Maya Evans' diary

IssueSeptember 2008
Comment by Maya Evans

I sat motionless, glued to my chair, surrounded by many of the top human rights lawyers in the country. We were packed in the Old Hall Theatre at LSE, a moderately-sized hall with two blocks of seats curved round the stage in a semi-circle.

One of the judges at the Liberty/Justice Human Rights Award 2007, sitting up on a high stage, read out my name as a nominee for the young campaigner/activist/academic/lawyer of the year award.

I gripped the arms of the chair as I used up all my wishes in that one moment; “please, don't let it be me, anyone but me.”

One of my least favourite activities in life is making speeches, least of all to a room full of top lawyers and even less following the lawyer of the year whose acceptance speech was everything you'd expect.

“How can I follow that?” I thought to myself as I continued wishing my stay of execution. I felt like I wanted to be anywhere but there, doing anything but this. “Please, oh please not me.” I was starting to feel ill.

And the winner is... “Maya Evans”. I turned to my friend Jonathan who had come along for moral support, “Oh no,” I uttered in sheer horror as I slowly started to stand, the seat of my chair flipped up abruptly as if pushing me on.

All feelings of pain and panic drained from my body as I went into survival mode induced by shock.

Embarrassingly I had to climb over people's laps as I had deliberately sat in the middle of a row as I thought me winning was so unlikely.

Next thing I knew I was standing on the stage clutching a certificate mounted in a large wooden picture frame and trying my best to smile and act normal.

I glanced up and out to the audience and thought: “Hey, it doesn't look so bad. I think I can do this.” After the perfectly-executed speech by the lawyer of the year I made a split-second decision not to take my speech with me - after all she hadn't!

I stepped up to the microphone and instantly started wishing I had my speech. My leg wouldn't stop shaking, thank god for the podium which was hiding most of my body to everyone except the judges behind me, who included one of my all-time heroes, Shami Chakrabarti.

Luckily in the main my memory didn't fail me and I made most of the points I wanted to make. I said a few things, probably most important to me was the point that awards represent the work of many people and I hoped it would encourage everyone who had pledged time and effort into building a movement.

I hoped we would all continue to support one another to make a greater stronger movement for the future.

I sat down in my seat and felt proud to accept such an award. I felt proud to be part of a movement which does make a difference and whose work is acknowledged and appreciated.

Topics: Reportage
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