Brown School doctoral student Aytakin Huseynli has received a national award in recognition of her contribution to the development of social work in Azerbaijan, her home country.
The Ministry of Women, Family and Children Affairs in Azerbaijan gave her the award on March 7. Or, rather, the ministry presented it to her mother in Aytakin’s stead; Aytakin was busy at the Brown School that day. (She goes by her first name, which is customary in her country.)
The award “was a big surprise for me,” she said. “I did not know that our government has been observing my work and wanted to appreciate it. They are impressed by the fact that despite the long distance and despite living in a different country, I still keep contributing to [Azerbaijan’s] social development, especially social work.”
Aytakin earned her Master of Social Work in 2004 from the Brown School, with a concentration in Social and Economic Development and a specialization in research. Then she returned to Azerbaijan with a mission: to bring the social work profession to her country and establish laws, regulations and educational standards governing it. Over the next 10 years, she managed to do just that. She founded the Azerbaijan Social Work Public Union (AZSWU) with a friend and conducted workshops to spread the word about social work and its importance. (See “Student founds social work profession in her home country.”)
Today, eight universities in Azerbaijan offer social work bachelor’s or master’s programs. Today, AZSWU has more than 250 social worker members and is itself a member of the International Federation of Social Workers, ensuring that the quality of social work in Azerbaijan is in line with international standards.
Yet Aytakin still had questions. How could she make social work more effective in Azerbaijan? How could she identify and understand roadblocks to social policies in her country? In 2014, Aytakin returned to the Brown School, this time as a doctoral student. She studies social welfare and justice issues in natural resource-rich countries and is a research associate at the Center for Social Development (CSD). In her work at CSD, she tries to find ways to link Child Development Accounts to wealth generated from natural resources.
On March 7, her parents were thrilled about the award, Aytakin said. By phone, her father, Natig Huseynli, thanked her for making their family proud, and her mother, Ashura Huseynli, said it was a “great gift” to receive her daughter’s award one day before International Women’s Day.