Meet 19-Year-Old Prime Minister’s Scholarship awardee Meghana Gaddam

Meghana Gaddam in Parliament (Photo Supplied)

Dr Malini Yugendran

9 February 2023

At only 19 years of age, Meghana Gaddam has already accomplished more than most people could dream of in their entire lives.

This South Indian Kiwi is currently a student at the University of Auckland, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and a Bachelor of Property Conjoint. And as if that is not enough, she is also on the Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Asia, interning in commercial law and finance in Bangkok, Thailand.

And that is not all, “I am employed as a ‘Research, Policy, and Communications Assistant’ under the triangular agreement that all MP support staff are hired under. Additionally, I also teach debates. To sum it up, I hold three portfolios concurrently – as a Casual Communications Assistant for MP Melissa Lee, in a parliamentary service role, and in my unpaid internship. I prioritize my internship but will return to both my jobs as soon as I am back,” she said.

Meghana Gaddam with her parents. (Photo Supplied)

Formative years

Growing up in a family that runs a granite manufacturing business and a property development business, Meghana learned the value of hard work and determination at a young age. “My parents are my best friends and also my biggest inspirations,” she said.

Her parents, who started their journey in New Zealand with scholarships to study agricultural biotechnology and horticulture at Massey University, instilled in her the importance of continuous learning and engagement in discussions.

Meghana said, “I was inspired to be a youth MP because I was also very engaged in political issues in high school. I ran the debate team at school, and competed and adjudicated in the Waikato league. I also completed my ATCL diploma in public speaking, and many of my speeches centered around community problems and solutions. “

Meghana’s experiences volunteering for the local government and the local refugee center for three years gave her a deeper understanding of the impact of good governance on communities. “I saw the importance of good governance over our resources,” Meghana explained. “I also saw that many specific immigration issues were not being voiced in the public, and especially not in the youth space.”

Meghana Gaddam with her friends (Photo Supplied)

Meghana was a youth MP representing Tim van de Molen in the Waikato where she went to high school in 2022. As the chair of the social services and community select committee in Youth Parliament, Meghana represented the views of young people in New Zealand by actively listening to their opinions and incorporating those into her work.

When asked about the biggest issues facing young people in New Zealand, Meghana responded with “polarisation, housing affordability, financial stability, and climate change.” Meghana presented a report on housing affordability, highlighting how it disproportionately affects youth and minority groups.

Meghana Gaddam with a school in Prakasamjilla that gives free education for children in need (Photo Supplied)

Representing the diverse perspectives and experiences of young people in New Zealand can be challenging, as Meghana explains, “It is in the very question! They are diverse. Often I find myself agreeing with both perspectives and having to make a very tough decision about what plan of action to advise. Such evaluation requires placing a metric on subjective outcomes. Often, I present both, with my own research included in order to place a metric.” She added that it can be challenging to hold leaders responsible for good governance when an outcome cannot be measured.

Meghana believes that Youth MPs play a crucial role in shaping the future of New Zealand. “With the passion in that room, I do not think any of the youth MP’s I have met would shy away from a problem because it was “too hard.” That mindset is what will shape the future of New Zealand. It is one of resilience, collaboration, and drive,” Meghana said. To become a Youth MP, Meghana believes it is important to have engagement with your community, a desire to make a positive impact, an understanding of political issues, and a willingness to listen to different perspectives and opinions.

Meghana Gaddam in Thailand for the Prime Minister’s Scholarship (Photo Supplied)

The Youth MP program is an excellent opportunity for young people to get involved in politics and make a difference in their communities. With passion, resilience, collaboration, and drive, Youth MPs can help shape the future of New Zealand and make a positive impact in their communities.

To express interest in becoming a Youth MP in New Zealand, one can reach out to the New Zealand National Youth Council, the governing body responsible for overseeing the Youth Parliament program. They provide information and support for individuals interested in running for Youth MP positions. Additionally, one can also reach out to their local MP or political party to inquire about the process and requirements for running for a Youth MP position. It is also recommended to get involved in community activities and volunteer work, as these experiences can help demonstrate a commitment to public service and leadership.

Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.

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