Meet Asha Clementi: ACT's Young Woman of the Year 2022

Asha Clementi standing in front of a bush


Asha’s journey into the world of diplomacy began six years ago, when she had the privilege of representing the esteemed National Council of Women Australia at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York. At just 18 years old, Asha seized an opportunity by sneaking into a Security Council Arria meeting on Syrian relations, driven by her eagerness to experience the ins and outs of a diplomatic career firsthand.

“I was so nervous sitting there,” Asha said, amazed by the earpieces she and the delegates were given to translate the different languages. After staying for the full briefing, she gained a valuable idea from the experience. “In that moment, it struck me: if I could gain access here, what other doors might open for me?”

For young women like Asha, carving a career path in diplomacy can be a challenging journey. Women are underrepresented in the field, making up less than half of the heads of Australian missions overseas in 2021.

Motivated to tackle this issue and drawing inspiration from her own positive experience at the United Nations, Asha took the initiative to establishGirls Run the World (GRTW)’, a non-profit program aimed at empowering young women to connect with the diplomatic community. Through GRTW, participants are afforded the opportunity to embark on diplomatic missions, gaining valuable experience in the field. In 2022, 60 young women completed 30 different diplomatic missions in Australia, at places such as the Embassy of the Netherlands, the High Commission of Canada and the US Embassy. They met with the ambassador and worked on a project for the embassy, taking advantage of the opportunity to make a tangible contribution.

Now in her twenties, Asha had always aspired to a career in international relations and diplomacy. Fuelled by her desire to delve deeper into these fields, she made the decision to pursue a Master of Diplomacy from the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific (CAP). Her relentless dedication and commitment led her to successfully complete the program in 2022, equipping her with invaluable knowledge and skills in the pursuit of her ambitions.

“My experience at the College of Asia and the Pacific was truly exceptional,” Asha said. “The professors were simply incredible. The calibre of teaching at ANU, especially within CAP is just insane.”

Asha’s lecturers included former High Commissioners and accomplished academics who brought immense expertise to the classroom. In a memorable instance, a Pacific negotiator conducted a workshop with students over Zoom, actively applying his teachings from the UN Global Climate Summit in Glasgow.

One of the free conference events organised by CAP even opened up an opportunity for Asha to travel overseas. "I found out about a Myanmar study tour and decided to embark on a journey to this country where I conducted studies and published a paper on my findings,” she said.

Asha’s exceptional achievements extend beyond her academic endeavours. In the year she completed her Master's degree, she was honoured with the ACT’s Young Woman of the Year award in recognition for her remarkable efforts in encouraging young women to actively participate in diplomacy and leadership.

"I was so surprised,” Asha said, reflecting on the achievement. “It was so amazing. And it’s felt so good to have that recognition.”

Asha's success in 2022 was remarkable. Her other impressive accolades include being awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light Award and being named on the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians 2022 list.

When asked about her advice for those considering studying Diplomacy, Asha encouraged them. "If you're thinking about studying diplomacy," she said, "I highly recommend it."

She highlighted the flexibility of Diplomacy studies, emphasising the potential for lateral movement into fields such as security or governance and regulation. For Asha personally, the Master of Diplomacy was the ideal choice. “I found diplomacy to be my perfect stepping stone into what I wanted to do.”

With her unwavering determination and dedication to advancing gender equality, Asha Clementi remains an exceptional pioneer in the field of diplomacy. Her remarkable efforts continue to serve as a catalyst, inspiring and empowering future generations of young women to create a more inclusive and equitable world.