Today we’d like to introduce you to Neha Gill.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am passionate about gender equality and human rights, and I was raised by civically engaged and service-oriented parents who really shaped not only my thinking but my eventual career path. My educational background is in International Relations, International Development and Public Policy and the pivotal turning point came when I was in the Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) program in East Africa, learning about sustainable development and the role women played in the economic and social development of communities. I also saw some of the violence they experienced as a result and the courage it took to withstand, overcome and lead despite it. I envisioned a world with more freedoms for women and girls to develop their full potential and exercise their rights. After such an amazing learning experience, Apna Ghar provided the ideal platform to put some of these ideas into motion to shape our local communities in Chicago.
As the Executive Director of Apna Ghar, I get to engage with various stakeholders to tackle various interconnected challenges facing our communities. In the case of the work that I do to end gender violence and gender discrimination to create more just and equitable communities, we see that discrimination and the experience of violence, abuse and coercion take place across racial, socioeconomic, political, religious and other societal lines, and is rooted in patriarchal power structures. Dismantling this then takes a collective effort and is about more than activism and services. In fact, it will take a collective societal shift and I am motivated to try to find strategies and solutions for that.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Professionally, it’s been a fairly smooth road, however, the work I do is about challenging norms and structures so that can be difficult and discouraging. I am motivated by the courage of the individuals and families we serve who find the strength to navigate extremely challenging circumstances to better lives for themselves, their families and communities. My advice for young women would be to find what they are passionate about and find ways to incorporate that into their professional lives. I would also encourage them to be supportive of other women in their lives. We are too often encouraged to compete on every level and while some competition is healthy, it’s mostly isolating so it’s important to think more collectively for the greater good especially as women in the workplace and in a larger society.
Please tell us about Apna Ghar, Inc.
At Apna Ghar, Inc. (Our Home), we provide holistic services including housing, advocacy, and counseling and conduct outreach and community engagement to end gender-based violence particularly in immigrant and refugee communities in the metro Chicago area. Our approach is rooted in cultural humility and in an understanding of societal and systemic barriers that shape the experiences of individual survivors. We developed our own evidence-based service model with the Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL) at Loyola University that incorporates this macro level understanding into finding local level solutions. I am most proud of our ability to provide collaborative team-based services that are comprehensive and culturally appropriate. We serve survivors from more than 50 countries including the United States and our staff speaks more than 20 languages. In addition, our staff has varied educational backgrounds and skill sets from international development and public policy to counseling and therapy, social work, research and public health which creates a unique environment positioned for problem-solving. In addition, our board has a strong sense of civic engagement coupled with business acumen and I hope this leads to greater success for the organization.
I am proud that in my tenure as Executive Director, we built and opened a new 8,000 sq ft facility to house and care for survivors. In addition, we also have ten scattered site apartments for longer-term housing for survivors and their families. We opened a satellite location in Skokie to provide services to those in need in the north and northwest suburbs and are looking to expand similarly in DuPage County. We strengthened our partnerships with the legal and medical systems so that we could respond more effectively to survivors in partnership with these large systems that they most often interact with. We have also significantly increased our outreach and community engagement efforts that will we hope ultimately improve community responses to gender-based violence. In addition, we are piloting an innovative effort to address perpetrators of violence in an effort to help them change their behavior particularly towards their children. We hope that this will have better long term outcomes for young people. This type of violence is a learned behavior and we hope to interrupt and ultimately end that cycle.
Who have you been inspired by?
I am fortunate to come from a long line of strong women. Professionally, I am inspired by Vandana Shiva and Wangari Mathai as ecofeminists, and by the leadership of women informing and creating the intersectional and collaborative approach that is central to the movement for black lives.
- Address: 4350 N Broadway, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60613
- Website: www.apnaghar.org
- Phone: 773 883 4663
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @apnagharinc
- Facebook: @apnagharinc
- Twitter: @apnagharinc
- Other: Apna Ghar Inc. (Our Home) on LinkedIn