What is “home”?

– United Diaspora Conference 2019

Saadia Gardezi (Pakistan, MPhil Modern South Asian Studies, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann-Rausing/Abraham)

“What is Home”? This was one of the questions being grappled with at the United Diaspora 2019 conference organised by Common Purpose. Common Purpose organises leadership events focusing on developing countries. They connect business leaders across different sectors and use the host city in a very creative way to facilitate learning (e.g. you go for walks with your fellow programme participants). For some at the conference, “home” was a shifting category. They lived in the UK, but identified as Nigerian, Indian, or Lebanese. For some, “home” was wherever they were happy. For another few, “home” was the planet – they aspired to be global citizens. Ultimately, there was no resounding agreement on what “home” is but we did agree on the practical implications of this ‘place’ – for right to work and travel, immigration laws and pursuit of well-being and happiness. 

Conference attendees participate in the ‘Leading Beyond Authority’ session.

This year’s event was the first edition of United Diaspora. As Alison Coburn, the Chief Executive of Common Purpose International explained, their organisation was already working in countries with a significant diaspora population, and therefore they recognised the common challenges different diasporas in the UK face. From 30th April to 1st May, we had two lovely venues for our discussions: on the first day, we had the privilege to spend our day on the top floor of City Hall in London, overlooking the Tower Bridge and the City. On the second day, we were in the beautiful building of Bank of America. During the morning of the first day, we got to know as many people of our group (of roughly 90 leaders) as we could by introducing ourselves and switching tables frequently. In the afternoon, Julia Middleton, the Founder and Innovation Head of Common Purpose gave a talk and participated in a panel discussion about Cultural Intelligence, as a tool to understand one’s own and others’ core values. According to Julia, these values are “stable and unshakeable, and can be contrasted to our flexible values. Giving them an equal space in our interactions with people, and interacting with other keeping in mind the framework of flex vs core, can help up navigate  and understand values of people we wold not understand if we had too many unchangeable core values”.

Project Dastaan – co-founded by WHT Scholar, Saadia Gardezi.

Estzer Kabos, a Hungarian WHT scholar had the opportunity to discuss her work to bring people back to Hungary; to reverse the country’s ‘brain-drain’, with an Armenian expert in the field who has been successfully working on such an initiative for more than 20 years. I was delighted to talk about my own project in defining ‘home’ – Project Dastaan. The project aims to film stories of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 in virtual reality. Both of these projects are in areas that require the input and support of the diasporas of our home countries. For this reason, we found the event to be extremely helpful. It was impressive to see 90 young and mid-career professionals take time off for two days from their demanding professional careers to be at the event.

By the end of the conference, we all realised what Common Purpose knew already: that we are much more similar than we think. However, when confronted with real problems, or migration, asylum and employment, our core values take over, and have created a world where we are not being flexible enough to find common ground.

About the Scholar

Saadia Gardezi

Modern South Asian Studies (), 2019
St Edmund Hall, Oxford
Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann-Rausing/Abraham Scholar

WHT Summer Internship in Delhi

Max Weidenfeld travel grant reflections by Ayushi Agrawal

captured at a children’s education initiative supported by the Indian Railways in
Allahabad .

As a human rights advocate with a focus on gender, I was keenly looking for an opportunity to learn how my current studies as a law student at Oxford can be applied for the benefit of stakeholder groups, and bridge the essential gap between academic theorising and relevant practise.

The Max Weidenfeld travel grant allowed me to travel to Delhi during the spring vacation 2019 to intern with the Samana Centre for Gender, Policy and Law for three weeks. It is a gender consultancy focusing on gender diversity and inclusion, and helps institutions better implement laws, by assisting them in designing workplace policies, conducting workshops and creating more sensitivity to gender issues, ultimately aimed at empowering women and the LGBTQ community and furthering their inclusion and growth in the workplace.

In two of my courses, Comparative Human Rights and Comparative Equality Law, a significant portion of the class discussion is centred on how rights ultimately percolate down to those for whom they are intended, through the institutions that mediate them i.e. the legislature, the judiciary and public & private workplaces. As an intern at the Samana Centre, my work was a direct application of what I’m learning in those classes.

My first project revolved around researching paternity leave policies in companies around the world, and highlighting practices that can be followed by willing companies in India, that do not currently have a law for paternity leave. The comparative nature of my courses at Oxford assisted me in undertaking the comparative research for this project, and also made me aware of the vast difference across countries when it comes to laws that further gender equality.

My second project involved research on harassment of trans-gender individuals in India. While I was aware of the problem; this research made me aware of the whole range of discriminatory practices and harassment faced by the transgender community, which can include violence by police, harassment in schools and at the workplace and barriers to accessing basic amenities such as toilets.

My third project required that I research the position of women in the legal community in India. My findings showed dismal representation of women, especially in professional positions such as advocates, judges and corporate law firm partners. This insight has only strengthened my resolve to work for gender equality in India.

My final project consisted of making a comprehensive index of all the sexual harassment cases that have come before Indian courts since the passing of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2013. Reading through these judgments, which were numbered at more than 130, and encompassed the Supreme Court, and 17 different High Courts, reinforced in my mind the vastness and prevalence of the problem.

Having now finished the internship, I feel that I have gained significant practical insight into the context of my own country, which will definitely go on to enrich all that I have learnt and will learn in the classroom at Oxford.

A group of children is captured here at the educational project in Allahabad.

In addition to the internship, I was able to visit Allahabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh, where my father is currently posted as an Indian Railways employee. While I was there, I participated in the pro-bono efforts of the Indian Railways to increase access to education for poor children who live on the railway platforms. These children spend their entire lives on the platforms, and often have no family. They either beg or sell food/drinks to support themselves. The initiative aims to introduce children of all age groups to the joy of learning, by engaging them in short stories and preliminary mathematics lessons and giving them a space where they can simply be children instead of worrying about making a living. Participating in these sessions reinvigorated my sense of duty towards the lesser privileged people of my country, and gratitude for everything I’ve been privileged enough to experience, especially my education.

I would like to thank the Weidenfeld Hoffmann Trust for awarding me the Max Weidenfeld Travel Grant, which allowed me to have this educational and fulfilling experience.

About the Scholar

Ayushi Agarwal

Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), 2019
Exeter College, Oxford
Oxford-Hoffmann Scholar

WHT’s Alumni of the Year Award

The Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust recognises the exceptional value of our Alumni. As part of our annual end of year Leadership Forum we are accepting nominations for ¨WHT’s Alumni of the Year Award¨.

Our Leadership Programme aims to foster a community of leaders who are agents of change in their societies and across the world.

Have you been involved in work which is outstanding, been a change maker in health, sustainability, education, politics, business, etc?

Follow the link to nominate yourself or an alum you know

About the Scholar

Laura Stewart

(), I am not a scholar
, Oxford

Oxford Business Forum Africa 2019

WHT Scholars and Alumni Busan, Grace, Joseph, Laura, Alan and Atherton pose for a picture at this year’s Business Forum Africa

Between the 8th and 9th of March, the Saïd Business school hosted the annual Oxford Africa Business Forum. The Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholarships and Leadership Programme supported four current and two alumni students to attend the auspicious event. It was two days packed with inspiring African leaders in business, entrepreneurship and international development. In between speeches there was not a moment short of thought-provoking discussions among attendants and a few mini-debates on the topics of the day. My greatest lesson, was realising my own potential in the amazing delegates presented before me. Below, I give a brief description of the highlights of the day.

The forum begun with a powerful opening keynote by Cameroonian Professor Landry Singe. His profile includes being the youngest to rise to professorship at Stanford University, being the World Economic Forums young Global leader and even a contribution to the Black Panther movie. In his talk, Professor Landry called the continent and its youth to action. He spoke about the need for Africa’s continental free trade and outlined strategies for the agreements implementation. First, is to negotiate intellectual property and protocols for the trade of good. Second, is to have countries agree on the objectives of the protocols, which should promote and facilitate competition legislatures. His last strategy was implementation of the policies proposed for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The Oxford Africa Business Forum hosted panel discussions with teams of about 5 business leaders on the continent in each title. ‘Rebooting the Sleeping Giant’, was a discussion on the case for a continental free trade agreement with one speaker stating, ‘It takes more resources to block free trade, than to allow it’. ‘Upgrading the operating system’, was a discussion on equity banking and entrepreneurship. The panel noted challenges in raising capital and discussed solutions like market diversification and in-country re-investment as is practice in countries like Botswana.

The ‘Branding the African narrative’ was a discussion on marketing in Africa. I was impressed with South Africas approach to tourism marketing which is targeted to selling specific customer-experiences as opposed to a location.

Dr Vera Songwe, executive secretary for the UN economic commission for Africa, gave an astounding closing speech which focused on the African Free Trade Agreement. She stated that the continent has not been able to trade well within itself and that the proposed trade agreement would improve quality, diversification and sophistication of trade in Africa. Trading within Africa could increase employment and improve the economic empowerment of women in the informal sector especially in border areas. Dr Songwe described in great statistical detail, how the African Continental Free Trade Agreement would provide an enabling environment for digital platforms and private sector business. She concluded with expressing her understanding of reservations made by large economies like South Africa and Nigeria. She then explained that on-going consultations will improve the agreement in the hopes for endorsement by more countries by July this year.

Through the Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Leadership and Scholarship programme, I am learning about entrepreneurship and having practical experience through our enterprise challenges. As an African, the Oxford Africa Business forum has given me the perspective on the future of my role in this space. It is exciting to see the contributions to the continent that these amazing leaders are making and I hope to be among them some day.

About the Scholar

Grace Mzumara

International Health and Tropical Medicine (MSc), 2019
St Edmund Hall, Oxford
Oxford-Hoffmann Scholar

Women’s Empowerment Month – A reflection on Feminism

WHT Scholar David Hernandez (Colombia, Master of Public Policy, Oxford-Weidenfeld-Hoffmann/Chevening)

Since I was admitted as a Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholar, the activity I have enjoyed the most has been the Robin Hambro Moral Philosophy seminars. During these meetings, I have realized how unaware I have been of the discussions that entangle our relations as human beings and as part of a broader society. I am an engineer, and in this field of knowledge most of the challenges have a ‘right’ answer and a straightforward solution. In contrast, in Moral Philosophy Seminars, I have witnessed how complex the social science discussions are and how communal and individual perspectives can shape a shared knowledge; sometimes finding overlapping agreements and sometimes only disagreement.  However, I have never been privy to a discussion with such a rich and honest amount of agreement between a diverse group of males and females from as multifaceted a background as those at the WHT’s Moral Philosophy Seminar on Feminism.

The Seminar on Feminism was moderated by Diana Popescu and led by Nikolas Kirby. The core readings for the seminar involved important feminist thinkers like Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, Sojourner Truth and Iris Young. Taking these readings as a base for the discussion, on the first day of March 2019 at Nuffield College, more than 20 scholars from politics, business, environmental sciences and other areas provided me with the tools to understand what feminism is about.

Women’s struggle for equality has been developed by three main movements; sufferage, access to education and equity in the professional world. These are just the beginning of the decades long fight for women’s rights. These ideas represent the so called ‘first wave’ of feminism.  With every achievement of women, it has become obvious that the problem is more complex; it has deep roots in society and more subtle forms of discrimination remain.  Thus, the surge of the ‘second wave’ of feminism continues the struggle to overcome the public and private oppression of women. We must be concerned by the lack of understanding within patriarchal / male dominated societies that ‘equal rights’ are not enough if women are not able to exercise them effectively.

In my opinion, our collective imagination has been very limited in tackling these problems. There are still forms of direct and indirect discrimination and the idea of women as “The Other” in relation to men still frames them in a secondary role. We need to address these big issues, not only through direct action by women but also the efforts of men. Men need to understand the problem and in addition to all concerns of ‘second wave’ movements, we need to realize and recognize the diversity within the women’s empowerment movement too i.e. the problems of a white women are not necessarily the same as those of a black women. The concerns of women need to be fundamentally understood and acknowledged first and maybe then, our imaginations can really start providing pragmatic and relevant solutions beyond ‘providing’ rights.

During the seminar, many of the comments were related with what Iris Young established as the five faces of oppression. Women are still marginalized, 50% of the world’s population is still deprived of properly participating in social life. They are still exploited, for example, women still have a double work day; combining career and a highly active role in the private/family setting.  There is a form of ‘cultural imperialism’ at play and the domination of men has rendered the perspective of women in a secondary role. Additionally, women still lack access to power positions in public and private affairs thus being subjected, in the worst cases, to actions of violence by a dominant group of men.

As a man, having the opportunity to listen to examples and points of view of fellows WHT Scholars, women from all around the world, really piqued my interest in the feminst agenda and significantly enlightened my perspective. It is after participating in this forum that I have come to realize how relevant and necessary it is for men to take concrete actions to avoid another 100 years of women’s struggle for equality. As my dear friend Zamiyat Abubakar from Nigeria said, “men listen to men” and those of us who consider understanding this relevant issue must “call out sexist remarks, encourage men to educate themselves and contribute everyday to make the 50% of population lives better”.

About the Scholar

David Hernandez Benitez

Master of Public Policy (MPP), 2019
Pembroke College, Oxford
Oxford-Weidenfeld/Chevening Scholar

Hilary Term 2019 Executive Overview

Dear friends and supporters of WHT

2019 began with a flourish for us – thanks to André Hoffmann’s generosity, we were given a space to showcase our bespoke Leadership Programme at the World Economic Forum at Davos in January. We were undoubtedly the youngest and least experienced contributors, but I can honestly say that the WHT group wowed the audience. In the end, a dozen scholars and alums gave short presentations about the problems facing their countries. The audience of business people, non-profit executives and those interested in education (including Oxford’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, who introduced the session) asked many questions, complimented the young people on the positivity of their approach and left with a sense of hope about the future. This trip seemed a distant possibility when the visas were not forthcoming, no one quite knew what they should do or say, and we had no idea whether anyone would come and listen to our ‘young voices of hope’. . . But we did get visas albeit at the eleventh hour, the students helped each other to polish their performances and the tent was filled to standing-room-only. If you haven’t already, please look at the short highlights video on our landmark trip to the World Economic Forum.

We also chose this moment to launch a fundraising campaign for the all important Leadership Programme. Some of the alumni that couldn’t make it to Davos sent messages from their home countries, it gives a wonderful idea of what the Leadership Programme has meant – please take a few minutes to enjoy it. Professor Roland Rosner has become our latest supporter – his family foundation is generously donating towards the Leadership Programme for the next cohort, for which we are very grateful.

Otherwise, this term has sped by with an outstanding Moral Philosophy follow up session on Feminism where, for the first time, our male scholars participated in the same numbers as the female ones; the Town Hall was packed with people both ‘Town and Gown’ to listen to a topical scholar run debate entitled: ‘This House believes countries should restrict immigration to preserve national culture’.

The Annual Debate at Oxford Town Hall.

Our scholars continue to impress us with extra-curricular feats from fencing to debating and taking on leadership positions in their respective colleges. Our alumni have also returned to Oxford in waves to collect their various awards and take another walk down memory lane; Sagar Dhakal (Nepal, MSc Water Science, Policy and Management, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann) brought several generations of family, from grandparents to young cousins, for his graduation and introduced me to the art of making special sounds like gongs with a wonderful gift from their country – perhaps they, rightly, thought I needed some quiet, contemplative moments!  

A memorable moment with WHT Alumni, Sagar Dhakal and his family.

Congratulations also to several alumni who have shared their personal and professional successes with us this term. Saadia Gardezi (Pakistan, MPhil Modern South Asian Studies, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann-Rausing/Abraham) took the opportunity over the Christmas holiday to get married. She shared the following colourful and brilliant photos of her and her family’s festivities with us:

Saadia Gardezi and her husband at their traditional Pakistani wedding’.

Manisha Nair (India, DPhil Public Health, Louis Dreyfus) has been shortlisted for the Asian Women of Achievement Awards

Mastish  Taddese Terefe (Ethiopia, Master of Public Policy, Louis Dreyfus), who is our first scholar from Ethiopia, wrote to say that she had returned home with new and interesting prospects for the development of her home country, which recently made news for the election of the first woman President, Sahle-Work Zwede.

Mowmita and Baby Ayan, the newest member of the WHT Network.

Mowmita Basak Mow (Bangladesh, Master of Public Policy, Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann) shared the happy news that she has given birth to a lovely little boy.

And so the list goes on. . .

We now begin the process of selection for the next cohort and look forward to welcoming some of you back for our end of term celebration in June.

Best wishes


About the Scholar


(), I am not a scholar
, Oxford