Students and Alumni

Synergy for Girls

Dr SIU Mei-kuen Kanie
Department of Asian and International Studies
Graduate of 2012

Dr Kanie Siu thanks Dr Linda Tjia (back row, fifth from the left) for supporting the girls to realise their potential and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Dr Kanie Siu, CEO of Plan International Hong Kong

When Dr Kanie SIU joined Plan International Hong Kong (PIHK) in 2015, the long-established charity’s board of directors expected her to lead a “transformation” of their organisation.

“Raising donations has long been PIHK’s main focus,” says Dr Siu, a graduate of CityU’s Master of Social Sciences in Development Studies programme. “The board wanted [the charity’s] activities to evolve by reaching out to the community further for a bigger social impact.”

Because PIHK shifted its efforts towards promoting awareness of development issues, it allowed Dr Siu to apply the knowledge she had learned at CityU’s Department of Asia and International Studies (AIS) to her community outreach endeavours. “By learning the theories and working on the analyses and research projects, I was able to delve deep into the core causes of development issues,” she says. “For instance, I was exposed to such issues as children’s rights. I learned about shadow reports supporting women’s human rights [by non-government organisations]. I find the knowledge and understanding essential for my current job because PIHK advocates child protection and safeguarding children’s rights.”

Dr Siu found her calling in poverty reduction and community development issues after spending a dozen years working in the commercial sector. The injustices she saw in the business sector inspired her to work for not-forprofit organisations, however. She joined Oxfam Hong Kong in 1998, and became its Hong Kong unit director in 2011, overseeing its fundraising, communications, poverty alleviation programmes and development education. She was later appointed OHK’s director of fundraising and communications and the scope of her projects covered Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and mainland China. At this point, she wanted to contribute beyond poverty alleviation.

Given her in-depth grasp of children’s rights issues developed during her postgraduate studies at AIS, Dr Siu became attracted to PIHK’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign (BIAAG). “I was driven to learn something new,” she adds.

Dr Siu’s first initiative for PIHK entailed collaboration with CityU’s AIS in 2015. The programme recruited local secondary students to participate in the inaugural PIHK Youth Conference “Justice: Because I am a Girl”. It was part of PIHK’s flagship global “BIAAG” campaign, which aims to fight for and promote girls’ rights, prevent discrimination, inequality and violence – and encourage girls to realise their potential and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

The conference engages local Secondary 3-6 students and exposes them to global issues, particularly those related to girls in developing countries. By encouraging the youngsters to conduct in-depth research, the conference also inspires them to cultivate a passion and develop empathy; build a thorough understanding of various issues, and hopefully internalise them so that they can explain their key points to other people. Some youngsters may also advance to formulate possible solutions and make positive changes in society.

The conference is also expanding. The number of participating youngsters more than doubled since 2015 to nearly 60 in 2017 and the number of participating schools increased by almost 100% to 11.

The charity’s close collaboration with AIS also enables the youngsters to identify issues and explore them in depth, using CityU’s research methodology.

“Research supports the students’ discussions at the conference,” Dr Siu explains. “AIS provides a lot of resources and lets the participating youngsters experience the university’s extensive research facilities.”

For example, professors hold research workshops to guide participants on ways to distinguish reliable, credible information sources as well as making selections, she says.

“CityU’s librarian holds a full-day library session to give the youngsters their first tastes of using library resources for research,” Dr Siu adds. “They were all very excited as many had never been to a university’s library before.” The youngsters would then form teams to present their research findings and propose solutions at the conference, she adds.

AIS also supports the conference by recommending its majors help out with the event’s coordination tasks, and advising the youngsters how to conduct research and make presentations. In 2017, AIS students were invited to facilitate the conference, discuss its issues and thereby perform a major role in transferring knowledge to the event’s young participants.

“AIS majors prepared for the conference by doing research so that they could explore the issues in-depth by asking pertinent questions,” Dr Siu says. “Their involvement inspires the youngsters to adopt a development perspective to examine different issues.”

The conference’s two partners are considered a perfect match. PIHK’s focus on regional and global development issues fits well into the scope of AIS’s academic programme and research interests. While AIS can harness its research expertise, it savours the opportunity to make a bigger social impact by increasing youngsters’ awareness of global issues. Such an involvement also helps promote AIS among its prospects. The conference and AIS also aim at the same group of students who show high levels of social awareness, according to AIS Assistant Professor Dr Linda TJIA.

“AIS’s majors also learned and deepened their understanding of issues by being the discussants in the conference,” Dr Tjia says. “Feedback from conference attendees [said] the AIS students asked insightful questions.” AIS will also use the conference as a platform for students’ active learning, she adds.

For Dr Siu, the scope of her responsibilities increased as CEO of PIHK and she also enjoys working with a team of dedicated colleagues at PIHK.

“The position allows me to personally visit people in need, such as those living in slums in cities in India,” Dr Siu says. “We can also see how our efforts in Hong Kong make a direct impact on the beneficiaries. For example, we raised donations in Hong Kong to help impoverished schoolchildren in Cambodia to buy school bags.”

Another part of PIHK’s transformation is to promote children’s rights and child protection. The charity has worked on the development of child-abuse preventive measures for the consideration by the Hong Kong Government.

“We will unveil our “Child Impact Assessment” and release the frontline workers’ code of conduct,” Dr Siu says. “There will also be materials promoting child protection awareness and educational tools for parents, social workers and domestic helpers.”