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IIW: Leading Women to Greatness

Rashmi Mishra is the founder of Inspiring Indian Women, a project which aims to empower women globally – helping them to flourish and reach their potential in whatever path they choose to pursue.

Photo Credit: Rashmi Mishra

She started the group eight years ago after moving to the UK, and realising the challenges of finding work, despite being a qualified and accomplished teacher.

“When I landed here I realised that it is not very easy,” she revealed.

“I was a qualified teacher, but here I had to work as an assistant and supply teacher first.

“I also learnt a lot about things like a National Insurance Number and the DBS checks you have to apply for in order to secure a job.

“As I navigated the system, I realised that it can be a minefield, and many ladies who come here with their husbands, they just don’t know. There’s nobody to guide them. And also, despite being well qualified you don’t get the job which you deserve,” she explained.

“There was a vacuum to connecting Indian women with the right help and support to getting into the right channels here – how to grow opportunities, to express their opinions, talents, and build networks, which is vital today if you want to succeed.”

Rashmi arrived in the UK with her husband – a chief engineer in the merchant navy.

After being posted here, the pair settled in London for eight years and Rashmi worked at various colleges across the city – putting her degree in English Literature, together with her Bachelor of Education to good use.

However, it wasn’t easy to get a foot in the door and fulfil her potential as various obstacles lay in her way. She set up ‘Inspiring Indian Women’ (IIW) as a direct response to this – a passion project which the determined teacher pursued alongside her day job.

It started out with just five ladies working together, but began to gain momentum thanks to Rashmi’s relentless networking skills.

“I started attending each and every event that I could in order to network with people and tell them about the group – to be a living bridge between the organisers – the influential people and the common women,” she explained.

“After working at college, I’d rush home to do several events and that is how we have grown and moved to this level. It has been a great deal of hard work, but I never thought twice. It is my passion.”

As a result of her efforts, IIW continues to grow its global network with chapters in Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and Poland.

There are plans to expand into the US, Australia and Dubai.

Although Rashmi has now moved back to Mumbai with her husband, she continues to come back to London in order to nurture her project and offer support to women in need.

The IIW continues to offer support to women – including those suffering from domestic abuse and poor mental health.

“The weather is a big challenge for women who come over to the UK from India. It is always dark and gloomy – at least throughout those wintry months. These are big challenges for women to adjust to,” says Rashmi, speaking from experience.

“The community needs to be together especially during that time – six months with no sun – it really brings a lot of depression so even as a homemaker you need some place to meet and grow as an individual – whether you’re working or not working,” she says.

Rashmi is passionate about women having an outlet – a place to connect and express their skills.

As a mother of two grown up children, she values the importance of motherhood. However, she stresses the importance of self-reliance and nurturing an identity outside of that realm.

“Inspiring Women always stresses an importance on being financially independent. If you’re independent financially, you’re a big support to the family and also your self-confidence is there – your self esteem is high,” she says.

“Even as a homemaker, you need some place to meet and grow as an individual – whether you’re working or not working. You need to learn and use your talents because everybody has something good in them,” she adds. “Everybody wants their dreams to be known in a bigger circle – to have a good life and to enjoy it – not just be trapped in a kitchen with kids. I’ve yet to meet any lady who thinks ‘okay, my life is with kids and I just want to do that my whole life.’

“You can do that in the beginning – ten maybe 15 years, but then you need to get out of it and do something on your own. You have your inner talent which you may have suppressed, due to family commitments, and later on you need to come out of it – bring it back to the forefront that which you have suppressed.”

In 2017, Rashmi launched the IIW’s flagship ‘She Inspires Awards,’ which celebrate the contribution of women in 16 diverse categories. The awards are held annually at London’s prestigious Houses of Parliament and celebrate entrepreneurs, artists, environmental champions, mums, homemakers and much, much more.

Rashmi herself is no stranger to awards, with past accolades including the Indian Achievers Award, HERA Goodwill Award, Global Goodwill Ambassadors, National Diversity Awards United Kingdom, FOX story India and various others.

However for her, the real rewards of her work is having an impact on women around the world – helping them to flourish and thrive in their lives.

“I want them to come back to us and say it was because of IIW that I could better myself – I could manage and spread smiles,” she said of the organisation, which is not for profit.

“Our aim is to be one big umbrella organisation for women all over the world – selflessly without any personal benefit.”

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