A philathrophist who has been working relentlessly to impart a crucial voice for widows around the world, who have suffered for generations.
Years of working in the industry, your contribution reflects versatility and volubility. How challenging has your Journey been from Rajinder Paul to Lord Loomba?
I have worked in the charitable sector for nearly 20 years and have seen it grow from a sector on the sidelines to one which contributes to GDP and gives employment to nearly a million people in the UK. This in itself is incredible, but it also sustains many important projects without which individuals in need would not be able to access the help and support they need – this is true for our own country as well as abroad.
Personally, my ‘journey’ has been one of great challenges along the way, from starting in lowly beginnings brushing floors in a factory to setting up an international fashion company, to getting anyone to listen to my message and my work about widows. Each has been a hurdle that I have overcome by relentless persistence to achieve my aims: ‘bread and butter’ on the table for my family to widows who are empowered and run their own businesses and educating their children.
What has influenced your decisions and thought process at various stages in your career. Kindly elaborate on your leadership style.
My mother, who became a widow at an early age of 37, was a great influence on my life. She showed resilience and fortitude in extremely difficult circumstances when I was a child. She showed her seven young children the power and importance of a good education. I am committed to empowerment of the individual be it a widow treated inhumanly or to a workforce producing clothes to sell. Each person has their own story, and if, along the way, I can be of help in that process then I will.
Commitment you made as a philanthropist?
I commit myself each and every day to raising awareness of and finding help to tackle the issues that affect widows so that their voices can be heard amidst the myriad problems and challenges that the world faces today.
A standout moment for you from your charitable work?
I launched 23rd June as International Widows Day at the House of Lords in London in 2005 – a day of focus and effective action for widows and their children around the world. It is a significant day as it was on this day that my mother became a widows in Punjab in 1954.
The standout moment for me was when the United Nations recognised 23rd June as International Widows Day in 2010 and made a Declaration to all Member States of the United Nations: “Calls upon Member States, the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, within their respective mandates, to give special attention to the situation of widows and their children.”
Your perception of an empowered woman. How far Loomba Foundation has contributed for the same?
An empowered woman is one who can make her own way in the world unhindered by prejudice, abuse and cruelty and is considered of equal worth by her peers and her community.
My energy has always been focused on empowering the individual to allow them to forge their own way in the world; it has been a lonely road where the issues of widows have never been recognised properly until I established the Shrimati Pushpa Wati Memorial Foundation in the UK in 1997 (now known as The Loomba Foundation). It is named after my late mother.
The Loomba Foundation has sister charities registered in India and the USA. We have supported disadvantaged widows and their children in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Syria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, Rwanda, Guatemala and Chile.
In an industry so dynamic, how as a leader you comply with respect to changing trends, behavioral pattern and expectations of society.
It is always incumbent to move with the times and to recognise that the individuals around you are also affected by the dynamics of the present, and this is a sign of good leadership. If you are not aware of the present you are not in a position to effect change; staying stuck in the past is the sure way to fossilisation for any business or charity.
Whom do you owe your success to?
As I mentioned earlier, my mother was an early influence on me and my motivation to do well. I also could not have done all the things that I have achieved without the help of good people around me and my wife and family who are a constant source of support.
What changes would you want make to the charity sector?
I would look to raising its profile more widely so that it is recognised for the huge contribution it makes to society today and not considered ‘just the third sector’. Without the charitable sector many millions of people would suffer hugely. It often steps in where the government fails to provide and its work should be more widely appreciated.