Women need to support women: KARM launches Law Fellowship for girls from underserved homes

The decision to expand KARM’s activities to support legal education was taken to provide women with lasting, meaningful careers, Radhika Bharat Ram recounted.
Radhika Bharat Ram
Radhika Bharat Ram

Four years after the KARM Graduate Fellowship was launched in 2020 by Radhika and Kartik Bharat Ram to support the pursuit of higher education for bright, young women from economically disadvantaged homes with the vision of financial independence for them, KARM is deepening its effort. With some valuable experience to gain from, KARM is announcing the Law Fellowship at the Law Faculty at Delhi University.

"A cohort of girls who will end up supporting each other coalescing into a powerful movement that focuses on giving back, an opportunity for women from underserved homes to have long, meaningful careers," is how Radhika describes the initiative.

Speaking to Pallavi Saluja of Bar & Bench, Radhika highlighted that this Fellowship is beyond just funding education - it is a complete support system for this driven young woman who does not have the advantage of birth. These are daughters of farmers, chauffeurs, informal labourers and rickshaw-pullers who have secured seats at Delhi University on their own merit.

"Further, KARM is all about the depth, not width. We want to create quality programs and reach out to every girl who is part of KARM, and fully transform their lives. Therefore, it is important that we keep the numbers small,” she said.

KARM Fellowship
KARM Fellowship

As lawyer and a KARM mentor, Neeha Nagpal puts it,

“The girls come from places where they really have no intellectual exposure and suddenly this experience makes KARM their bridge. That handholding helps them cross from where they are to where they are ready to reach.”

Neeha recounted that despite being a first-generation lawyer herself, she had some of the finest people and stalwarts mentoring her, which made it easier for her to navigate a career in law.

“If I didn't have that, I'd be very lost,” she says, reinforcing the need for mentors.

With KARM, first-generation lawyers like her would also get such support.

“I think it is imperative for us lawyers, especially first-generation women lawyers, to be able to give back and handhold. Otherwise, the next generation of lawyers will be lost in this whirlpool. I think we are losing out on talent because of that. So, this talent grooming and handholding together becomes the nicest form of seva,” she added.

I think it is imperative for us lawyers, especially first generation women lawyers, to be able to give back and handhold.
Neeha Nagpal

Neeha also recounted how her mentees described the experience of giving back themselves.

“A beautiful thing that KARM does with the girls is that they all intern at The Blind Relief Association, Delhi. And it is delightful to hear how they come back with what they learn. It was an eye-opener for me to just hear both my girls talk about it. The sense of gratitude and the way they transition through these experiences that they are provided at KARM is phenomenal,” she said.

The decision to expand KARM’s activities to support legal education was taken to provide women with lasting, meaningful careers, Radhika recounted.

“We soon realized that the job market looks markedly different for girls studying Political Science, History, or Geography honours compared to those pursuing a B.Com or an Economics degree. These degrees offer more job opportunities than humanities courses. Desirous of enhancing employability for girls pursuing humanities’ degrees, we considered law. Our research showed us that in and of itself, law is profoundly empowering for women in every aspect. The prospect of a girl from an underserved home studying law and transforming it into a career, providing her with meaningful employment and longevity, resonated deeply with us.”

"If you look at the data, you see that girls are getting educated, and getting jobs. But the problem is that by the ages of 30-35, they start dropping off.  So, what are those careers that we can give to girls that will make sure that they have degrees that will give them staying power? That is the most important thing,” she said.

This is also one of the reasons why KARM was envisioned to be a Fellowship, where students who are mentored eventually become part of a larger network of lawyers who would carry the movement forward.

“A Fellowship means that the Fellows will support each other. One of my mandates to all our Fellows is while KARM has supported them by giving them this opportunity, they need to pay it forward to others. Women need to support women, simple.” Radhika said.

One of my mandates to all our fellows is while KARM has supported them by giving them this opportunity, they need to pay it forward to others. Women need to support women, simple.”
Radhika Bharat Ram

The reason why Delhi University was chosen as the centre of this initiative was strategic. 

"I feel Delhi University girls can benefit from a Fellowship like ours, because they do not have access to mentors or a support system that can help them navigate their career aspirations.” she pointed out.

In particular, KARM aims to provide access to a network of lawyers when it comes to securing internships, mentors, guidance, and so on.

“Forget about the financial bit, that's the smallest part of what we do. It is what we do beyond monetary support that is more important - providing opportunities and access that a student with means has, but one from an underserved community, lacks. My job as founder is to reach out to my network and open doors for these girls and pull in people to be part of the movement and come on board to support our vision,” Radhika added.

Campus Law Centre
Campus Law Centre

She added that for the law fellowship, KARM is also planning to hold face-to-face interactions at least once a month. While corporate law jobs in international and Indian firms will be one of the desired employment destinations, it is by no means the only focus of the Fellowship. Efforts will be made to match each girl with a legal destination that matches her interests and capabilities.

More about the KARM Law Fellowship and how to apply

The Fellowship is open to women graduates whose family income is below ₹5 lakh per annum. Supporting documents and home visits will be needed to ascertain economic need.

The Fellowship will begin in the summer of 2024 with its first cohort of 20 Fellows. The first legal professionals from this Fellowship will graduate in 2027.

The offering: The tangibles from KARM will be the tuition and exam fee, a monthly local allowance, a laptop, allowance for internet access, and PG accommodation allowance for outstation Fellows. Intangibles will focus on spoken and written English communication, thinking and articulation, basic tech skills, mentoring from legal experts and experiences to enhance their legal learning at campus.

KARM will bring law partners on board that will offer internships to the Fellows; additionally, KARM will bring advocates in various courts, law firms, litigation lawyers that have independent chambers, NGOs working in the legal space, policyorganizations and international bodies on board to make the program both comprehensive and aspirational.

The process: The application form will be made available in June 2024 Besides providing relevant objective data points they will need to submit one statement of purpose (500 words – to check alignment to law) and a critical thinking piece. This will be followed by interviews for shortlisted candidates.

Offers will be made soon after the girls have secured admission.

The Law Fellowship will be anchored on the following pillars –

1.    Mentoring by practicing lawyers across diverse legal fields.

2.    Internships at every term break

3.    English language writing and speaking

4.    Critical thinking and reading

Mentoring will be provided to ensure specialized career counseling in the larger field of law, to provide perspectives on the fields within law (cyber law, litigation, arbitration, transactional law, dispute, property, personal rights etc) and to mentor in a one-to-one format. The community service mandate of KARM will be adhered to by mandating at least one internship with a social cause necessary during the course.

For more details, send an email to info@karmtrust.org

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