In 2011, when I planned to change sectors and move from being a Senior HR Advisor managinga large team at a thriving and booming IT company, to be the Manager HR at a relatively lesser known non-profit organisation at New Delhi, my well-wishers and peers advised me against the move.
“You will stagnate in a dirty slum or remote village – carrying the quintessential “jhola” and wearing “hawai chappal” said a well- meaning friend trying to dissuade me. Another one deplored the fact that my salary will fall below the “poverty line” and move south in comparison to my juniors, who will soon overtake me in the corporate rat-race and earn big bucks and fancy titles. Despite the advice, I persevered, convinced of my conviction to be part of the social development space and serve the community in my own small way.
What egged me on, were my daily encounters with the street kids on the way to the office – the despair one saw in their eyes…of myriad dreams that remained unfulfilled…the hopelessness of their situations and knowing fully well that I may not be able to change anything while sitting in my plush office in a global corporate.
Fast forward to today – 2022 – As the Director of Human Resource, organizational development and operations for Plan International India, I have the opportunity to be a part of the country management team, which sets the course for our deeply impactful programs that work at the grassroots across rural and urban communities, influence and change the lives of millions of young children especially girls in the most marginalized communities across India. The road was not smooth, in fact, it was riddled with potholes and speed breakers – challenges included raising funding, getting the best talent, and acquiring technology among others. The key motivation was the cause our organisation Plan India worked for – vulnerable children and young girls, and that helped me soldier on the chosen path and the fact that I could see my contributions were able to bring cheer and smiles to young lives.
“I STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT IF YOU’RE IN A POSITION OF POWER, PRIVILEGE AND INFLUENCE, YOU CAN OPEN DOORS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN HISTORICALLY LEFT BEHIND, IN FACT YOU HAVE A MORAL RESPONSIBILITY TO DO THAT…”
Even in this day and age, the underprivileged still need men in power or more advantaged women, to vouch for their legitimacy to be at the table and not be dismissed or ignored just for being of a particular gender or lower caste, community or just being poor.
The times are changing rapidly and this is one urgent norm that needs to change soon. We need to shift the paradigm and create a more egalitarian society, where one can find a place at the table and rise to leadership rank purely based on merit and performance. To be able to access good education, health care and nutrition, live safely and develop one’s agency to take decisions of life and build a better future.
Plan International (India Chapter) has been championing this cause for past many years now. Our long-running advocacy on “Because I am a Girl” have set the tone and campaign on “Girls Get Equal” have brought many like-minded institutions, embassies, government organizations and corporate citizens together to power the popular Girls Takeovers on the occasion of “International Day of the Girl” celebrated on October 11th each year.
While the takeovers seem to be symbolic, of young girls entering public spaces and taking on positions of power associated with leadership for a day, like for instance – District magistrates, Chief Minister’s office, CEO’s of Corporates or Ambassadors of different countries – they shatter many barriers are social or psycho-social that prevent the girls from visualizing their roles outside those of a home-maker in their family or a mother and a wife. We now regularly hear stories of young women, who have after this experience, gone on to build a stronger future, they convinced their families to let them hold jobs or be entrepreneurs or build community self-help groups of like-minded youth and really thrive. They are the real change makers, who are the beacons and models for others around them, to see the change and be emulated.
“WHAT ONE NEEDS AS A LEADER IS OPTIMISM AND POWER TO DREAM OF A BETTER TOMORROW… TRUST IN SELF AND IN ONE’S TEAM CAN BRING OUT THEIR VERY BEST”
Today Anjali a young changemaker took over my role for a day. It’s self-actualizing to see things coming full circle for me – contributing to the growth of girls as youth leaders, who are seizing opportunities to shape the conversations, as they should be and bring about a transformative change in the society we live in.
It is well-known that social empowerment is a slow and gradual process of change, but one that is slowly gaining ground and spreading beyond to influence others through the power of social media. Our girls are becoming champions of change – budding leaders who are confident and ready to take on the world.