Renowned activist Meera Gandhi is known the world over for her pioneering efforts in uplifting women and children across the world. Through her organisation The Giving Back Foundation, she raises funds and creates awareness about providing education to those in need. A business school graduate by education, she has devoted her life to the motto: "We are to the universe only as much as we give back to it." Shuttling between the United States and India, she carefully balances work and family, being mom to three children and as founder-CEO of the organisation whose day to day actvities she personally tends to.
This year, she proudly collaborates with Magna Publishing, parents company of Stardust Magazine to present three women achievers in the field of music in the form of a musical concert. Showcasing the talents of Kanika Kapoor (of Baby Doll, Lovely and Chittiyan Kalaiyaan fame), Shalmali Kholgade (Pareshaan, Lat lag Gayi) and Harshdeep Kaur (Katiyan Karoon, Heer and Kabira), the concert will be held at the Royal Festival Hall in London on September 5th, 2015.
Here's what Mrs. Gandhi has to say...
What is The Giving Back Foundation all about? How does the vision of your organisation fit in with that of Magna?
The mission of Giving Back is to empower and educate the girl child and create more women leaders in the future. I was a product of my education and that's where the brainchild for the organisation lay. I had many mentors who empowered me on the way, so I thought this would be a small way in which I could use my experiences to do the same for the next generations and the ones after.
On the way, I figured out that there were a lot more people who shared my views and my vision. So I've always been into innovative ways to get our mission across. Apart from my coffee table book, and a documentary film which not only showcases me as the founder of Giving Back, but the various charities that work with us and ten other public figures who spoke on issues that plague women across the world including sexual abuse, oppression and lack of education, we thought that this concert could be our new eandeavour on the path of creating more awareness.
I'm glad to see our efforts are bearing fruit and people are picking up on the idea of 'giving back.'
These innovative ideas to promote a charitable organisation, are they your brainchild?
I consider myself a maverick of sorts, I have an idea and I must do it. Now that the foundation has reached a scale, we have a team of many people who aid me in bringing these ideas to life. We've had musical performers at our gala, we've had reverends give blessings. It's not about religion, but humanity. That's the values I believe in.
We have to be inventive and innovative because the world is changing. And the people we empower are strong already, they just need a push. I think when you go with that spirit, they feel they're being given a leg up and not a hand out.
Does the Stardust concert fit into these inventive ways?
There's always a personal relationship that comes to the forefront. I've been associated with the Magna family for a long time and I really admire Mr. Nari Hira (CMD Magna Publishing) for his values and being a self-made man. When I was approached by Magna, they told me that they were looking to promote women stars and they also felt that there weren't enough women role models for young Indians growing up overseas. Since my foundation is geared towards women and education and the arts, they felt it would be a good synergy between the two.
I do agree. I think that we need to celebrate and showcase our women. And both genders need to realize that we, as a nation, have come of age. These women are perfect role models as they are celebrating life in the form of dance and music. It's a good oppurtunity to use Bollywood as a vehicle to put forth a strong message out there, which I would be speaking about at the event. Our message through this concert is "we have to do good together, we have to start now, we have to support women and children," and the whole thing came together quite organically.
Women empowerment is the in-thing in India through the power of social media. What potential do you see for it to grow when celebrities, especially film, attach themselves to the cause?
Emminent personalities from Bollywood can have a huge impact on the psyche of a nation. I'm glad that the internet has contributed to them voicing their opinions about issues. I think Bollywood is waking up to that power now and people like me with such foundations actually have the platform to speak about it together.
We also work with an International Film Festival through a 'Giving Back' category which awards a filmmaker (producer, director, actor) who makes qualitative social content. I'm thinking about bringing it to India as well.
Mrs. Meera Gandhi will be part of the Stardust Concert featuring Kanika Kapoor, Shalmali Kholgade and Harshdeep Kaur on September 5th, 2014 at the Royal Festival Hall. Follow us on @Stardust_Magna and @TheGivingBackF for more updates.