Our Founder’s Journey

Anj Handa was named as one of Grant Thornton UK’s 2018 100 Faces of a Vibrant Economy. Winner of the 2017 AFSA award for positive action, she was described as ‘a bloody brilliant woman‘ by the i-news on #IWD18. Here’s her back story…

Photo of Anj Handa

Hi, I’m Anj Handa, Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers, and I’d love to share the life events and learnings that led me to set up the movement.

In 1998, after I graduated, I began a career in headhunting tech specialists, working between London and Frankfurt (I speak fluent German). It involved negotiating with much older, very conservative, German men, 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 though. It meant lots of far-flung trips.

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

In 2002, a series of traumatic events led me to become ill. I was hospitalised for a week – I wasn’t even 30. It was then that I decided to move back up North. I took on a role as the Director of a non-departmental Government body, bringing the business voice to Government policies and programmes.

I loved this job, which took me around the UK, Europe and even to the US to speak and train others on how to create and lead sector and diversity-themed business 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 career to establish my own consultancy.

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

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

I learned about my worth.

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 on 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 Change.org petition. The petition gathered 128,000 signatures and attracted attention from the global media, MPs and even personalities such as 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.

Anj Handa with Afusat Saliu and her girls

I don’t know Anj Handa personally, but she’s the person who got me write to Theresa May regarding the deportation… I’m almost 5o and have never written in protest before, but someone has to say “This is wrong.”

In a digital age with ease of access to information and protest, where so many causes, so many voices and so much noise dilutes rather than engages, I have found Anj Handa to be a model of information who cares about people and their rights. Anj is a modern-day protester – she speaks from a place of positivity and the belief that she can create change.

My experiences planted the seed for Inspiring Women Changemakers and changed my life beyond recognition. They showed 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. Possibilities I couldn’t have dreamt of have opened up. And 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.