Smita Barua, an Assamese Advocate in DC, USA

Smita Barua, Advicate in DC, USAShe is Smita Baruah, who, in a short span of just six years in Washington DC has established herself as one of America’s leading policy advocates in the field of international development. Her’s is a rare case of a young woman from the North-East succeeding in her field of activity in her adopted country America, arguably the richest and most powerful nation in the globe.

Smita is currently Deputy Director of Public Policy at InterAction, US’ largest alliance of international development and humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In this capacity, Smita serves as a liaison between various stakeholders in the international development arena – NGOs, the US Administration, Members of Congress, and UN agencies. She brings their issues to different fora on topics ranging from getting humanitarian access in Sudan to security issues in Iraq to advocating for women’s rights in Bangladesh. She also represents the NGO community and advocates issues on their behalf to the US government and to the UN.

For this year’s annual conference (Forum 2004) that was held from May 17-19 at the Washington Marriott, InterAction – largely due to Smita’s personal efforts – was able to attract an eclectic galaxy of celebrities including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen; rock star and global citizen Bono; Secretary of State Colin Powell; Rudd Lubbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), among others.

Earlier in 2002, Smita in her capacity as the head of a delegation of US NGOs, had the distinction of addressing the United Nations. Her numerous responsibilities, and high visibility, brings her into close contact with various Members of Congress in both the House and the Senate and in the US Administration. This gives her the opportunity to influence US foreign policy on issues close to her heart: working towards poverty alleviation in developing nations, advancement of social justice, women’s rights and human rights, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts in strife-torn nations such as Afghanistan, and debt relief.

Although her organisation is non-partisan, Smita is now actively involved in John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

Originally from New York City, Smita moved to the Washington metropolitan area in 1996. She then received a masters degree with summa-$@!&-laude from the prestigious School of International Service at the American University in Washington DC in 1998. That very year she also won the Presidential Award for Academic Fitness from the first President Bush.
Smita currently lives in Germantown, Maryland with her husband Anurag Barua and three-year-old son Arpan. Smita is the daughter of Nikhil and Nirmali Baruah of Westerville, Ohio.

As a happily married wife and a proud mother, Smita seems to have struck an immaculate balance between work and life – a unique quality that makes her stand out among her peers and colleagues. And as a person who brings so much zeal and passion to her work, we should not be surprised to hear a lot more about her in the near future.

Smita’s is a case that proves that given the right climate for nurturing our latent talents, the Assamese are capable of accomplishing great feats in life.
Like Smita, many of our brethren from the North-East have been doing their bit towards advancement in different fields of activities around the world. Many of them are in fact excelling through their skill and endeavour.

We hear from time to time about the great achievements of people having their roots in the NE region. But due to lack of exhaustive details about their nature of work and about themselves we cannot promptly bring them before our readers, who are invariably eager to know more about those achievers.

(By Simanta Bhagawati on Assam Tribune)