We asked Archana about her journey and here is what she has to say:
What inspired you to pursue your passion for supporting social/community causes?
Not all children get the childhood they deserve, and so I try my best to work with schools that are trying to provide the most basic amenities and education to children. On an annual basis, I reach out to local NGOs which work with children, such as improving schools for underprivileged kids and together we plan and implement a project – I have been doing this exercise for the past few years. Apart from this I also regularly support and help a local school that takes in underprivileged children of all backgrounds. Education is the best enabler and will help these children to proceed further in life.
Tell us more about your journey and experience, as well as key achievements and learnings?
A few years ago, I worked with an NGO for the construction of a girls’ toilet/restroom building in a village called Maralwadi in Karnataka, India. It was eye-opening to see the difference it made to the students and teachers. Before this, female students used to drop out of school after reaching class 7/8 as the toilet facilities were unhygienic. This has now changed, and we have seen more girls continuing their education. I have stayed connected with that community and have gone back to help with a science lab in the school. Since then, I have worked with some NGOs and schools to set up science labs, procure benches, desks, and other infrastructure for schools, and contributed to a school for underprivileged children in Bangalore, Karnataka. The biggest learning has been to understand the value of money – I am now acutely aware of the privileges in my life. My regret is not being able to spend more time with the children in these schools – I hope I can invest more time in the future.
Have you faced any barriers being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them and key takeaways?
When I first started working, I quickly became aware that women in law faced several subtle and overt biases and stereotypes. Female partners in law firms would be seen as having no personal life if they were invested in their careers, others were easily dismissed as “not serious”.
Over the years there have been many occasions when I have faced gender-based discrimination; there have been occasions when people have in the very first meeting, asked if a male lawyer could be in the meeting in my place; people have chosen to speak to a man instead of me in a conference room. My approach to all of these instances has been to let my work speak for me – as one of the most inspiring ladies I know said “women have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as men”.
What put me at ease was the realization that I did not need to work to prove myself to anyone else, I just needed to work hard to be a good lawyer, deliver the best outcomes for my clients and be a good human being, the rest would follow.
What is the most important message you want to send out to young women who wish to diversify/pursue similar interests?
Choose the path that works for you and keeps you happy – don’t be influenced by others’ notions of what your priorities should be. Value yourself.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
I am lucky to have some very inspiring women in my immediate family, who have always shown me the way. There are also several women I would love to meet and learn from, so it is indeed difficult to choose just three women.
It would be very interesting to meet Ms. Mckenzie Scott, listening to her speak about any part of her journey would be very interesting. I would love to know how she remains committed to philanthropy.
Salumarada Thimmakka is living proof of the difference one person doing everyday things can make to the planet.
Ms. Sudha Murthy, because one lunch with her would be a master class in humanity and humility.
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