They say that those who have known struggles and suffered losses become compassionate individuals. Sneha Chandrashekhar’s is one such tale of struggles and compassion, which took her to work for women’s empowerment. The Bangalore-based entrepreneur calls herself a fighter who wants to add value to society. This is her story.
Growing up in Botswana with her sister and parents, Sneha was a happy child. But after her father’s death, at the age of 11, Sneha struggled with Clinical Depression for 10 years. Although she returned to India at the age of 14 to live with her grandparents, she faced an identity crisis and struggled with being a “normal teenager”. She went on to do B.Com at Bangalore University, and at 22, got married son after.
It is for her love for writing, and her desire to run her own show that Sneha co-founded Black & White Tech Writing Solutions (a content-writing company) with her husband in 2010. Five years later her story took a new turn.
In 2015, she came to know about World Merit, an organisation that aims to create solutions by investing in youth, in collaboration with the United Nations. Sneha found her calling then. Soon, she became India’s resident expert for their flagship programme Merit 360, which works across more than 100 countries. Merit 360 is the largest partner to the UN in tackling the five sustainable development goals, one of which is gender equality.
Sneha’s mother had worked as a manager in a local retail-whole sale business after her father’s death.
“With my mother’s struggles in bringing up her two children by herself, I saw her inner strength. When I came out of depression, I began to dream of a good life, to live and not just survive. I told myself that I need to give back as much as I can towards any cause on women empowerment,” says Sneha. She started the ‘We Rise For Her’ campaign under Merit 360, to work for women’s psychological, emotional, social, and financial empowerment.
Sneha adds that her husband Pramod Nanjareddy is her source of strength. “His endless support, looking at my dream through my eyes, and enrolling into my vision has been the biggest factor to strengthen my beliefs. He showed me how important a man’s role is in bringing about gender equality.”
In India, women’s literacy rates stands at 65 per cent as against 82 per cent of men. We have huge numbers of maternal deaths due to lack of infrastructure and health care units. According to the UN, equal division of labour, access to health, education, work, to operate at free will and consideration for decision making socially and economically would lead towards achieving gender equality.
The Sustainable Development Goals is a vision of fifteen years (until 2030) to build a sustainable world. The UN puts it as ‘an agenda for a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity’. “Governments, the private sector, institutions, and people like us would come together to achieve these goals,” says Sneha.
To achieve equality, the changes in perception towards women must begin from within. “For this, our goal is to work with young minds in the near future, where we can speak to schools and colleges and get access to speak to the children in the age group of 15 to 18 years and enlighten them on this goal. When youngsters are aligned with the goal, they begin to change and move towards equality,” Sneha says.
Currently, all activities of We RiseForHer are self-funded. They have partnered with Shoppers Stop, GIBS B – School, Fairfield by Marriott, The Chef Post, Live Love Laugh Foundation and Let’s Talk with Vinay (a talk show). Recently, they conducted a campaign in Mantri Mall in Bangalore, where more than 300 individuals made a promise to work for gender equality. Such initiatives spread awareness, Sneha says, adding that the impact of their efforts can be measured on our social media campaigns, and the participation of people during such events.
WeRiseForHer is taking the next big step soon. Australia-based Caitlin Figueiredo, who works closely with UN Women and Merit 360, is taking the vision of WeRiseForHer to the United Nations. “We aim to seek support from the United Nations where we can connect with great numbers of youth across the globe and work towards Gender Equality under the wings of the UN,” says Sneha.
Women are supposedly good at multitasking, and Sneha is the perfect example. Mother to a two-year-old, Sneha recently started up another venture, The Chef Post, an online portal which features chefs of star hotels, their restaurants and events . But WeRiseForHer is her priority. “Engaging in social activities needs time, not money,” she smiles.