• WLP

WLP 2021 Week 3

This week, my internship, weekend in D.C., and WLP speaker sessions afforded me unique insights into how policy and diplomacy, in conjunction with advocacy, provide a platform for global human rights discussions. Despite the virtual nature of my internship and WLP sessions, I engaged in and enriched my knowledge of South Asian affairs and policy. I gained a deeper understanding on how global actors neutralize geographic threats through diplomacy, trade, and negotiations in order to maintain a power differential. In essence, I have developed a more globalized understanding of how policy initiatives can not only bring forth visibility to marginalized issues, but also provide economic, emotional, and social relief to constituents.

I have found my internship experience at Congressman Ami Bera’s office rewarding as I have not only grown in my knowledge of the Indo-Pacific, Horn of Africa, and legislative processes in Sacramento but also developed an interpersonal connection with constituents. As an intern, my responsibilities range from replying to letters and compiling the Bera Bulletin to listening to voicemails from constituents and attending briefings, among other tasks. This past week, I attended the House Foreign Affairs Committee briefing on the conflict in Ethiopia and prepared the hearing binder after listening to a constituent express grave concern and awareness on said violence weeks prior on a voicemail. I was elated to see that a constituent’s concern was nationally addressed, echoing the Congressman’s commitment to work for and by the people. Therefore, the ability to connect and respond to communal concerns through discussion and discursive action has reawakened my passion for a career in public service.


This week’s WLP sessions focused on careers in international relations, law, and policy--peak areas of my interest. In a session on law school, Dave Kumar provided insight on the intersectionality of law and policy and how individuals should acquire practical experience prior to attending to assuage any anxieties and get a first-hand perspective. Moreover, former U.S. Ambassador Rich Varma’s discussion on diplomacy in India under the Obama Administration and Nisha Biswal’s work in the public service sector provided first-hand insight as to how the South Asian identity plays a pivotal role in shaping and enacting diplomacy. I was able to conceptualize and apply my background as a human rights advocate with a focus on South Asia and the Middle East to foreign diplomacy. I came to the realization that diplomacy, allyship, and ending international oppression, genocide, or colonial-apartheid regimes cannot be forced but require diligent and practical compromises for all parties. As a result, these negotiations and conflicts to maintain peace and a power balance in the global south are a lot more complicated than portrayed in the media or in historical archives. Lastly, Nithya Venkataramani and her discussion on handling stress and anxiety provided an opportunity for all WLP cohort members to self-reflect on the stressors and boundaries in their lives. I really appreciated her coping strategies for burnout and anxiety; for example, to disconnect from these feelings, individuals should focus on a particular color or object in their surroundings.

All in all, traveling to D.C., having an in-person brunch with Nisha and the board, and experiencing D.C. in person during the July 4th weekend have re-ignited my passion for working in foreign affairs and giving back to my community in the U.S. and Pakistan. Despite the virtual nature of WLP, the ability to meet the cohort, alumni, and board members made me realize the strong support system and community will help not only our goals and career development but our individual growth. I deeply appreciated the board members and alumni’s diligent commitment to actively and attentively listen to our career interests and serve as mentors for our coming projects. I am super excited to further develop my knowledge and a deeper understanding of how to use policy to bring forth socio-economic, education, and gender policy changes within the subcontinent.


Hifza Shaukat