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Introducing New Asia Regional KM Officer: Meena

In this insightful interview, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Meena Arivananthan, the Asia Knowledge Management Officer for Knowledge SUCCESS, who joined the team several months ago in September 2023. With a rich academic background in Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Meena has navigated a diverse career, transitioning from the world of science to development, ultimately becoming a passionate advocate for knowledge management (KM).

Throughout Meena’s journey, KM has proven to be a powerful force, breaking down silos and fostering collaboration. Now, as the Asia Knowledge Management Officer, Meena is excited about the potential to create a community of Family Planning/Reproductive Health (FP/RH) professionals and empower youth organizations across Asia. Let’s delve into Meena’s experiences and aspirations in this engaging conversation.

When did you join Knowledge SUCCESS?

  • I joined in September 2023.

Tells us about your academic and career background.

  • I have a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Master’s in Molecular Biology from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My interest in science communications and writing led me out of the lab to a career path in development. In 2003, I joined the WorldFish Center, an international non-profit research organization that worked on development of fishing and coastal communities globally. Working in communications and business development, I grew to understand the challenges of communicating research outcomes to the communities that needed them. With knowledge management (KM) gaining popularity in the development sector in 2008, I took on a new role as KM Manager and developed a KM strategy for WorldFish, which I had the opportunity to implement successfully.
  • In 2010, I was offered a consultancy to work with FAO to help them implement KM through training in HQ. Subsequently, my consultancy expanded to include other agencies, where I honed my skills in facilitation and knowledge exchange. At every turn, I am grateful to have been part of something as meaningful as KM. I’ve experienced the difference that it has made at work, and believe strongly in its ability to break down silos and foster collaboration.

What informs your passion for family planning and sexual and reproductive health?

  • As a female who grew up in Asia, I am acutely aware of how hard it was to have decent access to sexual and reproductive health information, whether from medical professionals, authority figures or suitable literature. Of course, now with the internet, things have changed. However, the optics are still unfavorable for women in many Asian cultures. I would love to see a day when young women feel comfortable enough to walk into a medical facility or pharmacy and seek answers for their sexual and reproductive health needs without fear.

What are you excited about most in your role as the Asia Knowledge Management Officer for Knowledge SUCCESS?

  • The potential: (1) to help foster a community of FP/RH professionals who can connect, share, and learn from each other in a conducive environment; (2) Reach and equip youth organizations with appropriate tools that empower them.

Any challenges you envisage encountering in this role?

  • Only opportunities… to learn more about FP/RH, understand the issues in Asia and find my footing in order to better help the partners we work with. To that end, I’d like to make a special mention to Anne Ballard Sara and the JHU-CCP/ Knowledge SUCCESS Asia team who have been very forthcoming and generous in sharing their knowledge, that the challenges don’t seem too daunting.

As a Knowledge Management Officer, what sort of impact do you hope to make?

  • That partners and people we work with actually enjoy using KM, find it useful and want to take it on for themselves – perhaps with a community of practice that becomes their own.Screen grab of meeting participants.

What projects are you currently working on and what are you looking forward to getting involved in?

  • Currently working on our next iteration of KM Champions and Learning Circle which is scheduled for early this year. I’m excited about incorporating some Behavioral Sciences ideas into the Learning Circle roll-out. We also organized a global Networking Hangout in January which was well-attended, with positive feedback from participants. Looking forward to running at least another one by year-end.

In wrapping up our conversation with Meena, it’s evident that her journey has been shaped by a dedication to meaningful work in knowledge management and a profound commitment to addressing gaps in sexual and reproductive health information access. As the Asia Knowledge Management Officer for Knowledge SUCCESS, Meena looks forward to leveraging her expertise to foster collaborative environments and empower youth organizations. The challenges she anticipates are viewed not as obstacles but as opportunities for learning and growth.

Meena envisions a future where knowledge management is embraced and owned by partners, making a tangible impact on the communities they serve. Currently involved in projects with FP2030 Asia and Pacific, Meena eagerly anticipates upcoming initiatives, including cross-regional exchanges and the next iteration of KM Champions and Learning Circles. Stay tuned for more insights from Meena as she continues to drive positive change in the realm of FP/RH knowledge management in Asia.

Meena Arivananthan, MSc

Asia Regional Knowledge Management Officer

Meena Arivananthan is the Asia Regional Knowledge Management Officer at Knowledge SUCCESS. She provides knowledge management support to FP/RH professionals in the Asia region. Her experience includes knowledge exchange, KM strategy develoment and science communications. A certified facilitator of participatory processes, she is also the principle author of several KM manuals including the Knowledge Exchange Toolkit developed by UNICEF. Meena holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Master’s in Molecular Biology from the University of Malaya and is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Aoife O'Connor

Program Officer, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs

Aoife O’Connor is a program officer at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, where she serves as the programmatic lead for the FP insight platform through the USAID-funded Knowledge SUCCESS project. With nearly 10 years of public health experience in the sexual and reproductive health field, her primary interests include work centered on rights-based family planning, LGBTQ+ populations, violence prevention, and the intersection of gender, health, and climate change. Aoife holds a Master of Public Health and a Graduate Certificate in Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, alongside two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in Gender & Sexuality Studies and International Studies.