Published: 11th October 2019
Meet Deepa Jayaraj, the Chennai law student who got to be British Deputy High Commissioner for a day
A fourth-year student of Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University was selected to lead the diplomatic mission in Chennai for a day
On any normal day, Deepa Jayaraj would have woken up, had her breakfast, dressed and left for college. Not this time. Today, she wasn't just a student at the School of Excellence, Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University, she was the British Deputy High Commissioner to India.
As part of her initiation, Deepa's day started off with breakfast at Cottingley, the residence of the British Deputy High Commissioner, after which she had a tour of his office and the British Council. She then sat down to listen to the weekly reports of the various Heads of Departments of the High Commission like Press and Media, Trade and Investment, Information technology and Corporate Services. This was followed by a recording session at a radio station and a visit to Zifo RnD Solutions, a UK-India trade partner. She also visited her university where she gave an inspiring speech on gender equality.
The event marked the International Day of the Girl Child, an initiative by the UN, observed across the world on October 11 to recognise the rights of women and girls. The British network in India wanted to commemorate the day and launched a competition where girls between the age of 18-23 were invited to post videos on Twitter on the theme 'gender equality'. After a huge response, seven winners were selected to be the Deputy High Commissioners for a day.
Deepa Jayaraj, a fourth-year law student, was selected from Chennai to be one of the seven Deputy High Commissioners across the country. While this is the third season of the competition in India, it is the first time it's being conducted in Tamil Nadu. Speaking about how she won the contest and what gender equality means to her, she said, "The topic of the video was 'Why is gender equality important?' It was a one-minute video. I spoke about my inspiration, a girl named Madheswari. I also spoke about why it is important to maintain gender equality in governance, in education and other sectors. Both genders have to co-exist. There shouldn't be any discrimination and I think education can bring that about."
Speaking on the occasion, Oliver Ballhatchet, the Deputy High Commissioner to Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, who recently took office said that his role involved working with the Indian government on several issues like human rights and gender equality. However, the most important issue over the next few years would be climate change, he asserted. "The UK is poised to hold a partnership with Italy on climate change policies, which we hope to host in Glasgow next year. We are also having a conference next year on plastic reduction. We also work with the Tamil Nadu state government on their electric vehicle policy," he said.
Deepa, who called the experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment spoke about how meeting new people and learning more about UK-India relations was the highlight of her day. "I do know about the long-standing history between India and UK, but I hadn't thought much about the other connections like trade and investment relations between the countries. That was something new, because usually, people relate the High Commission to just visas," she added.