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Meet Sanjoli Banerjee

Sanjoli Banerjee

Sanjoli is a prominent activist, educator and communicator, who recently received the prestigious Diana award in recognition of her social and humanitarian efforts.

The Diana award, set up in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, is awarded to exceptional young people for selflessly creating and sustaining positive social change. For these efforts, Sanjoli has also been a panellist on the Global Peace Convention, YMCA and Delhi University.

Sanjoli has spent much of her life in activism and advocacy, making a substantial difference in the areas she has worked in. Her activism began at five years of age, when she protested against sex-selective abortion in India and she then went on to complete a 4,500 km expedition for climate action at the age of 10.  After finishing at ANU, she launched a free mobile school for children of low socio-economic background.

Sanjoli’s ANU journey began in 2017 studying a Bachelor of International Security Studies. Arriving in Canberra, Sanjoli recalls being quite struck by the journey.

 “I had never lived away from home in 18 years and was the first person in the family to gain a foreign education and this was my first international trip,” says Sanjoli.

The intimidation and unease of moving away from home quickly faded when she arrived at her residence hall, Bruce Hall, where she quickly made friends with staff and students. These extra-curricular activities would lead her to become a CAP mentor and become involved in CAP Asia Pacific Week.

CAP Asia Pacific Week is a conference which brings together high calibre students and young professionals for a week of panels, debates and workshops to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be leaders of change in the region.

Her ANU experience, especially at CAP Asia Pacific Week, helped inform her activism.

“Interestingly, I curated the idea of my free mobile school while at ANU,” says Sanjoli.

“The program at ANU helped me connect my passion of social activism and policymaking to working at the grassroots with people and eventually work on human security and social policy.”

As any residential hall student would attest, some of the most interesting and intellectual conversations are not had at the lecture theatre or tutorial room, but in the dining hall with your fellow residents. This was particularly true for Sanjoli and her friends at Bruce Hall.

“Bruce Hall gave me some very fond memories such as getting involved with the various different activities, especially the hours-long dinner conversations we would have across the table with people from across continents and discuss social, political, philosophical, scientific topics and whatnot. “

While these conversations are robust, fun and interesting, it is also critical to have access to some of the best academics within ANU. Luckily for Sanjoli, she did.

“It was my good fortune to have studied from some stalwarts like Hugh White and others, but I really admired Dinara Pisareva, my tutor for International Relations and Dr Kim Huynh, Professor for Refugee Politics. Dinara would be very friendly, and made learning fun and was very approachable for her students.”

The experiences she had with fellow students, combined with the leadership and guidance of academics left a profound impression on Sanjoli, and has led her down a path to make a difference in our world.

“Those three years at ANU gave me some crucial twenty-first century skills, knowledge, and experiences that have broadened my horizons and opened new avenues for me.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have robbed Sanjoli of an in-person ANU graduation and a prestigious opportunity to study at United Nations University in the Netherlands, she remains optimistic for the future. Sanjoli extends this optimism to current students, urging them to enjoy the personal growth that you experience as a student. 

“Do not try to be sorted or perfect or know everything, it all takes time and gets better. You will see a far better person by the end of the process, but enjoy that process and give things time and you will cherish it for a lifetime, just like me.”


Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team