one-year exchange program from Rotary International where I lived with a Spanish host family, and went to a Spanish public school (Yes, I learned Spanish during that period).
In 2018 I went to Japan to pursue my undergraduate study in International Relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and lived in the city of Beppu for 4 years. Now, I am starting a new adventure, pursuing a graduate degree at Columbia University in the city of New York.
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
If you are into human rights advocacy, “Campaigning for Justice: Human Rights Advocacy in Practice” by Jo Becker is a must-read book to get you started 
Can you describe any volunteer or extracurricular activities that you have been a part of during your time at Columbia and how this experience has impacted you?
Coming from a small town in Indonesia where education access and global opportunities were limited,  I established my own NGO called Shape Your Life Indonesia in 2020. Shape Your Life is dedicated to ensuring that underprivileged students enjoy their right to access quality education. Shape Your Life has continuously provided non-formal education by initiating numerous free programs such as mentorships, one-on-one consultations, and self-development training to more than 20,000 students across Indonesia. Shape Your Life has proven its work to be an integral part of community empowerment. We have successfully sent 12 mentees who came from small cities to get a scholarship for their higher education both in Indonesia and abroad. 
Through this experience, I had the opportunity to collaborate with The Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics around the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal #4 Quality Education to rural schools in Kalimantan. The Ministry conducted a digital literacy campaign, and my organization was chosen to be one of the Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) / Guest speakers to introduce SDGs during United Nations Day 2022. I also had the honorable opportunity to attend a panel discussion regarding “Higher Education and Multilateralism” held by United Nations Academic Impact at the UN Headquarters. I was recently interviewed by Southeast Asia Today News on my experience attending the panel discussion.
As an advocate to advance the right to education, I addressed questions directly to the UN officials about how the UN can include more youths and NGOs from developing countries for future discussions and various decision-making processes.
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have big ambitions for all of Indonesia's youth, not only those from big cities, but those from rural areas, to have their rights to quality education that will provide the knowledge, skills, and opportunity to make us, the generation of tomorrow, able to compete with developed countries in terms of human capital. To achieve that, I plan to expand the impact of Shape Your Life's advocacy by collaborating with educators, activists, and the Ministry of Education to have a human rights-based education policy, and advance global citizenship education.
In the long term, I see myself becoming the Executive Director of UNICEF, or who knows— the first female UN Secretary-General. With that professional position, I have a strong will to strengthen collaborations among member states, UN agencies, and other institutions to continue developing innovative policies that minimize the gap in access to education in developed and developing countries. 
What is your favorite spot to study (or spend time) on campus?
Butler Library (Room 210) is definitely my go-to study place! Besides that it gives me Harry Potter vibes, being surrounded by other highly-motivated Columbia students really put me in the zone to be productive and finish all my assignments
What is one thing that your peers would never guess about you or might find surprising?
I think my peers have always been surprised when I suddenly talk to them in their native language since I can speak five languages including Indonesian, English, Spanish, Japanese, and French.
What is your hometown/area famous for?
Spicy food!