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Friday, December 1, 2023

Inspiring Women Changemakers celebrates fifth anniversary

An online community that provides a platform to female changemakers celebrated its fifth-anniversary last month.

An organisation that provides a platform to female changemakers has celebrated a key milestone.

Inspiring Women Changemakers, established by Anju Handa, marked its fifth-anniversary last month.

Launched officially in 2017 after a soft launch a few months prior, Inspiring Women Changemakers (IWC) is a digital community dedicated to providing a platform to men and women wanting to solve critical social issues.

The organisation’s founder created the platform after spending over a decade working in the international business and lobbying arena and being self-employed trading under the name Anj Handa Associates, providing corporate trading, public speaking, executive coaching, and leadership development since 2011.

Ms Handa entered the world of change-making after launching a global campaign to fight for a family’s asylum.

Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, Ms Handa used her networking and lobbying skills alongside her business acumen to launch IWC after leading a global campaign to fight for a family’s asylum based on the risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to little girls in Nigeria.

In 2014, Mrs Handa was introduced to Afusat Saliu and her two young daughters who faced deportation.

She pulled together a top legal team and started a campaign which gathered 126,500 signatures on their claim for asylum based on the risk of FGM to girls in Nigeria, attacking attention from the global media, MPs and high-profile personalities such as Richard Branson.

Unfortunately, the family were eventually deported but her fundraising campaign through a local charity secured their accommodation and schooling for a full year.

Ms Handa, said: “I have been self-employed for eleven years and have directed IWC for the past five.

“One of our biggest accomplishments is our digital membership platform, which I launched four years ago.

“I do a lot of work around providing leadership skills not just to women but to broader teams. In the first year, it became apparent that the organisation was set up for people wanting to make social change.

“I was already trained in media handling and public speaking. I used to be employed as the director of a non-departmental public body, so I knew how to work with politicians and senior civil servants and influence them. I could draw on these people in the way that I know other people couldn’t, which is my privilege, in a sense, which is why I set up the organisation.”

“I am a single woman; I am my own breadwinner. As a British Indian woman, I was already doing something that was considered outside the norm.”

Her skills were built up after years of education and working in industry. After graduating with a degree in International Business and Modern Languages from Aston University in 1997, Ms Handa moved to Germany to work in an IT firm with nobody apart from “older, German men” in her field, which pushed her out of her comfort zone.

A few years later, she became the regional director of Working Ventures UK (formerly National Employment Panel) where she led a Government-funded quango, bringing employers together through an employer collation, giving businesses input into Government policy.

She said: “From 2003 to 2011 I was the regional director of what was formally called the National Employment Panel, organising the voices of senior business leaders who provided their input into Government policy on employment and skills.

Anj Handa began her career in Germany in IT.

“I had some advantages and agency when entering this role. Studying something like International Business and German and then working in Germany in IT, I always had to work with older men in different sectors. This led to developing emotional and interpersonal skills and overcoming my own inner dialogue.

“People often talk about imposter syndrome, but it wasn’t that. From the start of my career, I’ve never been in my comfort zone. I come from an extended family of entrepreneurs; I have the confidence and self-esteem to be able to network and communicate in different ways.”

The reception by the wider community to IWC was positive albeit met with slight confusion. As a single woman, she had to rely on herself to make the brand what it is today. She said people didn’t understand that the organisation was a community to help provide women with a platform to bring about positive social change.

The business owner added: “I am a single woman; I am my own breadwinner. As a British Indian woman, I was already doing something that was considered outside the norm. I’m not married, I don’t have children and I was running my own business. So, I didn’t have anybody’s additional income or approval with doing what I was doing.

“The initial reception was good. In that first year, we were met with a bit of confusion. There are many organisations and business networks, but I consider IWC a community because it is about inclusion. People are used to women’s networking groups but there wasn’t anything like this and there still isn’t.

Ms Handa often goes for hikes to take her mind off work. Image: Paul Abraham.

“people of all genders of the IWC can join up to the community but we do focus on fairness and safety of women and networking digitally.”

Membership to the organisation costs £35 a year. “It doesn’t cover the cost of me running the organisation,” she said, but it was important to keep the cost of membership as “inclusive as possible.”

She added: “We also have a pay-it-forward discretionary fund so that organisations can contribute which means that people who are disabled, on 0-hour contracts, people on benefits, or people who are just really struggling can be a part of the organisation.”

The organisation facilitated an emerging social enterprise in the recruitment of its board of directors through the IWC community and the creation of a steering group of psychotherapists and legal professionals who speak on the challenges of domestic abuse victims within the law system.

For more about the organisation or to join, please visit here.

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