An 18-year-old student from New Delhi had the unique opportunity recently to spend a day as the UK’s senior-most diplomat in India.
As top boss overseeing the UK’s largest overseas network, Chaitanya Venkateswaran’s packed day last week included handing out tasks to the ’s department heads, interacting with senior female police officers, meeting the press, and launching a study tracing the impact of British Council STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] scholarships on Indian women participants.
Chaitanya is the fourth young woman to take over as British High Commissioner in an annual competition run by the UK mission, aiming to empower the next generation of women as leaders and trailblazers, and to highlight some of the challenges women and girls around the world still face. The competition is run in celebration of International Day of the Girl Child, marked globally on October 11.
Chaitanya, High Commissioner for the Day, said: “I used to visit the British Council Library in 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. My day was full of diverse experiences which have really broadened my perspective on the role of women and their representation in fields of media, policing and STEM.
“I am now more determined than ever to use my new knowledge and experience to help promote equitable treatment of women everywhere.”
In line with health and safety precautions, Chaitanya participated in the day via video conference, but was happy to meet Acting High Commissioner Jan Thompson (pictured) at a later date for a socially distanced walk.
Jan Thompson, Deputy High Commissioner for the special Day, said: “This competition is one of my favourite moments of the year – an opportunity to provide a platform to extraordinary young women, and show how the UK and India are sharing expertise to ensure women and girls reach their full potential around the world.
“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 side-lines 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.”
The British High Commission in New Delhi has run the “High Commissioner for a Day” competition annually since 2017, inviting young Indian women aged 18 to 23 to take over as their most senior diplomat. The British High Commission said the competition is reflective of the work the UK and India are doing together to help ensure women and girls can reach their full potential.
This year, entrants were invited to submit a one-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, who emerged the winner to take charge of the mission on October 7, is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree with a full scholarship in International Studies and Economics, and certificate programmes in Advanced Leadership Studies and Political Thought at American University, Washington DC, studying remotely.
An active volunteer, she has worked to aid visually-impaired students, acid attack survivors and marginalised LGBT+ groups. She is also a trained classical dancer, an art enthusiast and avid reader. She aims to pursue a career in economics and global public policy.