Dr. Rashmi Tiwari shines as a beacon of inspiration in compassionate leadership and impactful change-making. She has changed the lives of Tribal Women through the foundation called Aahan Tribal Foundation.
Rashmi Tiwari, Aahan Foundation’s owner and director, is also the driving force behind it as she has dedicated her life to uplifting the marginalized and creating positive societal transformations. Rashmi Tiwari, Leadership Coach at NeuroLeadership Institute, is also one of the emerging businesswomen from India under the Fortune/ US State Department Leadership Mentorship Program. Ms. Anne Mulcahy, Chairperson & CEO of the Xerox Corporation, mentored her.
Early Life and Inspiration
- Dr. Rashmi Tiwari was born in 1972 into an affluent family, but life took an unexpected turn.
- Raised by a single mother with no house or source of income, she experienced firsthand the challenges that come with adversity.
- Her upbringing in a small, 3.5 x 5.5-meter house in Varanasi highlighted the stark realities of poverty and social stigmas. Despite facing discrimination and hardships, Dr. Tiwari’s spirit remained unbroken.
“I spent the formative years of my childhood (until the age of nine) in Mumbai. Until that age, I was an introvert [introverted] child at home and extrovert [an extrovert] at school. I was very famous for my good memory and entrepreneurial ventures like organizing society [a society] talent show, making Shiva [a Shiva] temple in the sand to raise funds for our dolls weddings[,] etc.
Life treated me like a princess till I was 9 years old with all the possible luxuries of life and then in the blink of an eye[,] I found myself at the other end of the spectrum where the only luxury I could have was a 60 W light bulb in a 3.5m x 5.5m house. A house, which was my drawing room, bedroom as well as the kitchen till I completed my Masters.”
—– Dr. Rashmi Tiwari
Dr. Rashmi Tiwari’s Education and Achievements
- Rashmi completed her education in Varanasi & earned Ph.D. degree in Economics from Banaras Hindu University in 1998-99.
- Being an Associate Director & The Director of the American Chambers of Commerce in India (AMCHAM), she also served as an Executive Director of the CEO Clubs, India, where she headed the operations of associations.
- Rashmi Tiwari, ATDF’s (Aahan Tribal Development Foundation) owner, was awarded “The Good Crusader” by Times Group for her commendable work on anti-trafficking.
- She wrote a piece entitled “Dreaming in India” for the Washington Posts’ “On Leadership” segment, where she discussed the position of women and girls in India, notably in tribal tribes. In addition, she voiced the importance of mentorship for such individuals and mentioned the Aahan Tribal Development Foundation’s Tribal Mentorship Programme as one approach.
Adding to her achievements, she earned:
- “Big Hero” award by Radio Channel 92.7 BIG FM.
- “Tejaswini” award by DD News
- “World of Difference 100 Award” by the International Alliance For Women (TIAW) organization of USA
- Was featured in the program “Shunya Se Shikar Tak” on Lok Sabha TV
- Fellow at Vital Voices (USA)
- Fellow of SIMP
- Global Ambassadors, Vital Voices
- Fortune emerging women business leaders from India – 2007
- Bank of America Global Ambassador’s Program
- Vital Voices International Girls’ Empowerment Panelists
- “Empowering The Tribal Girls of India” by Sheroes
Rashmi Tiwari: Empowering Women Through Aahan Tribal Development Foundation
I always had a latent desire to work in the social. However, fear of uncertainty always pulled me from taking the plunge. The turning point in my life came when I met a tribal family of four in a small village of Orissa. The family was very poor and had very little food to survive on. While I was interacting with the mother of the two girls, I expressed my desire to speak with her other daughter as well. She said that I can [could] only call one girl at a time as there is only one set of clothes that my two daughter share. I felt transported to the same period when I was starving and dancing to get satisfy my basic needs. I knew that my calling is [was] to help these tribal people who are [were] living on the edge and decided[I decided] to start Aahan.
—– Dr. Rashmi Tiwari
- The birth of the Aahan Tribal Foundation took place after she saw the tribal family suffer without access to even basic facilities. That was when she realized her calling and decided to extend help, especially to the tribal women, further leading to Aahan’s inception.
- It focuses on solving several interconnected socioeconomic issues affecting girls and women and is led by Rashmi Tiwari. Jharkhand, the state of India, is the main region of concern for ATDF, and the issues as a matter of concern are mainly, Gender Inequality, Violence Against Women (Girl Child Trafficking, Child Marriage, etc.), Poverty, Lack of Awareness and Facilities for Health, Hygiene, and Sanitation, and Illiteracy.
- Working in Naxalite areas and with human traffickers, on the other hand, was extremely tough for her. She had to deal with Naxalites, traffickers, and threats from local officials or opposition from the Panchayat on numerous occasions.
- Aahan works with the S.M.A.R.T community to holistically deal with the issues of tribal girls and women. It stands for:
S: Sarpanch; members of the local self-government.
M: Media, Journalists, and Stringers
A: Authority; BDO, Police, etc.
R: Religious Leaders; influential people respected by tribals
T: Tribal Families
The future of Aahan is a social enterprise, allowing girls and their mothers employment opportunities within their respective villages, as per the vision of Rashmi Tiwari. Sanitary napkins, eco-friendly pencils, and recycled clothes are some of the commodities that the enterprise would deal in.
Her leadership philosophy, however, is centered on empathy, collaboration, and sustainable impact. Her visionary approach to leadership encompasses compassion towards the struggles of the underprivileged, cooperation with like-minded individuals and organizations, and a strong emphasis on creating enduring change rather than short-term fixes.
Her commitment to improving the lives of the marginalized through the Aahan Foundation showcases the potential of leaders to drive positive change in society. Rashmi’s biography is a narrative of personal growth and a source of inspiration for aspiring leaders who wish to make a meaningful difference in the world.