Shami Chakrabarti

Published 10th June 2015

When asked what books she wanted on the GCSE set texts, Shami Chakrabarti cited Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Not only is the book’s lawyer, Atticus Finch, one of Chakrabarti’s inspirations, but the novel itself, she argues, has inspired many towards human rights, “ [it is] touchingly human and intimate but concerned with massive issues of race discrimination and injustice”.

This follows Chakrabarti’s own career: after being called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1994, she worked as a barrister to the Home Office in 1996 and by 2003 she was appointed director of the human right’s organisation Liberty. She has worked on many human right’s cases including the Leveson Inquiry, and was significantly involved in Liberty’s commitment to human rights values in discussion of the ‘War on Terror’ in Parliament. Since being appointed director, she has promoted the importance of post-World War Two human rights frameworks as “an essential component of democratic society”, and campaigned against excessive anti-terrorist measures that succeeded 9/11.

Openly admitting that if she hadn’t become a lawyer, she would be a Hollywood director, Chakrabarti contributes to the cultural-side of life too, having served as the Governor of BFI and regularly speaks on BBC’s Radio 4 (whose Women’s Hour voted her as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK in 2013). On top of this, Chakrabarti is the Chancellor of the University of Essex and has served in the same position at Oxford Brookes University: she is also a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and Honorary Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford.

Her own motto, “Anyone’s equal, no-one’s superior”, carries on from her opinion that gender discrimination is the “greatest injustice in the world”. Chakrabarti is a great example of a powerful woman, lawyer and Mother, yet she retains humility, deeming her job as an enormous privilege. She is regarded with brilliance and integrity as she continues to pursue her commitment to human rights.