Pallavi Mahajan is a Master’s student at the Institute of Development Studies(IDS), Sussex, pursuing Gender studies. A highly driven individual and fully committed to her field, she is one of the few applicants around the globe who were awarded the Chevening Scholarship.

The Chevening Scholarship is an international scholarship scheme which helps students with leadership qualities to pursue postgraduate studies or courses at universities in the United Kingdom from over 160 countries and territories. Highly competitive, only students of the highest caliber, with a strong academic background and lots of ambition are selected. To learn more click here.

Read on to discover more about this scholarship through Pallavi Mahajan’s journey

Key Takeaways:

  1. Pallavi Mahajan’s background.
  2. Major accomplishments.
  3. Overview of the application process.
  4. What made Pallavi’s application stand out?
  5. Advice for future applicants.

The Interview

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I graduated from law school with the dream of changing the status quo. I knew the responsibility of being a lawyer, a trailblazer of shielding the ‘Right To Equality’ which is the cornerstone of a strong democracy. However, soon the dream of adding a ‘world view’ to my profession of being a lawyer was lost amidst billable hours, paying bills, career ladder, and weekdays yearning for weekends. 5 years of being a corporate litigation lawyer looked as fancy on paper, however deep down I was unsatisfied and exhausted. In 2015, when I was escalated to a leadership position in my then workplace, I was perturbed by the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in the legal industry (In India, the percentage of women in leadership positions in the legal industry is 15% only). I took cognizance of my observations and proposed to an international federation of women lawyers a ‘Gender Diversity’ Project. We worked on policies, ran qualitative and quantitative studies, spoke to diversity and inclusion experts, and after 6 months presented a 24 pointer recommendation policy which was followed by law firms from 12 countries globally. And within 2 years each law firm on an average reported a 24% rise in leadership positions occupied by women lawyers. 

The gratification of the Gender Diversity Project was the catalyst in my movement towards Gender Advocacy. To whoever, I spoke to about Gender Advocacy as a career trajectory brushed it aside as my fantasy trip. From friends, colleagues, mentors, and even family, everyone thought that I was deluded and wasn’t thinking through. But I was sure that if today I abide by the general consensus of the people around, the only person I would be dishonest to would be me, myself. And in 2017, I made the big move. I also co-founded my intersectional feminist NGO to work on economic independence and the social inclusion of genders. While working as Gender Advocate, there were times I missed the ‘settled’ waters, the cash inflow, and especially the known trajectory, however, I knew that by making my career more than just a means to earn the bread, I could inspire people to go after their dreams no matter what. There were times that my career move became the butt of jokes. I was labeled as a ‘Self Inflicted Failure’. There were times I succumbed to the naysayers and doubted my decision but there more times when I stood steadfast to my inner voice, because if I couldn’t be my own cheerleader then who will be? 

In the 2 formative years of my journey in Gender Advocacy, I worked with blinders to hone my craft, with no focus on adulation or cash flow. I led numerous regional and national level initiatives and campaigns through policy intervention, academic learnings, and activism. I collaborated with Skill India Mission, Start-up India, Education Policy 2020-21, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) for our initiatives such as She Mentorship, Women Entrepreneurship Circle, Career Fair for the LGBTQIA+ community, Comprehensive Sexuality Education. 

After 2 years of burning the midnight oil which wasn’t even visible, of falling and rising and falling to rise yet again, I was selected as the 2019 United Nations Gender and Sexuality Fellow. And this is when the universe helped me reap my commitment to my true self. I worked on gender mainstreaming policies on various legal bills and policies, two of which were quoted in a Parliamentary session. I was also invited as the India ambassador of the Global Goodwill AmbassadorProgram, team lead for Youth for Human Rights International, UN Volunteers, and Lawyers without Borders. Through these leadership positions in these coveted networks, I worked in collaboration with gender experts from 192 countries to fight against gender exclusion.

To augment my understanding of Gender, Globalisation, and Development, I decided to pursue a master’s program. I applied to schools in the UK and while I knew the competition would be stiff with an applicant coming from a core gender background, I was sure about my resilience, perseverance, and commitment to the field. I was accepted to all the three schools that I applied for and will be joining IDS, Sussex (World’s No. 1 University for Gender, this fall. I was also awarded the coveted British High Commission’s Chevening Scholarship, (Chevening is awarded to 1500 scholars from across the globe from 50 k applicants). I will be representing India as a Chevening Scholar in the UK. Unforeseen fortune for visible and consistent efforts when my 3 years of Gender Advocate was recognized by the Royal Society of Arts, London, where I am invited as a fellow. 

What people see in my profile is – How 1 year can change your life but I want to impress upon you that if there is 1% desire of achieving a dream, one should go after it without thinking of society, norms, and fear of the unknown. Our careers can become our mission, however, this privilege is never served on a silver platter.

What are some of your major accomplishments?

Chevening Scholar – 2020

Invited Fellow, Royal Society of Arts, London – 2020

Ambassador, Global Goodwill Ambassador – 2020

UN Gender and Sexuality Fellow – 2019

Team Lead, UN Volunteers – 2019

Team Lead, Lawyers for Change – 2015

Could you describe the application process in brief?

It is an extremely competitive application process. There are 60,000 applicants from 160+ nationalities and only 1500 are selected from the applicant pool. The first stage is eligibility and then the application form which comprises 4 essays. And the last stage is the interview process. Through the process, the Scholarship Committee is looking for global leaders which will contribute to a more inclusive and better world.

Why do you think you were selected? 

I believe that my overarching story was compelling and was in tandem with the goals of the scholarship. I could coherently stitch my past experience with my vision of Masters and future career aspirations, which collectively will contribute to Chevening alumni, India’s needs, and further harness the relationship between India and the UK.

Any advice you would like to give future applicants?

Read, research, review, and keep morale high.

According to Pallavi, perseverance and commitment are the two qualities that helped her get to where she is now. She firmly believes that one can make their career their mission if they work hard enough and commit themselves to their cause. Her journey teaches us that anyone can achieve their goals as long as they put in their 100 percent into it. So what are you waiting for? Apply now! Don’t forget, “You reap what you sow”.

3 comments

  1. You are a great leader 👏 well done, We Cheveners shape today’s world and make it a better place where inclusivity and gender equality underpin peacebuilding.

    Liked by 1 person

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