Arifa Jahan Ema is an Occupational Therapist and Researcher. She is currently studying Master of Philosophy in Monash University, Australia. Back to Bangladesh, she was a clinical occupational therapist at Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP). She is working on some amazing ideas.

Today we will know her story, some interesting facts about her life and her vision for change.


Please tell us about yourself

Hey, my name is Arifa Jahan Ema. I love to be called by Ema, with a single M, not the double M (Emma) from Harry Potter. I am a free-spirited person, an avid reader, a life-time learner and most importantly a doer knowing how to keep the feet on ground. Black is my favourite color and since reading is my first love, this might sound weird, but Politics stay on top of my interest.

Your academic and professional background.

I am a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) Candidate in the Department of Occupational Therapy, Monash University with an Australia Awards Scholarship. My educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy with a research component in Bangladesh. If you wonder from where I have done my graduation, please note that, Bangladesh Health Professions Institute – BHPI (the academic institute of CRP) in Savar runs the Rehabilitation Professionals Courses in Bangladesh which are affiliated to Faculty of Medicine, University of Dhaka.

I have worked as a Clinical Occupational Therapist for three years at the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) in Dhaka, Bangladesh and a Research and Development Officer under a project of La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Research is my passion and I have co-authored several research based and non-research based works and attended international conferences too. So, in summary – Professionally I am an Occupational Therapist and a budding researcher.

What is your vision to bring a change in the society?

I dream for a society (especially in Bangladesh) where no students with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) will be left behind from the post-injury academic participation. Academic institutes will have no boundary with ensuring every right of them.

How you are going to make it happen?

Does it sound BIG? I know it is! But at least I can do my part and encourage the others to put their endeavour.

My MPhil research focuses on the academic participation of students with SCI after the rehabilitation. Before undertaking the project for MPhil course, I have done a background study earlier at the same field and there are few more in the pipelines. Apart from the research works, I will start doing some project-based activity too. So, my series of work will help the policy makers to make and implement better plan for this group of people.

Even if I am unable to see my vision in action, I hope my grandkids will do 😊

What sorts of support or expertise you are seeking now to make your ideas happen?

This is a great food for thought. I would like to express it in just one sentence at this moment – I need personnel with Specialized skills in research, project management, community leadership, public administration and international networking.


Can you recall …

The first day when you met your best friend?

I do 😊

She was wearing the same outfit as mine, we exchanged weird eye-contact for that and I started to hate her 😛

A day when you felt complete?

Still waiting for one 😊

A wind that felt good?

Saint Martin Island in Bangladesh has the coolest breeze of all. I have been there for five times and every time I felt the wind so special. So, it’s hard to specify it.

An event that you wish to happen again?

Sorry, can’t recall any

You laughed at a joke (what was that)?]

Wait, let me remember 😊

You felt peaceful?

Whenever I have a good sleep.

The day when you were arrested by somebody’s beauty?

Every single time I check my mother’s photos (Since I live far away home for 18 years, so photos are the best option. No worries, things are alright at home. I am on a journey to get better education, so leaving home at the age of 11 years old was the best choice).

A time when you knew somebody felt affection for you?

Can’t disclose, he will kill me 😀

An amazing flower made you fall in love?

Dolon chapa (white garland-lily).


Tell us …

A lesson you learnt that shaped the way you think/act.

Service to sufferers is service to God.

Some sweet thoughts you think everyone should know, remember.

Appreciate the beautiful life. Don’t take things for granted and do whatever you wish despite making any harm to others.

Some bitter truths everyone should know.

Expect less and YOU are the only person that will put you back on your feet. So, take good care of yourself.

The last time you enjoyed a sun-set.

Yesterday.

The last time you enjoyed a sun-rise.

Fortunately, today (not an early riser though).

The moment when you made someone happy.

The one I cherish most is after receiving talent pool scholarship in Class V (Grade five). My parents were so happy. There were few more times later when I made them proud and happy, but that was the last time we celebrated together.

The moment when you helped your enemy or someone you really don’t like.

There are lots. The one I recall now was to help someone writing a paper for publication without my name on it and I have no regret for that.


Imagine …

You were given the power to meet anyone in this world who is no more. Who do you want to meet? Why s/he is special? What would you want to say or ask h/her?

Though my favourite personality is BangabandhuSheikh Mujibur Rahman,but I am interested to meet Tajuddin Ahmad,the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

He is special because he was the war-time Prime Minister of Bangladesh back in 1971. He was theworthy deputy of Bangabandhu, who took the responsibility of leading the Bangladesh government in exile. I really admire him because he performed this great responsibility in the physical absence of the powerful charismatic leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Though I have read about his journey in books, but I am interested to hear from him in person. So, I will ask him how he managed it and I am quite sure even if it took a life time, I would never be bored.

A little kid has come to you. You will give him/her a piece of advice on anything you like. What is your advice for the kid?

I prefer not to advice a kid. Rather I will play with him/her to make his/her time worthy enough with me.

Advice you want to give to a young professional who want to do something like you.

– Focus on the bigger picture, set your targets NOW.

– Spend some quality time in voluntary works, it will return to you in a great deal. Do it now and pay me later 😉


Contact Information

Ema always welcomes any good idea. You can write to her at ajema27@gmail.com

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Interview Information
Date: 24 January 2019
First Published: 13 May 2019

Interviewer: Sajal Kanti Ghosh
Medium: Online