Anj Handa Founder of IWC

Hi, I’m Anj Handa. I’m the Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers and here I’d like to share my life events and learnings that led me to set up the movement. I’ll begin from the start of my career after leaving university.

In 1998, I began a career in headhunting tech specialists, working between London and Frankfurt. It involved negotiating with older, conservative ‘very important men’ from Germany, while I was a 20-something Indian woman who still looked like a teenager. Working in IT just before the dot-com boom was lucrative – which meant far-flung trips.

During this stage of my life, I developed grit and negotiation skills and developed my love of international travel.

In 2003, I made the decision to move back to the North and worked until 2011 as the Director of a non-departmental Government body, bringing the business voice to Government policies and programmes by creating and leading sectoral and themed (Diversity, Flexible Working) employer networks.

During this stage, I developed skills in influencing, lobbying and diplomacy and an understanding of the needs of people most disadvantaged in society.

In 2011, I left my high-paid job to establish my own consultancy.

I learned about resilience, patience, and most importantly, my core values and personal boundaries.

I also joined a Board of Governors for a College, where I finally started to address my ‘imposter syndrome’ by recognising that not only could I hold my own amongst older counterparts from the world of finance, investment banking and academia but that I add significant value through my own unique skills and knowledge.

I learned about my worth.

Anj Handa with Afusat Saliu and her girlsThen, in 2014, I was introduced to Afusat Saliu and her two daughters. That’s when my life really started to change. I led a high-profile campaign about their claim for asylum based on the risk of Female Genital Mutilation to the little girls.

I pulled together a top legal team and led a petition which gathered 128,000 signatures and attracted attention from the global media, MPs and even Richard Branson.

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

I learned about leading from the heart as well as the head. I learned about the power of authentic connections, online and offline. Mostly, I learned that by gathering professional, motivated women together, in collaboration with others, that it’s possible to make an impact on the lives of others on a massive scale.

It was this that planted the seed for Inspiring Women Changemakers.

IWC and what it means for you

My experiences have changed my life beyond recognition. They’ve shown me what I’m capable of beyond my professional life and gave me a thirst for doing even more. I was brought into contact with influential and inspirational people from all around the world and possibilities I couldn’t have dreamt of have opened up. I want the same for you.

Together, we can change the world. By becoming part of the Inspiring Women Changemakers community, you will start to believe it too. Join us.

P.S. Here’s a feature-length interview if you’d like to know more.