Danae Xanthi

British High Commissioner for a Day

Guest blogger for FCDO Editorial

Part of UK in Cyprus

15th July 2019

Becoming UK High Commissioner to Cyprus for a day

While gender equality is improving in Cyprus, there is still more to do. Women in leadership positions in particular remain few.

To promote gender equality and female leadership, the British High Commissioner in Cyprus Stephen Lillie welcomed a 17 year old young woman, Danae Xanthi, to shadow him for a day on 24 June to give her a taste of what it is like to be a top diplomat.

Danae authored the winning entry to a “High Commissioner for a Day” competition organised by the British High Commission to mark International Women’s Day earlier this year. Entrants were asked to write a short essay about what they would change in the world or in their community if they worked in international diplomacy. Danae wrote about the importance of education, both formal and in its broader sense in terms of giving future leaders fundamental skills and values such as responsibility, critical thinking and empathy in order to solve global problems.

Danae blogs about her experience shadowing the High Commissioner:

My day working shadowing the British High Commissioner in Cyprus was memorably fantastic! I had expected an exciting day full of meetings and high profile networking, but it was so much more than that.

I had some interesting conversations with High Commissioner Stephen Lillie on the way to meetings. Hearing his perspective and getting to know about his life as a diplomat, really motivated me to want something similar for my future.

Throughout the day I got to meet British Secretary of State for Defence and Gender Equality, Penny Mordaunt; the Cypriot Minister for Defence, Savvas Angelides; the advisor to Cyprus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs on gender equality, Josie Christodoulou; and the head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar, and many more interesting people.

Observing how diplomats and politicians interacted, made me realise how important the power of speech is, in conveying ideas, persuading people, even in forming relationships and making connections. I learned to spot the difference between people who talk without having much to say and people who speak to the point.

The radio interview we did on Cypriot national radio was a new experience, pushing me out of my comfort zone. In particular, the way the High Commissioner handled some uncomfortable questions amazed me and made me understand the importance of diplomacy in our everyday life.

Conversations on gender equality and barriers between the sexes with Penny Mordaunt and Elizabeth Spehar taught me that everything is possible if I work hard, and prove the people who live in prejudice wrong. Quotes such as “never sell yourself short and a woman doesn’t have to lead like a man, but with her own experience, instinct and style” will remain with me forever.

Overall, this work shadowing day was full of experiences I will never forget. It gave me many things to think about, not only concerning my future, but about life in general and how people talk, think and act at such a high level.

I think the idea of shadowing the High Commissioner is an amazing idea to encourage more people to get involved in diplomacy and politics, especially young women whose participation there is lacking. This initiative was not only smart but useful to me and I hope it will be to other girls over the coming years.

3 comments on “Becoming UK High Commissioner to Cyprus for a day

  1. Really in this day and age doing something so amazing is quite an achievement!!
    The whole credit of this goes to UK High Commission and Cyprus authorities. it’s a memorable day………

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