"Providing mentorship and coaching support for women with leadership potential will change our world."
When She Leads: Radha Venkatesh
September 6, 2022Reading Time: 8 minutes
This interview is part of our When She Leads series. Learn more.
Radha is an Independence Coordinator with our Partner Site in Karnataka Baale Mane. Radha was interviewed by Digital Media Coordinator Vanita Ganesh.
Could you introduce yourself to Shadhika supporters?
I am Radha from Bangalore, currently associated with Baale Mane Trust – Girls’ Home (I don’t want to say I am working there as I see that as my responsibility and a small opportunity to bring change to society). I have been working with non-profits for 11 years in urban poor development and women empowerment programs. My vision is to provide educational support to 100,000 girls and young women.
You beautifully narrated your own journey and your journey with the young women at Baale Mane. We were really honoured to be able to listen to you and what these stories mean to you. You spoke about the importance of having women and girl leaders encourage change in other girls’ lives. Is that a reflection of your own experience? If so, tell us more.
Thank you, that’s a complete reflection of my own experience. I believe that empowering girls and young women changes our world.
Let me tell you my story. I was born in a poor family with four siblings and my mom used to work in two places to take care of us and provide three meals a day. My sisters wanted to study further after the 10th grade and PUC Pre University Course (PUC) but they couldn’t as we had financial problems.
It was a tough time for me too as I was in the 10th grade then and my parents weren’t in a position to support my education. I had requested many so-called stakeholders to support my education but no one did. I went and asked the government college principal and even cried and showed my 10th mark sheet, and she admitted me to the commerce stream. I started working in a dental clinic during the holidays to support my academic expenses but felt stuck as I didn’t know what to study after my PUC and had no one to go to for guidance.
I never got support from anywhere even though I sought it everywhere. No guidance and had no mentor to give me knowledge of what opportunities and possibilities are open to me. I saw my neighbour pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce (B.com) and I went to do the same and enrolled in evening college as I wanted to work and support my family while studying. It was difficult and I went through many hurdles as I did not know how to handle conflicts, how to face society, or what my rights are. So I always wanted guidance, a mentor, or a role model within my community and from my surroundings.
Young women struggle with many issues when those around us make us feel defeated or fail to offer encouragement. These issues can range from not feeling self-confident to doubting our choice of career and education.
I always looked up to my mother who never gave up on her four kids. She always wanted us to live a better life than hers, and that’s the only thing that kept me going. I completed my degree and pursed a four-year diploma to help me grow professionally. Fortunately, I got a job offer from an NGO that works in women empowerment in the local urban slums and that’s where I started to get to know myself better, my strengths, and about the world. Even though I was working there, I always considered myself as a beneficiary of their program.So whatever I am today it’s because of my personal and professional life.
I still feel that things would have been so different, and I would have been a betterleader if I had more young women around me who could’ve brought change in my life.
What is one piece of advice you wish you had received as a young girl navigating this world that you now share with the girls at Baale Mane?
I always tell my girls that I want them to be courageous and strong, to speak up in front of everyone (no one judges you twice), to have the right attitude towards life, and, most importantly, to believe in themselves no matter what others say and think about their personality. You can achieve success by doing that “one” thing you will follow full-heartedly and to find that one THING.
Just become that awesome version of yourself that can make a big difference in this world. You have that potential inside you! Isn’t this your dream job?’
We face many challenges in this field: from a patriarchal society to infrastructural barriers, and now the obstacles the pandemic has created. In your eyes, what does female leadership look like at this moment? Why is it critical?
In a way, I see women entering all sectors and bringing change and equality. But still, the stereotype that men make better leaders persists. Discrimination, a lack of access to mentors, a lack of connection, cultural resistance, and a lack of women leaders to support other women to build female leadership makes now a critical time to encourage women to build leadership qualites. I seriously believe that providing mentorship and coaching support for women with leadership potential will change our world.
We should empower the women around us to succeed and excel in every aspect of their lives. We are entering a new era where women are being celebrated and are given opportunities more than ever before. Let’s not throw these opportunities away in the quest to get ahead of one another.
What you are describing is such hard work. Where do you find the inspiration to keep going and inspire others as well?
I remember Bill Courtney saying that serving and attempting to inspire others is a responsibility, not a choice. Eleanor Roosevelt said to do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. These quotes inspire me and keep me going.
I read, I talk to myself, and when I do that I go back to my roots: where and how I became what I am today that drives me to support the girls as much as possible and to provide the best opportunity for them to grow as they want. Turning my passion into knowledge has helped me gain the respect of my peers and leaders, so I will continue following my passion.
What advice do you have for other women leading from the frontline?
Find your passion and stay curious, tell your story, stand up for women, share opportunities, build networks, encourage everyone, and don’t forget to listen to your instincts. Also remember, you need to make time for yourself.
If you could speak to all the Scholars, what would you like to say?
You are lucky to have this support which helps brings out the best version of you. Make the best use of it, prosper, and start dreaming big. You have that potential of achieving anything inside you. Get that mentorship, get inspired, and keep inspiring. You can change anyone’s life and the WORLD!
If you could speak to our supporters in the U.S., what would you like to say?
Education changes our ‘bad today’ into a ‘good tomorrow.’ That’s the only thing that can’t be taken from us and is a key to the door of all dreams. Better education improves the nation. You are the reason behind many young women’s achievements. Your continued support can create more leaders and empower young women to bring about change in others’ lives too. Investment in education is never a loss and your investment is helping many young women realize their dream, values, their strengths for their future, and it is helping create a supportive community to make their dreams come true. Keep supporting the girls, thank you.Read more