Disha: Championing women’s financial liberation and security in India
As a young girl, Disha remembers being a smart, but shy student. Her mother played a transformational role early on, offering her the space to explore her own passions from dance to sports to acting. Without judgement and endless support, Disha was encouraged by her mother to discover herself through activities outside the classroom. Performance in dance and acting built her self-confidence, allowing her to run for and take on leadership positions in school. Her exploratory mindset also led Disha and her family to travel, seeking adventures from trekking the Himalayan Mountains to playing water sports in Mangalore.
Her independence and confidence from a young age also translated to how she understood money. Disha was taught early on how to save, always making her own choices on the money she earned, and finding power and choice through financial freedom. However, when Disha was in middle school, she was surprised to discover that she was the only girl in her class with her own bank account and debit card.
She grew curious as to why other students did not have the same encouragement, and learned that her male peers were much more likely to have money, make their own decisions with their money, and casually talk about money. Disha saw that girls in her community were being left out of financial conversations both at home and at school. She became very unsettled when she learned that this gender disparity was not just in her community, but across India. So many women across India lack access to financial literacy education and conversations and, in turn, financial freedom.
When Disha was 15, she immersed herself into non-fiction books about gender, leadership, and the inequalities that follow women from home to school to the workplace. She was inspired to volunteered with an organization committed to closing gender-based leadership gaps, learning directly from women the critical need for also closing the gender wealth gap. Starting with financial literacy, Disha was determined to offer other young girls and women the space “to take charge of their life, making informed and independent decisions.”
Challenging the gendered nature of savings and investing, Disha and a few peers co-founded an initiative called Inner Goddess to teach young women about personal finance. They started by offering a few workshops at local businesses and villages, covering topics from how to start a bank account to setting financial goals. These workshops reduce barriers for women by boosting confidence in banking and investing through financial knowledge and learning how to make independent and informed financial decisions. Disha believes financial independence should not be a luxury, but a necessity, so women embrace their inner power when asking for a raise in their job or planning for retirement.
Women who are financially independent are free to make their own life decisions.
Starting her journey as a teenager, Disha values the importance of empathy as key to her success. With empathy, Disha is able to listen and learn from other women, such as basing decisions on her workshops on feedback rather than assumptions. She embraces all that she does not know and is committed to constant learning through reading books, holding tough conversations, and online research.
Disha understands the importance of a strong team. She began assembling her team through conversations with her peers about what ignites their passions. When finding new team members, she carefully crafted her team to ensure that they were compatible and had complementary skills.
Disha shares that “empathy and leadership go hand in hand. Leadership is an action word, which means you cannot read a book about leadership but have to practice it and learn from your mistakes. It is a journey.” While on this journey, Disha admits she did not always believe she could do it but is confident that “passion beats uncertainty. Iterative learning beats inexperience. Human assets beat lack of knowledge. Education beats insecurity.”
Empathy and leadership go hand in hand. Leadership is an action word, which means you cannot read a book about leadership but have to practice it and learn from your mistakes. It is a journey.
Inner Goddess, based in Chennai with team of 5 young employees and 25 volunteers, impacted over 5,000 women in just two years. With the experience, Disha leaped into the next chapter of her changemaking journey by launching a YouTube Channel, Moolah, to help students make informed financial decisions and reach financial independence.
Disha’s goal for any workshop, video, or information session is not only to support young people to become financially confident and independent, but to activate young people to see themselves as changemakers with the tools and confidence they need to get started. Disha encourages everyone to follow their passions and reminds us “everyone can be a changemaker it's not something magical it does not require you to have a fairy god mother but simply something you believe in and are willing to take the steps to change it."
If you would like to continue to follow Disha’s journey, you can check out her YouTube Series here!
Written by Claire Hiscott, LeadYoung Intern