All is Bright Campaign featuring inspirational women - Mandy Sanghera

To celebrate the strength, bravery and light of women around the world, we've interviewed a collection of inspirational women to share with us their journey, inspirations and advice for the future. Today's guest is a regular speaker within the US House of Representatives, a keynote speaker for the United Nations and a Strategic Advisor to the US Taskforce for Global Trafficking. Leading the charge for gender equality, female empowerment and social justice for the last 31 years, we're honoured to be interviewing Mandy Sanghera. 

Q: Mandy, the work you do around the world for women’s rights and female empowerment is incredible and I’ll let you tell us a little about that next, but I wanted to ask you about what it was like for you growing up. Was your environment helpful for you as a woman to progress and achieve, did you have any barriers to overcome?
A: Being a woman from Asian descent., there are so many cultural norms that young women are conditioned to accept within the community. Personally I felt a little free-spirited and and just felt a little different. Instead of being ashamed of this, I embraced it and got confidence from it. As I was growing up I witnessed domestic violence, child marriages and honour violence and I knew it was wrong at the time and I called it out from an early age as I do now. I couldn’t watch injustices against women in my community and I found my voice as a young person and being the change I wanted to see. I’ve been continuing that ever since and am now trying to amplify those voices like mine in the same communities I grew up in.

Q: So now you are a keynote speaker for the Women Freedom Forum - that has a great name, could you tell us a little about it? What is it trying to achieve?
A: Yes so it’s an organisation consisting of a group of women based in Iran that want to address social injustices against women specifically. WFF’s aim is to raise public awareness on issues relating to women’s equality, legal and human rights, political participation and empowerment. It works to uplift the voices of marginalised women in the Middle East and place them into mainstream public discourse in order to create greater knowledge and understanding about particular issues and to ensure that their voices are heard.

Q: You’ve been working incredibly hard for the past 31 years to empower young women and girls to aspire and achieve. Have you noticed any changes or shifts in attitudes during this time and how does the future of female empowerment look to you?
A: Things have changed. People are becoming more tolerant and understanding of social issues but there are still structural inequalities around pay, gender-based violence and other inequalities that have come to the surface during lockdown particularly. For me, the future of female empowerment is about making sure the right people are elevated to positions of leadership and having a rightful seat at the table. We need to tackle today’s stereotypes, lift them off the sticky floor and get them into the room. We need to smash the glass ceiling and pull up those around us to be the future change-makers.

Q: What is your proudest achievement to date?
A: It sounds so cliche but I have so many I’m proud of. I think though, speaking at the US House of Representatives - the most powerful house in the world and being able to talk about my work to the Senate and elected members and share my knowledge to become a global voice - makes me feel blessed that I followed my passion and have established a voice for others. Being asked to come back time again is an honour as well as it shows I’m respected and that people are ready to hear the change that needs to happen.

Q: Finally, we’ve been asking all of our inspiring leaders but I’d like to know from you, 2020 has been a crazy year. Looking ahead to Christmas and 2021 - do you have any advice or inspiring words for us as we look to next year?
A: I turned 50 this year and I had a lot of plans! Through lockdown though I didn’t stop doing what I needed doing - I would say use this time as an opportunity to upskill ourselves, develop our skills and take the time to develop our knowledge on subjects we don’t know. I’ve reflected on my carbon footprint and have connected with people virtually and showing people how to adapt to the ‘new normal’. We can still work on a cause, still engage with people - it might not be face to face but remotely can still have a massive impact.

We'd like to thank Mandy for her time and insight and we hope you have enjoyed today's instalment of featured inspirational women. Keep an eye out next week for our next female leader, awarded 'Woman of the Decade' in 2017.

This series is celebrating the launch of our Brave Woman t-shirt. You can get yours here!