INSIDE WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL

WITH PREEYA VARSANI

Credit: Serrah Galos/WfWI

Interviewed By Nateisha Scott


In celebration of International Women’s Day, Preeya Varsani, Head of Corporate and Community Fundraising for Women For Women International carved a moment to discuss her career journey, being a part of a community and the meaning of International Women’s Day.

What does your role entail?

I’m Head of Corporate & Community Fundraising which means I work with businesses and individuals to raise vital funds for women survivors of war. Our partners include wonderful companies like NET-A-PORTER, Charlotte Tilbury and 111SKIN who we work with to raise awareness and money to fund Women for Women International’s year-long training programme.

What inspired you to work for Women for Women International and you career journey?

I worked in beauty PR for 10 years, which culminated in a role as Head of PR & Events at Charlotte Tilbury. I was tasked with finding a charity partner for their Hot Lips collection, which launched the partnership with Women for Women International. The charity was the first organisation I’d heard of which provided a holistic and practical programme for women living in the world’s most dangerous places. I was so inspired by this and wanted to help and get involved, so started volunteering with the organisation and joined full time in 2018.

Credit: Rada Akbar

What has been the most touching part of your role so far?

Hearing stories from the women we serve is by far the most inspiring part of my job. Recently, one of my colleagues who visited our programme in Afghanistan shared a story that really resonated with me. One of the women in our programme had explained how her neighbour had killed his daughter because their hospital given blood results which showed that she was pregnant. She was young, unmarried and he felt she had brought shame and dishonour on the family. A few days later, the hospital called to say there had been a mix-up with the results and she wasn’t pregnant.

What’s even more harrowing is that the overwhelming response from the women in the class who had heard this story was that her neighbour shouldn’t have acted so quickly. Not that he shouldn’t have killed her because it is fundamentally wrong but that the cultural norm for honour killings is so prevalent that this kind of behaviour is expected.

This kind of story strengthens my belief that what we do is so important. The purpose of our Men’s Engagement programme is to counteract these kinds of attitude and beliefs, and encourage men to become allies and advocates for women.

How are Women for Women International changing the way women are perceived today? Women for Women International enrols women survivors of war in a year-long training programme where they learn how to earn and save money, improve their family’s health and make their voices heard – at home and in their community. World Bank data has shown that women’s economic participation is key to achieving long-term development goals, such as reducing poverty and economic growth which is why we always say “stronger women, stronger nations.”

There are so many similarities between the way women are perceived in developed countries and the challenges faced by the women we work with. We are considered second-class citizens and rights are often disregarded. What we do is help marginalised women achieve their full potential, by giving them access to skills and resources – something which I believe every woman can relate to.

Credit: Rada Akbar

What has been the most rewarding part of being a part of Women for Women International?

I have to say working in a team of women and men who passionately believe in a shared mission and vision which ultimately makes the world a better place is really rewarding and motivating. It definitely makes it easier to get up and go to work!

Who inspires you personally?

There are so many inspiring women! Anyone who knows me knows my ultimate icon is Beyoncé – she is a self-made woman who has conquered everything she does. She consistently pushes boundaries, exceeds expectations and takes no prisoners.

Also, my family has quite a matriarchal structure – my mum has five sisters and all of them are strong, independent women spanning several generations who have overcome various intersectional challenges. It’s impossible not to be inspired by them as role models.

Finally, I’m also inspired by the women I’ve sponsored through our year-long training programme. At the moment, I’m sponsoring Begard who lives in Iraq but have previously sponsored women in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo too. What all of them have in common is that they have had very few opportunities but are in the process of transforming their lives and taking charge of their futures.

Credit: Ryan Carter

As we are now in International Women’s Month, what would you say it means to be a woman today?

We are in such an interesting time for women. #MeToo and #TimesUp have brought systemic issues to light and created a point of no return. The recent Harvey Weinstein trial shows that change is happening, and old rules no longer apply. I’m excited to see what the future holds but also conscious of what still needs to be done.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Since Women for Women International began in 1993, we have reached over half a million women survivors of war. We recently set our strategy for the next 10 years and we have an ambitious goal of reaching millions more women which is exciting!

 

To find out more information about Women for Women International or to support a women survivor of war and help change the world, one woman at a time, please click here:  www.womenforwomen.org.uk/sponsor

Credit: Serrah Galos/WfWI

INSIDE WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL WITH PREEYA VARSANI

By Nateisha Scott

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Preeya Varsani, Head of Corporate and Community Fundraising for Women For Women International carved a moment to discuss her career journey, being a part of a community and the meaning of International Women’s Day.

What does your role entail?

I’m Head of Corporate & Community Fundraising which means I work with businesses and individuals to raise vital funds for women survivors of war. Our partners include wonderful companies like NET-A-PORTER, Charlotte Tilbury and 111SKIN who we work with to raise awareness and money to fund Women for Women International’s year-long training programme.

What inspired you to work for Women for Women International and you career journey?

I worked in beauty PR for 10 years, which culminated in a role as Head of PR & Events at Charlotte Tilbury. I was tasked with finding a charity partner for their Hot Lips collection, which launched the partnership with Women for Women International. The charity was the first organisation I’d heard of which provided a holistic and practical programme for women living in the world’s most dangerous places. I was so inspired by this and wanted to help and get involved, so started volunteering with the organisation and joined full time in 2018.

Credit: Rada Akbar

What has been the most touching part of your role so far?

Hearing stories from the women we serve is by far the most inspiring part of my job. Recently, one of my colleagues who visited our programme in Afghanistan shared a story that really resonated with me. One of the women in our programme had explained how her neighbour had killed his daughter because their hospital given blood results which showed that she was pregnant. She was young, unmarried and he felt she had brought shame and dishonour on the family. A few days later, the hospital called to say there had been a mix-up with the results and she wasn’t pregnant.

What’s even more harrowing is that the overwhelming response from the women in the class who had heard this story was that her neighbour shouldn’t have acted so quickly. Not that he shouldn’t have killed her because it is fundamentally wrong but that the cultural norm for honour killings is so prevalent that this kind of behaviour is expected.

This kind of story strengthens my belief that what we do is so important. The purpose of our Men’s Engagement programme is to counteract these kinds of attitude and beliefs, and encourage men to become allies and advocates for women.

How are Women for Women International changing the way women are perceived today? Women for Women International enrols women survivors of war in a year-long training programme where they learn how to earn and save money, improve their family’s health and make their voices heard – at home and in their community. World Bank data has shown that women’s economic participation is key to achieving long-term development goals, such as reducing poverty and economic growth which is why we always say “stronger women, stronger nations.”

There are so many similarities between the way women are perceived in developed countries and the challenges faced by the women we work with. We are considered second-class citizens and rights are often disregarded. What we do is help marginalised women achieve their full potential, by giving them access to skills and resources – something which I believe every woman can relate to.

Credit: Rada Akbar

What has been the most rewarding part of being a part of Women for Women International?

I have to say working in a team of women and men who passionately believe in a shared mission and vision which ultimately makes the world a better place is really rewarding and motivating. It definitely makes it easier to get up and go to work!

Who inspires you personally?

There are so many inspiring women! Anyone who knows me knows my ultimate icon is Beyoncé – she is a self-made woman who has conquered everything she does. She consistently pushes boundaries, exceeds expectations and takes no prisoners.

Also, my family has quite a matriarchal structure – my mum has five sisters and all of them are strong, independent women spanning several generations who have overcome various intersectional challenges. It’s impossible not to be inspired by them as role models.

Finally, I’m also inspired by the women I’ve sponsored through our year-long training programme. At the moment, I’m sponsoring Begard who lives in Iraq but have previously sponsored women in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo too. What all of them have in common is that they have had very few opportunities but are in the process of transforming their lives and taking charge of their futures.

Credit: Ryan Carter

As we are now in International Women’s Month, what would you say it means to be a woman today?

We are in such an interesting time for women. #MeToo and #TimesUp have brought systemic issues to light and created a point of no return. The recent Harvey Weinstein trial shows that change is happening, and old rules no longer apply. I’m excited to see what the future holds but also conscious of what still needs to be done.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Since Women for Women International began in 1993, we have reached over half a million women survivors of war. We recently set our strategy for the next 10 years and we have an ambitious goal of reaching millions more women which is exciting!

 

To find out more information about Women for Women International or to support a women survivor of war and help change the world, one woman at a time, please click here:  www.womenforwomen.org.uk/sponsor

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