Meet Ruha Shadab - Founder of our new partner organization, LedBy Foundation

by Mashal Butt

Voices of Muslim Women recently partnered up with the LedBy Foundation to amplify the presence, innovative ideas and leadership of Muslim women and women of colour around the globe. Described as intelligent, intuitive and considerate, founder Dr. Ruha Shadab has had an intrinsic drive since her formative years to take up initiatives that would challenge the status quo. She has done exactly that by founding India’s first ever incubator for Muslim women. Formed at Harvard University and operating from India, LedBy Foundation is a leadership incubator aiming to close the opportunity divide for Indian Muslim women by providing them skills, experience, and support through a tech-based, non- religious, social, and professional community platform. The end-goal is to bring together inspiring and aspiring Indian Muslim women and the people who support them. “Our mission is to support Muslim women get agency, access, and avenues to realize their aspirations and ambitions for which they have the aptitude,” said Dr. Ruha Shadab. The motivation to create this space for young college-going Muslim women to explore themselves and develop stems from a gap that Dr. Ruha recalls having observed during her academic and professional life. “I came across very few classmates, college-mates, professors, educators, or mentors who were like me – Indian Muslim women,” said Dr. Ruha. This prompted her to work towards improving the lack of representation of Muslim women in spaces of power. She shifted to Public Health, and eventually into Public Policy. After joining Harvard, Dr. Ruha was able to understand how she can change systems and find solutions to this challenge back home. And she is enjoying being an innovator. She loves observing the room, take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and re-align what needs to be done to move forward. There is nothing she dislikes about being an innovator, a trailblazer. “It comes naturally to me.” Naturally it is! LedBy Foundation received 1200 applications for their second cohort of the fellowship, an amazing feat to reach for any leadership incubator. But especially for this one as this show how the LedBy Foundation has really tapped into a treasure-trove of potential of young Muslim women who did not have any platform to voice their talents and skills before. However, in all of this, Dr. Ruha is quick to acknowledge how we all are a product of the networks around us and does not shy away from highlighting how some benefit from this system of privileges, while others don’t. Hard work can only get you so far. One needs a healthy environment and compassionate advisors to help you in a system that is most often than not built against you. As someone who enjoys taking up challenging initiatives, she believes that no one should shy away from pursuing what they are truly passionate. “Pause, assess, decide,” advised Dr. Ruha to budding entrepreneurs. She believes that one should stick to their plan in times of uncertainty and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Here are a few facts about Dr. Ruha:

- She loves to run as it gives her time to think.

- She binge-watches cringe TV to relax.

- Having Nobel Laureate, Dr. Shiring Ebadi and actor/activist Shabana Azmi as convocation speakers has been a milestone moment of her.

- Five women entreprenuers that inspire her to keep moving forward are Rebecca Kersch, Samlara Baah, Sairee Chahal, Kruti Bharucha, Supriya Paul.

- Her source of empowerment has been her parents and her brothers.

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