Women for women

Alisha Shinde
Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Sanya Khurana, who founded the Lean In India network that empowers women across the country by helping them pursue their dreams and ambitions, is soon releasing her book One Action: Towards Women’s Dreams and Ambition

One woman can make a difference but together they can rock the world. Keeping this thought in mind, Ghaziabad-based Sanya Khurana, founder and president, Lean In India network, started this platform to empower women across the country by helping them pursue their dreams and ambitions. Khurana, who is a recipient of Grace Hopper Celebration India Scholarship and Google Women Techmakers APAC Scholarship, started the network and Rasmeet Kaur joined her later. 

On March 30, Khurana will be releasing her book One Action: Towards Women’s Dreams and Ambition. The book focuses on how patriarchy is a bug in the human mind, which starts growing at a very young age and evolves as one grows older. “I have spoken about how Indian media, the film industry, certain Indian rituals and customs increase the strength of the bug in the human minds; effects of ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ (what will other people think?) Syndrome on gender roles; and how unsafe cities become a psychological barrier for women,” she says. 

Breaking stereotypes 
Growing up in India, Khurana came across a lot of stereotypes, but was afraid to break free. “As a young individual, I never agreed upon such stuff, but I never voiced my opinion against it and followed the norms laid down by society, even when I knew it was wrong,” says she. Growing up and listening to stereotypes led her to develop many self doubts and fears which then stopped her from taking on challenges and trying out new things. 

During her college days, she happened to read a book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead written by Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. In the book, Sandberg talks about balancing work and family life. “Reading the book was so liberating, because there are instances which talk about breaking stereotypes. The ideology of the book stayed with me and I decided that enough was enough and being in the 21st century people shouldn’t be surrounded by stereotypes,” says the youngster.
The book was US centric, however, Khurana wanted to do similar work in India. “As Indian women, we face different kind of stereotypes — right from the career choices we make, the way we dress, the way we talk and the decisions we make — we are constantly judged by society but what for?” she asks.

Starting a circle 
The book inspired her to do whatever she wants with passion and not to hesitate to take decisions for herself. “It was then that I joined the Lean In Computer Science and Engineering Chapter and started a Lean In Circle at my college campus,” says Khurana adding that Lean In Circles are small peer groups that meet regularly to encourage one another and learn new skills together and empower each other towards dreams and ambitions.

“I too was new to the concept of leading a group, but I knew if I could break free from stereotypes and barriers, so could other women,” she says, adding, “If I could never break away from the stereotype that only men can do a certain things when it comes to a particular profession like coding, I could never help other women to prevent them from feeling like they are a failure which in the long run affects their confidence.”
Now when she looks back at her growing-up years, she wonders if she could undo certain things. “No one should be telling anyone how to behave, what career to choose and so on. So if I could ever go back in time, I would believe in myself more than the people who were judgemental,” adds Khurana. 
One cannot change the way people think, but as an individual you can make your life better and others’ too. “If, as an individual, I am about to bring about a change in society, as a group we can impact even more,” she says. Since the time Khurana started the Lean In Circle, more and more women have come together, because when they see other women facing similar problems, they, in general, feel they belong to the group. “This becomes a motivational factor for them which in turn pushes them to help each other and believe in themselves, and perform better without self doubt and then it becomes easier to motivate each other to reach new heights with passion,” shares Khurana.  

Growing in number
Today, Lean In India network has 3,396 members and 86 Lean In Circles in various parts of the country. “We have Lean In Circles in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Surat, Chennai, Ludhiana, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram. Khurana explains, that it is rather easy to get into these groups, because all a person has to do is get themselves enrolled on the Facebook page of Lean In. 

“More than just coming together to encourage women, it is more like believing in yourself that you can not only help yourself but others too which has become so important in today’s world wherein most people think women are against women. But in reality, women empower and encourage each other because other than a few men no one but our own kind is going to stand up for our rights and it is through these tiny steps that we can reach greater heights,” she concludes. 

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