SRINAGAR — When Mahanshit Uzma set out for a journey to follow her dream to study law, little did she know that one day she would receive more than 15 offers in the universities across Europe for admission, and eventually win the prestigious Wong Family Scholarship to study in one of best universities of Asia.
As the saying goes ‘Rome was not built in a day’, she also did not accomplish things overnight. Uzma had her own share of ups and downs but the struggles and hard work paid off.
Hailing from the Hyderpora area in Srinagar, Uzma is a first-generation lawyer and the only attorney-at-law in her family.
She chose law as a career to work for gender justice and human rights, and improvise the lives of the people.
She started early and opted for Political Science and Sociology in 10+2 to build a robust foundation for her BA-LLB.
Her parents did not want her to move out of my hometown, so she appeared for a national level entrance examination (CUCET), secured 3rd rank (Law) therein and joined a BA-LLB course at the Central University of Kashmir. She completed her degree as a Gold-medallist .
She had to walk through a tightrope when she decided to pursue education abroad.
In absence of material guidance, she started grasping at the straws.
She started to explore universities and scholarships on her own, wrote emails to institutions, joined LinkedIn to find people who could guide her and researched on how to apply.
She said that during her BA-LLB, she explored over 54 modules, and among them, Public International Law and its branches fascinated her the most.
It was a perfect fusion of her interests. She said: “With time, it dawned on me that challenges were not as simple as they seemed in books but far more complex that one could possibly anticipate. This conscious desire to find ways to untie the knots, turned me into a passionate learner of international law, and drove me to pursue LLM.”
She researched for a year while applying to 20 institutions, of which seventeen were from the UK, one from Hong Kong and two from Switzerland.
Out of 17 universities from the UK, including the London School of Economics, SOAS, the University of Nottingham, the University of Bristol, the University of Liverpool, and Westminster University, she received offer letters from all 17 of them with five excellent scholarship offers.
During the application process, she graduated and started working at an organisation. After obtaining her license, she practised as an attorney for a year in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir.
In August 2022, she accepted the University of Hong Kong offer and moved there.
Now, she is studying at the 3rd best university in Asia and 20th best university in the world.
“The moral of the story is if you have passion, persistence, a clear vision and a will to grind, sooner or later, you will achieve. It’s rightly said ‘where there is a will, there is a way’,” she said.
In the last year of her undergraduate studies, she also applied for the Rhodes scholarship.
She got through the written round, made it to the interviews but did not succeed in the end.
“I learned about the candidates who succeeded that year and in the previous years to win the Rhodes scholarship, most of them studied at high-ranked institutions.
“It is challenging to win prestigious s scholarships. The bottom line is that some people have better opportunities, and they actually work harder to grab them. Complaining that the world isn’t fair will not help, but focus, consistency and hard work will,” she said.
Mahanshit did her schooling in The Mallinson Girls School.
Since her childhood, she hammered into maintaining her academic excellence throughout her academic career.
She completed her higher secondary education at a public school, GHSS, Kothibagh.
She said unlike common parenting in Kashmir, where extra-curricular activities are not encouraged for girls, “my parents supported my engagement in these activities. I think it played a vital role in my overall development”.
“For me, balancing between academics and extra-curricular wasn’t a cakewalk either. I kept my shoulder to the wheel in balancing good academics with leadership roles, sports training, public speaking and writing competitions, among other activities to hone my skills,” she said.
“The legal field in Kashmir is male-dominated, and you can see that bias against women in the legal fraternity everywhere, including the university. Unfortunately, women have played a contributory role in it,” she said.
Breaking the ceiling against gender bias, Mahanashit won more than 15 speaking competitions at J&K and the national level and was notably awarded by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for her oratory skills.
She says that “being lawyers, we have some essential responsibilities towards our society”.
With that objective in mind, in 2019, she along with her other colleagues laid the foundation of the Young Lawyers Forum (YLF), Kashmir.
At YLF, she uses the law as an effective tool to bring about social changes for the betterment of society. YLF works on three aspects — litigation, legal awareness and networking.
The legal awareness division that she is heading is responsible for spreading awareness using tools like awareness campaigns, workshops, socio-legal studies, and legal competitions across various themes.
She has previously conducted awareness campaigns and workshops on sexual harassment, crimes against women, the right to information, and health rights.
She is currently undertaking socio-legal studies with fieldwork on women’s inheritance rights under Islamic Law. — IANS