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Dreaming Big: Helly Mehta

At 24, London, UK, based Helly Mehta has achieved what most people dream of. The young girl who was born and brought up in a typical middle class Indian family in Mumbai had a passion to excel and was blessed with progressive parents who were willing to support her goals. She says that her achievements have been possible only because she dared to dream beyond the obvious and because of the encouragement she got from her parents.

Before crossing over the continent and making the UK her choice for an academic destination, Helly worked with the UNDP India and also with the Women Economic Forum in Mumbai. Helly says, “It was here that I shared the stage with the likes of Cherie Blair, Nita Ambani and this ignited a spark in me and I knew which path I wanted to tread.”

Helly Mehta

Zofeen Maqsood

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London based Helly Mehta is the youngest Independent Director at the London School of Economics . She is also a Consultant at the UK Department of Education. Young Helly has big plans to alleviate poverty through education amongst girls in India

Helly Mehta, who is currently pursuing her Masters’ in Economics, Policy and Statistics with majors in Economic Policy at the prestigious London School of Economics is making the most of her student years. She is pursuing her passion of working towards improving the state of girl education in underserved areas globally. As she is enrolled in her second and final year of the course she is also involved with the UK Department of Education. Her work involves working alongside the finance ministry and includes important discussions around child care policies for parents. During what can easily be called her very productive student years she has also been involved as a consultant with the World Bank in Washington DC, and spent three months in the US, last summer. Her work with the World Bank revolved around working with the African Ministry of Finance to help around the condition of poverty in Africa.

 

Off to a great start

For starters, it may sound pretty remarkable to know that Helly, who arrived in the UK as recently as 2020 to study for her masters, has been able to get so much exposure in so little time. The credit for this, according to Helly, goes to her formative years. As the only girl child growing up in a family where her father ran a small business, Helly says she was encouraged to dream. Even though growing up in India and working with various non-governmental organizations all through her college years, showed her a very different reality from what she saw at her home. She says, “I was fortunate that my parents never differentiated between a girl child and what they could achieve but the truth is that everywhere I went I saw a huge disparity between the opportunities offered to girls.

She says, “Whether it was the underserved areas or even the so-called ‘modern’ households it was not unusual to find girls given restrictive choices.

Her resolve to attain higher education also emerged from her personal family travails. She says, “My father had to drop out of education pretty young as he had a rough start in life. His father was hospitalized and due to financial constraints he had to pause his education in order to pay for his brother’s education. He had to make a tough choice of either continuing his studies or looking after the small scale business. Since we knew what it felt like to not be able to achieve your academic potential, my mom remains very devoted to my education.”

After her schooling in Mumbai, Helly enrolled in the famous Narsee Monjee College in Mumbai to study for her bachelors’ in management. It was during her college years that Helly says, the seed was sown to bring a change towards girls’ education. She says, “I was volunteering all through my college years during my bachelors’ and it was in 2016 that I got a chance to represent India at the United Nations. That experience not just instilled confidence in me but was also the stepping stone that paved my future course of academic life.”

Girls Education

Helly, before crossing over the continent and making the UK her choice for an academic destination, worked with the UNDP India and also with the Women Economic Forum in Mumbai. Helly says, “It was here that I shared the stage with the likes of Cherie Blair, Nita Ambani and this too ignited a spark in me and I knew which path I wanted to tread.”

Interestingly before it all sounds too idealistic, Helly has a realistic story to share. She says, “While it all sounds great that I knew from the start what my real calling is, I too had a time discovering myself.” She adds, “After my college in Mumbai, I worked for a bit as an investment banker before I turned to my objective of girls’ education. She says, “My college years and my work with NGOs was operative in showing me that especially in underprivileged areas, where girls have so much potential, it is simply ignored. The focus is always the boy child in the family and that broke my heart. I worked with McKinsey and Teach for India and during my two years of working in Mumbai slums it was clear that I had to get some more academic knowledge and devote myself to the cause. I was lucky to get admission both in Yale and LSE but I decided to choose LSE and it has been an exceptionally enriching experience.”

 

College achievements

Once, Helly was in LSE, she took no time to begin her journey and make the new college her home. She says, “When the opportunity arose, it took me no time to decide that I would like to contest elections for the post of director. I am happy to say that I was able to get the highest votes. It was a huge feat as there is just one director amongst 12,000 students. I did not feel that I am new or I have just arrived, I just listened to instincts and got going. I have learnt so much with these new responsibilities. I also wanted to be in this position as I realized that we have so many Indians who can give back to LSE. We just need to channelize our energy. We are able to move so positively in that direction. During my second yearwe had the choice to do a project with multiple clients. I chose to work with the Department of Education. We have so much to achieve when it comes to poverty alleviation, equal access for girls and building a network for girls. My long term goals are work towards free and quality education for girls in rural areas in India. I am working towards it and so far the journey looks promising.

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