Shani Dhanda is bringing new meaning to diversability
Shani Dhanda is turning D&I on it’s head. As the founder of Asian Woman Festival, the Asian Disability Network and the Diversability Card, she has taken change into her own hands to shape the society she wants to see.
This week we wanted to celebrate someone extra special. Shani Dhanda is not only a business and cultural change agent, but also she is a social entrepreneur and disability rights advocate.
Shani has taken change into her own hands and founded numerous organisations to improve representation and challenge social inequality globally. Aside from modelling for our Despora collection, you may have seen Shani’s face dotted around the London Underground on various LinkedIn posters.
She has raised over £400,000 organising fundraising events with local charities and support groups. As well as setting up the Asian Woman Festival, which debuted last year with more than 1,000 visitors and was the first of its kind, smashing stereotypes of the British diaspora women. On top of this, she has founded the Asian Disability Network and Diversability Card, the UK's official discount card for people with disabilities.
Shani is an incredible role model, and catalyst for change. On International Day of People with Disabilities, she defines what it means to be truly Unmistakable.
What's your name and what do you do?
Shani Dhanda is a business and culture change agent, social entrepreneur and disability rights advocate.
How does your identity affect your work and your life in general?
I’m really passionate about representation and creating everyday equality. After continually feeling underrepresented in society, I was motivated to challenge perceptions and change attitudes by becoming the change that I wanted to see.
Due to the lack of representation of both disabled and South Asian communities in society today, it motivates me to work harder for recognition and inclusion so we don’t have to continually fight to get a seat at the table.
Who have been your role models and why?
My mom is my ultimate role model, she is strong, beautiful, mega-talented, courageous, and wise. I grew up watching her handle every obstacle life put in her way, and she taught me how to do the same. I could never be weak; I learnt from the best.
Do you think other people see you differently to how you see yourself?
I do feel other people see me different to how I see myself, based on if they know me or not. I have a short stature of 3'10 which is pretty much the first thing people notice and judge me on.
Do you see yourself in advertising and marketing?
I haven't seen myself in marketing or advertising over the last 30 years until I created opportunities and got involved in with projects and campaigns. I really believe that you can't be what you can't see, and I don't want another generation of kids growing up not having people they can relate to.
Are you tired of hearing about diversity and inclusion?
Yes! We should be talking about intersectionality and representation as a standard, we should be way past talking about diversity and inclusion. Diversity is about making the already powerful person in the room feel better about themselves. Representation is about allowing people to see themselves in the stories allegedly being made for them. We all want to be seen, heard and valued.
What one thing would you say to your younger self?
It may not be easy to stand up and speak out for what’s important to you, but you will be amazed at how empowering, and important, as it can be.