IPF Stories through Photos

The IFP Team is excited to announce that starting in March 2021, we will feature IFP alumni photos to highlight the work of alumni promoting and advancing social justice worldwide. Each month, we will unveil photos and stories of IFP alumni in action. These photos are a testament to the commitment IFP alumni have made to continuing social justice activities after their IFP Fellowship. To the extent possible, we will highlight IFP alumni photos and stories in correspondents with international events or local and country celebrations. If you would like to send an IFP photo to highlight in a future month, please contact ifpstudy@iie.org.

Explore IFP photo stories by month below

IFP Int Women's Day

International Women's Day:

As part of its mission to provide higher education access to marginalized populations, IFP sought to address gender inequality by providing IFP Fellowships to nearly 2,150 women—50% of all IFP Fellows—from 22 countries worldwide. On this International Women’s Day, we would like to recognize IFP alumnae engaged in a wide range of endeavors and industries, working tirelessly to drive positive change for themselves and members of their communities.

We found in our IFP Global Alumni Survey (2015) that:

  • 85% of alumnae felt that their IFP fellowship empowered them as a social justice leader.
  • 72% of alumnae saw themselves as role models for members of their home community.
  • 46% of alumnae created or helped create a new organization or new program, with 40% of these organizations related to gender issues.

Related issue brief: "Promoting Gender Equality"


April- Int Heritage Day

International Heritage Day

On International Heritage Day, we interviewed Pedro Mateo Pedro, a native speaker of Q’anjob’al, a Mayan language of Guatemala, and an IFP alumnus from Guatemala. His work focuses on the documentation of the Mayan languages, especially Chuj, which is spoken in San Mateo Ixtatán in Huehuetenango. Mateo Pedro received his Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Kansas in 2010 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Pedro is currently an Assistant Research Professor at the National Foreign Language Center, University of Maryland, and Executive Director of the Guatemala Field Station.

Can you describe the above photo? When and where was it taken?

This picture was taken either in 2011 or 2013 in San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. I was working with two native speakers of Chuj, a Mayan language of Guatemala. The two speakers were my assistants in documenting how children were learning Chuj.

How does this photo link to your field of expertise?

This picture represents that kind of work that I do as a linguist, which consists in the documentation and revitalization of indigenous languages, in this case of Mayan languages.

Do you see a link between this photo and your experience with IFP?

With IFP's support, I received my MA in Linguistics at the University of Kansas and started to work on the documentation of the acquisition of Q'anjob'al, my native language. Since then, I have been working on the documentation of the acquisition of Mayan languages.

Do you see a link between this photo and International Heritage Day?

I would relate International Heritage Day to language as a heritage, which people in the world have the right to speak and to be educated in their own language.

Are they any other comments you would like to share regarding the celebration of this day?

I would say that preserving linguistic knowledge is also preserving cultural knowledge. When a language is alive a culture is also alive.

Learn more about Pedro and his work here

Related publicationLeaders, Contexts, and Complexities: IFP Impacts in Latin America


Alumni Haldhar India

Haldhar Mahto completed his IFP scholarship in 2005-06 at the University of London School of Economics and Political Science, obtaining a Master’s degree in NGO Management and Social Policy.Haldhar is currently a member of the Jharkhand State Food Commission, a state commission to ensure the efficient implementation of the National Food Security Act of 2013. The commission also provides policy inputs to the government of Jharkhand, India.

1. Can you describe this photo? When and where was it taken?

This picture was taken between the years 2007 to 2009 in a remote village Cheo located on the hilltops of the Sunderpadi block of Godda district in Jharkhand, India. The village and population are predominantly inhabited by the most deprived Tribal Community, known as Paharia They have been categorized as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) and are among the eight protected tribal groups in the state. The PVTGs population is decreasing and is considered to be an extinct population. They are struggling to secure their minimum basic food, health, and nutrition services. The literacy rate is the lowest among all other communities. When I found out about them, I decided to work with them. In that connection, I was a regular visitor to such places to find ways to help these communities and bring them out of their existing situation. The person with a woolen cap and smiling face was one of the least educated boys from the village and had taken pain to help his villagers with health, nutrition, and increasing employment opportunities and income. The two other boys were curious to see what I am doing. Probably I had my mobile in my hand, which they were looking at.

2. How does this photo link to your field of expertise?

This picture could be linked with my work on health and nutrition and the right to food. However, my work was more focused on providing justice to the last section of people and communities—the ones who are most deprived. In my state, the PVTG community is one of them. They live in forests, mostly on hilltop, and reside in houses made of local thatched materials. Their source of livelihood is from the forest and hunting. Recently, they have turned slightly as farmers, doing some crops on the land available in between the forests. But, again, the literacy rate is very low. Hardly one will find a person that studied past 10th grades. Life expectancy is also very low. The average life expectancy is around 50 years. My work expertise perfectly matches with my social policy background and my pre IFP work on livelihoods. In addition, post fellowships work on public health added value to my expertise and the need of these communities. Truly speaking, my intensive work with them and with colleagues who supported my work with the PVTGs, especially Mr. Soumik Banerjee and Pragya Bajpeyee, for more than three years, have been instrumental in bringing few policy changes in favor of PVTGs and the Tribal population. These changes were on food security, health, and nutrition-related services in the state.

3. Do you see a link between this photo and your experience with IFP? If yes, could you tell us how this photo relates to your fellowship experience?

I conceptualized a broad understanding of the policy-related subjects more after I received the IFP fellowship I can count on my training and exposure, including the opportunity to pursue a higher degree at the London School of Economics (LSE). The course at LSE provided me an opportunity to understand the world, the policy-related issues, the governance system of the best-governed countries, and so on. At every step during the fellowship- starting from the preparatory training, language training, academic training at LSE, and the social justice training I gained-I could link once I was back to my country and community. The fellowship helped me understand the micro-macro linkages of issues and help develop strategies to overcome them both locally and at the larger level. I find that my international exposure helped much in helping the state government design the health program to support communities living in remote and hilly areas. Later, I got the opportunity to work at the state level on food security and social justice issues by holding a constitutional position under the National Food Security Act at my state as a member of the first-ever constituted State Food Commission since 2017. My commitment to work on social justice continues, and my focus on helping more than 75000 PVTG families across the state continues. I feel satisfied that my IFP fellowship helped me develop a broad vision and conceptualize the meaning of social justice in the true sense and spirit. In addition, my higher study provided me the tools of social justice.

4. Are there any concluding comments you would like to share?

Let the governments facilitate a system where it can help people lead their own lives by keeping their culture and heritage, language, livelihood opportunities intact; simultaneously, they can also enjoy the changing world and the opportunities available around. But, of course, it will require more work, more research and development, and finding ways of alternative or inclusive development approaches.     

Basma Alumni from Palestine

In this month’s edition, we highlight Basma Damiri from Palestine. Basma Damiri completed her IFP Fellowship in 2007 at the Clemson University in South Carolina, obtaining a master’s degree in Environmental Toxicology. Basma works as an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at An-Najah National University in Palestine.

Basma reflected on this photo of her and Sabrina, a young woman she has helped through her work and volunteerism.

After my graduation, I decided to help poor students who wish to complete their studies. Helping young students is the least I can do to pay it forward. God gave me a scholarship of tens of thousands of dollars. Otherwise, I would not have been able to finish my master’s degree or my Ph.D.  If I help people all my life, I will not repay this amount. I feel that God has inspired me to help these people and pay it forward. I have a moral duty to help needy students. I love them well. I want to see them as I am now and better than me. I want them to hold higher degrees to serve their communities and alleviate poverty, injustice, and inequality imposed on marginalized groups. When I received my scholarship, I do believe that it was not by chance. It is because some people seek justice for others. It is like a snowball; the further it moves, the larger it becomes.

Today, I work in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at An-Najah National University in Palestine. My beliefs prompt me to seek out those who need medical aid and treatment. I always search for vulnerable groups such as children, women, and refugees. Sabrina was a handicapped refugee child at that moment. She was born with a physical disability, and her leg was amputated due to a medical error. She lost her father when she was one year old and lost her leg when she was four years old. She lived in a poor house and could not complete her treatment. She dreamed of a wheelchair so she could go to school. Her dream was to have a scholarship that would cover her university studies. I wrote about her story on my Facebook page. Many followers interacted with the story. A donor donated a wheelchair to her, and An-Najah National University gave her a scholarship. She also got help to correct her amputated leg so that she can install a foot in the future. She is so gifted. Excellent public speaker and can sing so beautifully!

I just imagined myself when I saw Sabrina. I was too born with a disability. Because I want to pay it forward, I have the moral duty to help her make her dream true. Thank God that I was able to do that. 



Raphael with the Youth Policy

Raphael with advocates for the Kenya Youth Development Policy

In celebration of World Youth Skills Day, July 15, we highlight Raphael Obonyo from Kenya in this month’s edition.  Raphael Obonyo completed his IFP Fellowship in 2013 at Duke University in North Carolina, obtaining a master’s degree in Public Policy. Raphael works as a Public Policy Analyst in Kenya.

Can you describe these photos? When and where were they taken? It was the release of the Kenya Youth Development Policy in 2020. After five years of waiting, the country had finally birthed the Kenya Youth Development Policy setting off the long journey of its implementation to fully transform the lives of our young people for the generations to come.Having advocated for the policy and served on its Technical Committee, it is humbling and exciting to say that this document, if fully implemented, can be a game-changer for the welfare of the youth in my country.

How do these photos link to your field of expertise? I graduated with a Master of Public Policy in 2013 and returned to Kenya. While back in my country, I contributed to the five-year review of the National Youth Policy. I served as a Technical Youth Policy Reviewer.

Do you see a link between these photos and your experience with IFP? If yes, could you tell us how these photos relate to your fellowship experience? IFP emphasizes the need for connection between Academy and community, education, and social justice. Over the years, the lack of such an initiative denied the policymakers an opportunity to anchor the youth agenda in policy formulation, leading to many years of neglect and unfulfilled promises.The Kenya Youth Development Policy is an expression of the collective commitment of concerned stakeholders to harness and optimize the immense strength and opportunities that the youth in Kenya harbor, which they have failed to tap as they navigate both difficult personal and structural barriers curtailing their productivity. 

Do you see a link between these photos and World Youth Skills Day? If yes, could you tell us how this photo relates to this celebration? Youth policy is essential for development. It provides a solid foundation for planning, interventions, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting on youth empowerment and development interventions. The policy recognizes that youth development is not the responsibility of the government alone. It stipulates the obligations of other stakeholders, including state and non-state actors.


To learn more about Raphael



In celebration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, we highlight Svetlana Pantyukhina from Russia in this month's edition. Svetlana Pantyukhina completed her IFP Fellowship in 2004 at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, obtaining a Master's in Public Administration and Public Policy. Svetlana is an expert in rural tourism and the development of rural communities in Altai and wider Russia.

Can you describe this photo? 

These photos were taken in the village Inya in the Altai Republic in Siberia, Russia, as part of the "School of Agrotourism and local crafts" project, sponsored by the Presidential Grants Foundation of Russia. I worked with local communities in the Altai Republic. I was a part of a team of experts, and we supported local people on how to start their rural tourism businesses. We have been working with several villages for over five years, and some families are now very successful. The project started in 2012, and I am still in touch with some families. I worked in many villages, almost every village in the Republic. 

Could you share more about the local community?

The Altai Republic is an administrative division of Russia with a local population represented by Altaians. There are slightly less than 70,000 Altaians in the Republic, 34.5% of the Republic's total population. Historically they are nomads breeding sheep and goats, also hunters. Few of them have had more or less traditional lifestyles until now. But some (surely those who live in the only city in the Republic) run businesses, work in offices, and have an ordinary life like many other people in other countries. Altai is one of the most popular destinations in the Russian domestic tourism market and, before the COVID-19 pandemic, also popular among international visitors who love to stay in the rural guest houses.

How does this photo link to your field of expertise?

It does relate to public governance partly. But my current specialization is narrower, and I am now one of the country's leading experts in rural tourism. We consider it mainly an instrument for the development of rural communities and rural territories, and this is how it relates to public administration, my field of study. I have also been granted another scholarship, Chevening (UK), to deepen and improve my knowledge and professional qualification and dedicate myself fully to rural development via rural tourism.

Do you see a link between this photo and your experience with IFP? If yes, could you tell us how this photo relates to your fellowship experience?

Yes. My field of study sponsored by IFP was in public administration. Rural tourism and the development of rural territories relate to it directly, but I have a more specific subject now - rural tourism. However, we never see it only as tourism. It has a huge social component - and this is within governing the territories, which is part of public administration.

Sekafor at an Empowerment WorkshopSekafor during an Empowerment Workshop

In this month's edition, we highlight Dr. Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie from Ghana. Sefakor completed her IFP Fellowship in 2013 at the School for International Training (SIT) in Vermont. She obtained a master's degree in Sustainable Development and majored in Policy Analysis and Advocacy for Disability Rights. Sefakor earned her Ph.D. (2020) in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont. Sefakor works as the Independent Living Coordinator at the Vermont Center for Independent Living, Vermont.  

Can you describe these two photos? These photos were taken during an empowerment workshop in Worawora, a town in the Oti Region of Ghana, last December 3rd, 2020. The workshop was part of a nationwide campaign project dabbed "The power of disability vote" sponsored by the Mobilizing Partners for Women, Peace, Security, and Strategy for Humanity. My NGO, Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities (EEPD AFRICA), trained and empowered over 50 people with disabilities for their rights to vote during the election on December 7th, 2020. They were also awarded a certificate of participation. We intentionally organized the workshop on December 3rd in fulfillment of Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, which is about participating in political and public life on an equal basis with others and re-affirming the importance of their votes in support of development. December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Could you share more about the local community? Worawora is a town in the Biakoye District of the Volta Region, surrounded by the beautiful scenery of mountains. Kudje borders the town at the South, Asato Akan at the East, Apesokubi and the Volta Lake to the North, and Tapa Amanya to the West. Though settled in the Volta Region, the Woraworas speak Twi due to their ancestral origin from Kuntanase, near Lake Bosomtwe in Ashanti Region. The Worawora community's principles and values are loyalty, rights, responsibility, and accountability. The town is also known for the Hospital and Secondary School, which is a second-cycle institution.

How do these photos link to your field of expertise? The photos link to my field of expertise because I have been working with people with disabilities worldwide, especially in Ghana, my home country. Both my master's degree and Ph.D. revolved around disability policies and advocacy. As we all know, IFP's focus is on fighting for social justice in all spheres of life. As a change agent and a person with a physical disability myself, I also vowed to connect my personal experiences with academic and professional works to fight for disability rights till the world becomes more inclusive and a better place for all people with disabilities. That was why the focus on the right to vote during last year's election meant a lot to me.

Do you see a link between these photos and your experience with IFP? If yes, could you tell us how this photo relates to your fellowship experience? Indeed, the photos are directly connected to my experience with the IFP program. My field of study was a master's degree in Sustainable Development, and I majored in Policy Analysis and Advocacy for Disability Rights. My Ph.D. was also in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, where I dived more into different policies, especially educational policies, to align them with practices. Here is the real connection between policy and practices on the ground.

To learn more about Sefakor