Tell us a little bit about your background...
My name is Sayali Walavalkar and I am a lawyer residing in Mumbai city, India. I was born and bought up in Mumbai where I did my schooling, a degree in commerce, a degree in law, and a diploma in cybersecurity. For my Masters, i.e., LLM in Human Rights Law, I attended the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in 2019-2020. My hobbies include writing and singing and I have pursued them both at college-level competitions. I am very passionate about pursuing a career in the field of human rights and social work, and I support the animal rights cause as well.
What inspired you to further your studies beyond undergraduate level?
During my commerce degree, I was introduced to the subject of law which was taught by an exceptional professor and she remains my mentor. I was intrigued to take a deeper dive and pursue a degree in law, and that’s why I took the entrance exam for LLB and scored well to study law from a reputable law college in Mumbai.
Why did you choose to study for the LLM Human Rights Law?
During my second year of the LLB, I secured an internship at the Maharashtra State Commission for Human Rights. After interning at the commission, I witnessed the need for people to stand up for those who have been deprived of their basic rights. I saw how the general public in India lack the basic knowledge of their powers enshrined in the Constitution of India. It was like a calling - to help people in need and contribute something solid towards the betterment of society. So, after quite a lot of deliberations and the fact that public international law and human rights law interested me personally, I chose to study for the LLM Human Rights Law.
What attracted you to Strathclyde specifically?
I remember applying to 6 Universities across the UK, and then I came across the website of the University of Strathclyde and I got to see that they have an established Law Clinic which allows the students to volunteer and help in government projects. That was something which struck a chord and I knew it in my heart I was going here if accepted!
And to my delight, I got an unconditional offer from the University and I made my decision very quickly. The aim was to gain practical experience as well and knowing that I have a chance to volunteer at the law clinic, I was thrilled to apply. Plus, the fact that I wanted to experience living in Scotland, so Strathclyde was my first choice since the beginning. And I am very glad that I got to be a part of this exceptional University.
What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde/highlight of the course so far?
While studying at Strathclyde for my LLM, I had more opportunities than I would have expected as a student. The way we got the chance to participate in some intellectual and helpful discussions made me broaden my scope. I loved when we used to do this exercise, where we used to act as members of some State Government or international NGOs and UN and share a dialogue on an existing issue. That experience was surreal. My favourite part was the International Human Rights Law lectures conducted by Prof. Alan Miller. I have learned the history of the UN from the best source and that has helped me a lot in my career.
One particular highlight was getting a chance to volunteer with the University Law Clinic under the leadership of my course leader Dr. Elaine Webster. We worked, or rather, we still are working on, the project with InControl Scotland where we got a chance to interview the relevant stakeholders such as the Advocates and Solicitors dealing with the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. This project has taught me a lot and I am grateful to be a part of it.
Have you come across any challenges during your studies, and how have you overcome them?
To be honest, this was the very first time that I was away from my home by myself. So, in order to manage everything - the studies, the routine, research work, myself it was initially quite overwhelming. Plus, a new way of participating in education was something that made me take some time to understand the intricate details of doing an assignment and studying for my exams. I had the best of classmates and support available for helping me understand the process.
What would be your advice for people considering taking this course?
My advice would be to enjoy the course as there is so much to learn while you are on it. Be open to reading because the reading lists are the key to participating in the discussions and asking questions to understand the course material. Also, try to be active in group discussions, it helps your development.
What do you think of the support available?
The support was exceptionally amazing. A big applaud to Dr. Elaine Webster who made sure we all are doing well in our studies and in general too. She used to have check-in calls with us to acknowledge any difficulties we had understanding the assignment or even to advise us on choosing an elective for the second term. We still are in contact and she is one of my mentors. The administrative support is great. They used to patiently answer our doubts and solve our queries in a very quick time. So all in all a big shout out for the amazing support we got at the University of Strathclyde during our course.
What are you doing now?
Currently, I am working at a US-based Non-Profit Organization named International Justice Mission in Mumbai. I am in the Partnerships Development team at IJM where I get to work closely with the Government Stakeholders assisting in the issue of child trafficking, child labour and sex-trafficking of women. We are working very closely with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the State of Maharashtra and the Hon’ble Mumbai City Collector as well for executing a campaign named, “Child-friendly Mumbai city.”
Apart from that, I am working as a freelance content writer at a production company to pursue my hobby of writing.
What are your ambitions for the future?
For the future, I wish to gain an exceptional amount of experience in the field of human rights and social work and perhaps work with the United Nations, representing my country proudly.