Creating safer spaces for women in India

11 November 2021
International postgraduate Soumya Mishra has a crucial role in making cities safer
Studying post-colonial literature and gender studies has helped this postgrad make a meaningful difference.
Soumya Mishra

Pictured: Soumya Mishra.

A self-driven, tenacious international postgraduate has melded her learnings in a way that helps make a real impact in the world. Meet Soumya Mishra, an international alumni at the centre of Red Dot Foundation – Safecity’s operations as its communications manager, and graduate of the Master of English Studies at the University of Sydney.

Gender studies in action

A global pandemic came with its own set of challenges, but for Soumya, it was a new opportunity to realign her focus toward a meaningful purpose.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainties that it brought along with itself compelled me to rethink my plans,” she says. “I decided to put my knowledge and skills in the development sector in India.”

Research and data drives decision-making, which is where Red Dot Foundation – Safecity comes in. The crowd-sourced platform enables people to anonymously report sexual assault and abuse in public spaces. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration to identify factors that causes behaviour that leads to violence and work on strategies for practical solutions.

We work at the intersection of gender, technology, communications, data and urban planning, and our aim is to make cities safer by encouraging equal access to public spaces for everyone.
Soumya Mishra

As communications manager, Soumya’s team develops newsletters, blogs, press releases, reports, white papers, and social media strategies, all of which work together to provide a targeted and impactful message.

Research with impact

“I have always wanted to pursue a career in research and I had a very clear vision to pursue a PhD in Postcolonial Literature with Gender and Sexuality Studies,” explains Soumya of her decision to pursue a Master of English Studies at the University of Sydney. “Australian universities are known for their rigorous research frameworks, so that narrowed down my search to find the most appropriate university for my needs and interests. Moreover, Sydney is considered as the melting pot of cultures, and that attracted me quite a bit as well.”

It was the intense academic and research curriculum and the unique multidisciplinary approach that has prepared Soumya in her role.

“It improved my research, writing, communication, and critical thinking as well as analytical skills,” she says

These skills have proved to be immensely beneficial at my work and have enabled me to strengthen our communication strategies.
Soumya Mishra

Reminiscing about her time at the University, Soumya recalls her transformational classes with Professor Elspeth Probyn and Dr Fiona Lee.  

“The Gender Studies unit put together by Professor Probyn was absolutely amazing,” she remembers. “I made so many friends in that particular class as well, and I am still in touch with a couple of them.”

She also speaks highly of Dr Fiona Lee. “She was the best mentor I could ever ask for. The skills imparted by her have helped me a lot in my professional career.”

Maximising employability with an arts degree

On the most important learnings from her studies, Soumya recommends building a variety of skillsets to maximise career opportunities after graduation.

“Personally, I learned a lot about digital tools, which helped me to strategise feminist digital advocacy plans and campaigns at work,” she says. “The other thing that I would suggest is to build your network. So many of us are shy, including me, and we do not network with people, which can be a challenge.”

Soumya’s drive to put theory into practice has paid off, though not without the resources and support networks available at the University.

“Make the best of the resources available,” she advises anyone thinking of studying at the University. “There are so many workshops that can help you develop your skills apart from your regular coursework units. I would also recommend that you talk to your professors.”

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is fantastic, approachable, and always eager to help you out, so make the best of that.
Soumya Mishra

Interested in studying with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences? Postgraduate scholarships are available to help international students discover an unexpected career with the University of Sydney.

Words by Margaret Tran.

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