Originally from the historical town of Amritsar in Punjab, Mahima Mehra is the first girl in her family who is all set to receive her education in the United Kingdom. Mahima is an undergraduate in Sociology from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi – one of the most coveted colleges in India for liberal arts. Passionate about Hunger and Poverty, she has been working with a non-profit since 2019 and recently received the “Emerging Scientist Award 2021” for her research work in poverty, healthcare and gender justice. Mahima will be starting her Masters in Poverty & Development from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the UK. IDS has been in the news recently for its World QS Ranking 1 in Development.
In an exclusive interview, she gets candid about her journey, her plans and advice for young aspirants applying abroad this year.
What was your biggest motivation to pursue a career in Development?
Even as a child, I was inquisitive. I would often ask my mother why the restrictions imposed on me as a girl were so starkly disparate from my brother’s and why my loudness and flamboyance was bridled only because it did not resonate well with societal expectations of being a girl. I was always someone who asked more, absorbed more and pondered more. I didn’t know the political connotation of social stratification, but I’ve always known I was living it. I was when I started my education in Sociology, I decided I will dedicate my life to eradicating stratification.
How do you think your education in Poverty is relevant to India’s scenario?
(Laughs) This is also a question I was asked in my scholarship interviews! Eradicating Poverty is the World’s first Sustainable Development Goal. In India, two people are pushed into poverty because of healthcare costs every second (Oxfam 2019). This combined with India’s bleak job market, failing public health systems and skyrocketing population due to the pandemic are enough to make one shudder at the prospects of life for India’s poor. I firmly believe that India possesses sound policies with extensive vision towards healthcare and poverty eradication. What is needed is greater convergence between the two and a workforce which can translate these programs into evidence on the field. I’m hoping to study this convergence at IDS and come back and apply this learning in my own country. I’m also interested in India’s Aspirational Districts Programme and would love to explore this under world-known scholars in the UK.
What advice would you give to young applicants who are applying abroad this year for their Masters?
I would say don’t lose heart in the face of dejection. A lot of funding and scholarship programmes have been cancelled because of the pandemic. I didn’t make it to many lists because I found something I’m absolutely perfect for. Secondly, research about Universities you’re applying to and find alums who have studied there. I spoke to a lot of people before I actually applied. And finally I’d say, be brave. Don’t second guess your own calibre. Even if the process seems daunting, know that the light at the end of the tunnel will be worth the wait.