When summa cum laude graduate Ms Priyanka Naidoo was awarded the Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship at the 2016 UKZN Scholarship Awards ceremony, she was already pursuing a Master’s in International Criminal Law.
She then planned to use the scholarship to pursue a second Master’s degree at either Harvard University in the United States or at the University of Cambridge in England. Fast-forward to 2018, the top achiever is celebrating graduating with her LLM degree from Harvard.
‘Students in my LLM year came from over 70 countries around the world. Being with this richly diverse group allowed me to understand my own culture, country and its place in the world. It also taught me a lot about people and their cultures and how that shapes them, their interactions with others and their experiences,’ said Naidoo.
While exploring her academic focus on cyberlaw, she also worked as a Student Attorney for Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic.
‘I had no experience in cyberlaw but had a keen interest. It is an area ripe for development and exploration in South Africa. During my time at Harvard, I was the Secretary for the Harvard African Law Association and the Interview Editor for the Africa Policy Journal (APJ). My role as Interview Editor for the APJ was immensely exciting as I got to interview profound African leaders, including the likes of South Africa’s own (Professor) Thuli Madonsela. I also co-founded the Global South Dialogue (GSD), a student organisation whose aim is to facilitate a conversation on topics affecting countries from the Global South. Harvard needs a platform for Global South voices to be heard and I am proud that the GSD will provide this platform for years to come,’ she said.
While nine months might seem like a short time to complete a master’s degree, Naidoo was determined to benefit and grow from this experience in every way possible. She took on principal roles at two of Harvard’s student organisations and co-founded another student organisation. Not only that, but Naidoo also participated in a Trial Advocacy Workshop; a three-week workshop involving simulated exercises which is led and supervised by experienced trial lawyers and judges. ‘I learned so much during this workshop and picked up trial related skills and techniques,’ she said.
Working at Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic has not only opened Naidoo’s eyes to the importance of data privacy but has convinced her to choose cyberlaw as a career.
‘The Clinic challenged and pushed me, providing me with the opportunity to explore some of the many nuances of cyberlaw and how to practice as a lawyer in this field. During my time at the Clinic, I acted for international NGOs having an interest in data privacy. I am particularly interested in data privacy and security and the repercussions that breaches of data privacy and security have on users, tech companies and the state in general. My aim is to penetrate these spaces and contribute to the growth and development of cyberlaw in South Africa,’ she said.
Words: Thandiwe Jumo