Over the period of Covid-19 lockdown, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an array of organisations, charities, communities and political leaders to bring a culture of welcome to the Borough of Sandwell.
In my role, I have created and been maintaining all social media pages and communications for the #BOSSandwell Campaign. The campaign is working towards greater inclusion, equality and opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers, as well as standing strongly in solidarity with the #BLM movement and anti-racism.
If the refugee crises are shown in the media, stories rarely ever address the links to environmental migration. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 33.4 million people were forced to leave their homes in 2019 due to disasters negatively affecting their livelihoods. This number is only expected to increase as we move further into the 21st century.
“The Atlas of Environmental Migration, which gives examples dating as far back as 45,000 years ago, shows that environmental changes and natural disasters have played a role in how the population is distributed on our planet throughout history.”
Dina Ionesco – UN IOM
With more and more catastrophic climate-related events having direct causal links to human activity, it has never been more important to focus on the displacement and safe settlement of humans.
More than ever before, I feel the urge to actively work towards breaking down perceptions of “other”, separation and racism. Working in my home town, Sandwell to do just that feels right. After all, it all starts at home.
What motivated you to choose your profession and what do you love about your job?
During my time studying Psychology at university, I was unsure about which career path to follow. I happened to take a module on global challenges and I had a cliche penny drop moment. I knew whatever I did going forward, had to focus on the climate crisis. Ever since, I have not looked back and after completing a diploma in climate change, I started working in sustainable business and environmental behavioural change within the retail sector. I am lucky enough to continue my passion of music alongside this. I love that my job allows me to see direct impact and purposeful change within a large organisation. I love that through my music and creativity, I get to connect to people of various backgrounds on a deeper and more emotional and spiritual level. Both areas of my career truly fulfil me and drive me to be the best version of myself – constantly pushing the boundaries of my full potential.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
There are many accomplishments I am proud of, particularly within my music career. However, from an academic perspective, achieving a First Class Psychology BSc (Hons) degree alongside the Dean’s Award has to be at the top of my list!
What was your worst failure or setback and what did you learn from it?
I had to resit my second year of A levels, and I consider the grades I achieved the first time round as my biggest setback so far. It massively knocked my self-confidence which I struggled to shake off for quite a while. I have also overcome many personal battles over the years, particularly my own mental health, but of course this is always a work in progress.
I don’t particularly like the word failure as it implies a lack of something, according to a set standard of norms dictated by society… Which we then go on to use as personal check points. My life experience till date has taught me that no matter what the situation faced is, anything can be overcome by resilience and having an awareness of various perspectives. Everyone’s definition of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ is subjective and every individual has their own personal timeline in life – which is undoubtedly perfect for them. To compare oneself and our behind the scenes with our peers’ reams and reams of best life highlights (particularly on social media,) will only lead us down a dark hole of dissatisfaction and unfulfilled desire. I only treat my setbacks as lessons or tests of resilience, and I enjoy every positive, progressive moment to the full.
Define a great leader and what are some traits you think great leaders possess?
A great leader to me is someone who lives their belief through their actions, not just their words. The world we now live in holds many ‘influencers’ but much fewer ‘inspirers’. Thought leadership through action is the way forward!
Who has been your biggest influence and why?
My biggest influence has to be my Guru ji or ‘spiritual guide’ – Baba Hardev Singh Ji. Although sadly no longer with us, from a young age until now, I have held an enormous amount of respect and love for him. I have learnt the fundamental values of life and what it means to be a good human being, as well as the importance of holding onto purpose and self-awareness through every situation. Being a part of something greater than yourself is life changing and I wouldn’t be who I am or be where I’m standing today without his teachings.
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
I have only just started my career and so have not had any major barriers as such. Although, being a woman of colour, I have really felt the lack of representation and pioneers to look up to within the industry, whom I can genuinely relate to. Though things are rapidly changing both systemically and within large organisations, there is still a huge gap in female representation, particularly women of colour at the “top.” I do often question whether this will still be the case in a few years time.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Take time to find your individual purpose and what YOU define as success. Not what your parents, friends or colleagues think – but what you think. Too often I have seen instances where peers and colleagues of mine have rushed into graduate or apprenticeship schemes, joined the world of work and within a year or two, find themselves lost with zero motivation and no job satisfaction. Take your time. There really is NO rush or only one right way to get to where you’re supposed to be! Once you find what drives you (and you will if you allow yourself the space,) what your natural strengths are, what feels right, what feels good – everything else will flow automatically.
Another point: to be able to rely on just yourself, you need to learn how to be comfortable in your own company – go out of your comfort zone and test your boundaries. How are you when you’re all by yourself – alone with your thoughts? Learn to overcome the emptiness or void or need for another person you may feel inside. Once you’ve passed that step, you will become so secure within yourself and unleash a whole new level of self dependency and confidence. As a side-note, I’d also highly recommend reading ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne. It has genuinely changed my life!
What do you want your legacy to be?
I rarely feel comfortable shouting out about what I do. I would much rather just get on and DO and not talk about it. For me, if I have connected to an individual, if I have brought about positive change, helped someone or helped mitigate the climate crisis in some shape or form – I know I am doing exactly what I am supposed to and that in itself is my legacy.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
Like many things, maintaining a work-life balance is a constant work in progress for me. Some weeks are better than others, but I find having a calendar or diary that works for you is essential to make work-life balance possible. I also find having a separate work phone and laptop helps massively to disconnect when you’re supposed to. I try to always remind myself that if you love what you do, it’s not just a job – it’s a way of life and that (hypothetically) should mean you don’t have to physically take it home with you!
The International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme is #EachforEqual – “An equal world is an enabled world”. What will you do to create a gender equal world?
To create a gender equal world, I will keep saying the things we as women are told to keep quiet. I will continue to educate (and not patronise) my peers by explaining what feminism really is – if they don’t know already. I will not be phased by a room full of men, or silence my opinions in-front of them, irrespective of their titles. I will be conscious of biases in the workplace and beyond. I will point out things that need to change, particularly issues of gender pay gap, inclusion and diversity, LGBTQ+ rights and social mobility. I will continue to break traditional standards that make women and men feel they are wrong to express themselves however they please – openly wearing, eating and drinking whatever they want. I will stand up for all those who make any decision for themselves or their bodies. I will stand up to bullies and narcissists. I will openly say I’m on my period if I need to and not whisper it like it’s something to hide or be ashamed of. I will be courageous and allow myself to be vulnerable and seek help whenever I need it, including my mental health. I will have open and respectful conversations with my elders to break down stigmas, stereotypes and double standards – particularly those that exist within the South Asian community. I will not let labels such as ‘too emotional; too serious; too intense; too moody; too passionate; too quiet; too confident; too loud; too much of… anything‘ define me. I will not apologise for being my authentic self and I will continue to champion not caring about…”but what will people say?”