Maja Tønning – The Human Security Profile of February 2019

This is a post from The Human Security Angle: the newsletter of the Master’s degree programme in Human Security at Aarhus University.

Maja, why did you decide to study human security at Aarhus University?

When I first started studying my Bachelor’s in Anthropology at Aarhus University, I already had the motivation and intention to work in international development. Therefore, the opening of the Human Security programme during my Bachelor came very conveniently. I was especially attracted to the interdisciplinarity, international outlook, and the methodological approach to work bottom-up from the community level.

Selfie in Bangladesh working on the refugee crisis in Cox’s Baza.

Where did you do your work placement, and what did you learn?

I did my work placement combined with my own field work in South Sudan and Sudan. Working for an international non-governmental organization (INGO) gave me access to a conflict area in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. This was a rare opportunity to be given to a student. During my work placement, I was able to gain insight into the world of how INGOs operate in various settings, which has helped me tremendously after my studies. I made practical use of my methodological background in anthropology, but also the theoretical concepts of human security coupled with conflict analysis. For example, during my field work, I found myself discussing intercropping and other agro-ecological topics with farmers who were trying to get by and survive despite heavy aerial bombardment and ongoing conflict. I also had the unfortunate experience of witnessing a new onset of civil war in South Sudan, where my work placement ended abruptly with an evacuation. This helped me to quickly learn how to adapt to high-paced and ever-changing work environments.

A bomb crater from an aerial bombardment carried out by the Government of Sudan in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan.

What are you doing at the moment?

I am currently working with DanChurchAid, a Danish INGO, as a Global Humanitarian Advisor in a roving position where I travel approximately 50% of my active work time to support country offices and partners of the organisation. I am specialised in Cash Transfers and Markets Based Programming in humanitarian settings and hence most of my time is dedicated to training, setting up, and monitoring programmes in topic focused on emergency food security and livelihoods. I am, however, also engaged in other sectors as well as other levels of work, for example, in the past year, I’ve worked with the refugee crisis in Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh, where I’ve helped set-up, manage, recruit, and fundraise for the organisation’s programme there.

Conducting a focus group discussion with a group of South Sudanese refugee women as part of a monitoring visit to DCA’s project in Gambella, Ethiopia.
A snapshot of a Rohingya Refugee setting in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where I’ve supported the set-up of DCA’s humanitarian response.

What have you taken with you from your human security studies?

My studies have given me both the practical and theoretical background to work in my current field. I engage my methodological roots in both anthropology and human security on daily basis be it in focus group discussions at the field level or in analysing complex crisis settings and supporting programme development. On a professional level, I’m engaged in concepts in individual, community, economic, and food security, although in the humanitarian sector these concepts are highly relevant to ensure high-impact programming where I for example work with cash and markets-based programmes, gender-based violence, and community-led protection.

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