Shyamantha Asokan, 27, studied English Literature at Bristol University and Journalism at Goldsmiths College. While studying, she wrote regularly for student newspapers and spent her university holidays as an intern at the Sunday Times.
After completing her MA Journalism in 2007, she was chosen to launch a two-year traineeship at the Financial Times that focused on production journalism. In this role, she worked as a sub-editor, page-designer and video producer in London and New York. She wrote for several sections of the FT alongside full-time production work, including a magazine cover story about how the Tamil diaspora was reacting to the 2009 defeat of the Tamil Tiger separatists in Sri Lanka, marking the end of one of Asia's longest civil wars.
In late 2009, she moved to Nigeria to work as stringer for the Economist. She covered religious massacres in Nigeria, the discovery of oil in neighbouring Ghana, and climate change across the Sahel region, as both a writer and photographer. She also wrote lighter pieces on Lagos' afrobeat scene and kamikaze motorcycle taxis.
Her time in Nigeria culminated in covering the April 2011 elections, which were a tense test of ethnic rivalries and promises to reduce rigging in Africa’s most populous country. She provided running coverage with blog posts, photography slideshows and print articles. During her 18 months in Nigeria, she also wrote freelance pieces for the FT, the Guardian and Reuters.