Delhi girl slips into the chair of the UK’s top diplomat for a day and realises how tough the job is
All in a day’s work for 18-year-old Chaitanya Venkateswaran!
The Delhi girl was the acting British High Commissioner for a day, on October 7.
Chaitanya was the 4th young woman to take over as UK’s senior-most diplomat in India, thanks to an annual competition run by the High Commission to empower the next generation of women as leaders and trailblazers.
The UK Mission has been running the ‘High Commissioner for a Day’ competition annually since 2017, celebrating International Day of the Girl Child (October 11) and inviting young Indian women aged 18 to 23 to participate. This year, they were asked to submit a 1-minute video on social media, answering the question: ‘What global challenges and opportunities do you see for gender equality in the age of COVID-19?’
Chaitanya, a first-year student at The American University in Washington, D.C, now studying remotely due to the pandemic, emerged victorious.
After overseeing the UK’s largest overseas network for a day, Chaitanya shared her ‘day in the life of a High Commissioner’ tale with ABP Education:
I used to visit the British Council library in New Delhi when I was younger, and that's where I cultivated my love of learning. Building on that knowledge, to be the British High Commissioner for a day was a golden opportunity.
I was excited to be chosen as the High Commissioner for a Day on October 7. A week ahead of the D-day, I was explained in detail the workflow for the High Commissioner.
I started the day with an informal and brief conversation with the High Commissioner. Then I attended the weekly scheduled meeting with the heads of sections where they updated me about what they would do next week and briefed me about some major upcoming projects.
Over the course of the day I met the Editor of Anandabazar Patrika to learn about gender representation in the media industry; discussed gender and policing with senior police officers from Madhya Pradesh and Telangana; interacted with the Marks & Spencer India team; launched the British Council STEM Tracer Study documenting the stories of 166 Indian women scholars; and chaired a meeting with youth leaders -- which included the previous winners of the ‘High Commissioner for a Day’ competition — on some of the biggest challenges facing the world.
Of all my engagements, the conversations with the Editor of Anandabazar Patrika and the IPS officers stood out. They were very successful career women and mentors, and the discussion was frank and engaging.
Due to the pandemic, all my activities were virtual, and I was not physically present at the High Commission while performing my diplomatic duties. I did, however, go to the High Commission on a later date.
My virtual day at the High Commission was a most enriching experience with several takeaways. It gave me an inside view into how complicated the work of a diplomat is and how much effort goes into their work. I realised it is not just visa-related work or just about attending high-level meetings; it is much beyond all that. And so, I now have new-found admiration for diplomats.
This experience and unique insight is going to help me in the long run. I am currently doing my double major in International Relations and Economics with a full scholarship at The American University. I aim to work with international agencies like the United Nations on global public policy and economics. To get a behind-the-scenes view of a High Commission and to know how diplomacy works would definitely help me in my career.
Jan Thompson, Deputy High Commissioner for the Day (on other days, Acting High Commissioner to India), said, “I was thrilled to relinquish my duties to Chaitanya for the day and was impressed with how confidently and competently she took on this role, a deserving winner out of an incredible 215 entries. On the sidelines of her very busy day as High Commissioner, we also enjoyed discussing our mutual love of the arts. I look forward to seeing what Chaitanya achieves next, as she joins a cohort of young women whose voices we have been proud to amplify through this annual initiative; the next generation of global leaders.”
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