“When men are oppressed, it’s a tragedy. When women are oppressed, it’s tradition” _Letty Cottin Pogrebin
I had the pleasure of having a virtual sit down with changemaker and founder of We Believe India, Parul Yadav. Our conversation came just a week after the looting that saw the literal tearing down of many businesses. Although in India, Parul and I discussed a number of social ills that are profoundly relatable because no matter where you are in the world, injustice is injustice and suffering is suffering.
This interview is proudly brought to you by We Should All Be Entrepreneurs.
Who Is Parul Yadav?
Parul Yadav is the founder of We Believe India, a non-profit organization aimed at advancing the voices of women. She is a recent English Literature graduate from women-only institution, Gargi College. She is also the founder of a startup company, Asian Alliance, where the focus is on public relations and communications. Parul is currently 21 years of age.
Introducing You To 'We Believe India'
We Believe India is a non-profit organization founded by Parul Yadav in May 2020. It aims to create opportunities for women to fully participate in economic growth, political stability, and the social innovations of their countries by training these women and centering the voices of women and girls of colour. We Believe India offers the necessary resources to women and girls to aid in their success and harness their potential.
When Did You Realize You Wanted To Pursue Entrepreneurship?
“I started when I was at university. I was 18 at that time. During my time there, I started volunteering for organizations that were doing a lot of ground work and covering a variety of causes. Through this I started learning from women in the field and realized that the problems we face are even bigger.
Eventually I grew more and more passionate about the cause. Entrepreneurship is very big in India but usually startups that women initiate don’t last a year. They don’t have support in funding. Even though this is the case, I wanted to get into entrepreneurship in any form. I wanted to challenge myself. I had no idea where to begin! What I did do is that I started attending a bunch of free webinars and read many inspirational stories of women who started businesses all by themselves on websites just like yours — We Should All Be Entrepreneurs.
They taught me how to network because networking can help you in many ways. I also spoke to the organizations that I was already a part of to gain knowledge from them. I set up Google Forms asking people if they wanted to be a part of my team. Through this, I found people who are as equally passionate as me. Together we started brainstorming.”
Where Does Your Passion For Effecting Change Come From?
“There are so many youngsters here who go to university and get a degree yet they don’t get to enter into professional spaces, especially women. A lot of these spaces are limited to men because society expects women to go and be wives. When women get to a certain age, they face the pressures of having to get married. You could have degrees and all but all of that means nothing if you don’t have a husband to go home to. So, even if you are achieving a lot, you are seen as incomplete because you are not married.
In addition to this, I am surrounded by communities where the gender ratio for women and men is quite low. There’s quite a number of femicides and honour killings. We are basically surrounded by heavy patriarchal values. I too come from a small village but I am thankful that I can say I come from a privileged home.
You know, in high school I was only used to dedicating my time to studying. I had very little time for recreational work. I was also not very actively aware of these imbalances that I am aware of now. When I went to University, that is when I can say my level of awareness heightened. I went to an only girls college. That is where I realized the power of women and female friendships. That’s also where I realized that India has a lot of potential.”
'We Believe India' Is Growing Considerably Fast Despite The Fact That You Started It A Little Over A Year Ago. How Do You Do It?
“In May 2020, at the start of the lockdown, I had a vision of initiating a mentorship program that would cater to the different interests of individuals. For instance, lets say a student in university is looking for guidance and support on what they’re studying or on a certain profession, then this program would be able to link them to such a mentor.
I know that many students don’t always have the financial capabilities to pay for mentors so we wanted to carry this out at no fee to them because they need these free resources.
We are targeting all the surrounding universities in India. We get to hold seminars where professionals with knowledge in science, law, education and creative backgrounds participate. The agenda is to educate women on all the options out there. We have two teams comprising of members from different universities and states in India. As it stands we have more than thirty members.
I began with a vision. Then I went and did some outreach. I networked with a lot of people so they can know about this work. Be a part of a team, be a part of a community. We have an online community but we are trying to get offline events as well so that we can meet and reach those who we cannot reach online.”
In What Other Areas Is 'We Believe India' Making Strides In That You Are Proud Of?
“Well, at We Believe India we are targeting schools in underprivileged areas in India; those who live below the bread line because poverty is a major concern that stumps growth. We are trying to reach the girls in this area because we have seen that they have big potential and they are talented in different areas. They too deserve a chance.”
What Are Some Of The Challenges You Faced When Starting Out?
“Registering the organization was a bit of a hassle. We registered our organization but I must say that the paperwork took a huge toll on my mental health because it was a very slow process that took a lot of time. But eventually it all worked out.
We also do not have any sort of governmental funding. We fundraise and self-fund from our own pockets. Through all of this we were able to raise some money to buy sanitary pads and other resources for our cause. We were able to conduct a workshop as well but the pandemic slowed things down. However, things are picking up again so there will be more of these.”
Is The Network That You Are Building Around 'We Believe India' Exclusive to India?
“We have been trying to go global because we need to create impact on woman around the world. For our global members, they will definitely be able to be a part of our network. We want our global members to tap into our network in the same way that we can tap into theirs. This way they can be introduced to more women and get to be a part of a global sisterhood of women who want to support each other.
We are trying to open chapters abroad, meaning that those who want to create an impact abroad can do so through our We Believe chapter.”
What Are The Future Plans For 'We Believe India'?
“We are working on raising funding for scholarships and bursaries. We are working on creating global chapters of the organization. Currently, we are working on a summit where we will welcome people who are great leaders and speakers from all over the world. This will be possible by the end of the year! We are taking it slow though because we are handling a lot of projects at once. Our main focus right now is implementing the chapters because we are aiming to go global as gender inequality is not something that’s unique to India alone.”
For The Person Reading This And Is Thinking Of Starting A Non-Profit Organization, What Advice Are You Imparting On Them?
“If you want to start something like We Believe India, getting a team is the way to go. You will get better results. Interview your potential team. I interviewed them and through this I was able to learn about their characters and find out about their individual skills and capabilities. With a team you can make a greater impact and you’ll be able to tap into more skills that you can use from your team.
But I will say that sometimes being a solopreneur is okay. Like with me, I am doing Asian Alliance by myself and We Believe India with a team. But yes, if you want to create a larger impact, work with a team.”