Thought leader, global icon and visionary for women, author, businesswoman, philanthropist … Dr. Harbeen Arora is a force of nature. Founder and Global Chairperson of the the ALL Ladies League (ALL) and Women Economic Forum (WEF), she has created a global network of over 150,000 women; entrepreneurs and leaders collaborating across the globe to provide one another with support for personal and professional growth.
Her dreams are as big and revolutionary as “one million women by 2022,” but it is her grace and simplicity that truly overwhelm. A conversation with Harbeen Arora:
Thought leader, author, businesswoman, philanthropist… you are a myriad of beings to millions around the world. But what are you first and foremost?
I have always been a seeker. The path reveals itself to the seeker. No matter where you are in your journey, if you have an open mind and pure heart, life will place you on the track you are supposed to be on for your own growth and awakening.
Where did this journey begin?
I was born in Delhi in a Sikh family in 1974. We grew up with a great focus on education, values and spirit of service. Both my parents worked, and at home, shared household shores. So for me, a woman was always independent, and that balance in action, taught my brother and me a lot about responsibility, independence and teamwork. We were both treated equally; we followed the same rules at home and were given the same opportunities for education and growth.
When I saw that that wasn’t the case for most women around the world, my path became clear: empowering women.
What people, thoughts, and beliefs shaped your path?
First, my parents and partner, who were and are beautiful examples for me of excellence and commitment, and unconditional support. My partner is the most amazing man I know. He is my role model, mentor, guide and Guru in terms of his inner strength, visionary thinking, straightforwardness, self-discipline, spirit of service and fearlessness. His unflinching support, unconditional love and utmost generosity helped me at every step to make that journey from me to possibilities of me.
Second, the teachings of my Guru, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, bore a powerful influence on my life and vision. The highest vision therefore for me and inspired by Indian culture and the teachings of my Guru is to Love All, Serve All: envisioning the world and the Universe as One Big Divine Family.
You created the All Ladies League and Women Economic Forum in 2011. What is the vision of your organization?
Our founding vision for humanity and the world is of “One Divine Family,” as said in the Vedic phrase “Vasudeva Kutumbkam.” Our guiding spiritual mantra is “Love ALL, Serve ALL.” Empowering women’s social and economic leadership is at the heart of ALL what we do. We are non-political, non-religious and non-dogmatic.
We foster worldwide ecosystems of “sisterhood:” empowering support networks and safe spaces where women can help and support one another and exchange business and growth opportunities.
We believe that in order to close the he/she gender gap (and by extension, education gap, security gap, respect gap, opportunity gap, wage gap …), we need to first close the she/she gender gap. Thus, ours is a she-for-she movement, with outreach toward she-for-he and she-for-all. Ours is a movement of gender equality without gender divisiveness; from a place of positivity (of attitude/approach/conduct), power (of self-belief) and purpose (of the collective aspiration).
The Women Economic Forum (WEF) came about in 2015 as a cross-cultural and international space for exchange and networking beyond borders for our members and chapters worldwide. We are now celebrating 37 global editions that have been held across the world.
WEF is an ecosystem built on three pillars: self-belief, skills, and solidarity. Our goal is to provide every woman with these three elements. Our next milestone is Mission Million for 2022: connecting a million women entrepreneurs and leaders globally.
Your vision challenges deeply rooted beliefs, held worldwide, of gender inequality as the norm. But it also goes a step further by celebrating gender.
I think the societal and economic challenges are breaking down gradually as we have more and more women breaking the glass ceilings and defying conventional gender roles. Much remains to be done in terms of challenging mindsets, and different societal and cultural contexts around the world. But there is certainly an increased understanding of women as women’s biggest collaborators (and not the biggest enemies as we often heard in our times), and thus the enhanced focus and emphasis, as ours, on empowering women.
However, the he-for-she gender gap cannot be addressed without first looking at she-for-she gender relationships. We need to build relationships of trust, loyalty, bonding and collaboration among women. To empower ourselves, we must also see the story and glory of every woman. It’s a connected phenomenon: we do to others as we do to ourselves. We therefore have to remember who we are with self-love and celebration. The celebration of our sister-love and sisterhood helps us celebrate ourselves and other women, so we remember and re-ignite our own power individually and collectively.
In Indian culture, Shakti is the divine feminine : it is both the trinity and infinity. She is the source and force of nature, universe and creation. Our societies have to awaken to our ancient all-embracing wisdom that comes by embracing our inner divine feminine, and for that we must awaken as women first. When we remember our power, and when we resonate with this inner power, we reflect and radiate it, enabling others to feel it and honor it as well.
What if you could reach every girl and woman in the world? What would you want her to have?
I want HER to feel like a queen of her inner empire. When she taps into her self-belief, she will surely arrive at the gates of opportunity. At our organizations, we are doing our humble bit to open those gates.
What is your own dream?
A worldwide web of women in sisterhood and oneness, in which we ALL thrive in all aspects of our self, and regain our rightful space in society with respect and dignity. We celebrate and honor the spirit of independence in every woman, and believe that self-reliance and strength are at the core of our freedom to dream and dare. As India’s beloved Nobel Prize Laureate Tagore said, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high….”, may we too support every sister’s spirit to soar, with a royal roar rising in her heart to be ALL that she wants to be.
What are other deep values you hold to?
On the metaphysical level: love and oneness.In India, we say that ALL creativity is divinely inspired. It is only channeled through us when we are seeking and receptive; in order to uplift us on our unique path and purpose of our life’s journey.
We are also a culture where the divine feminine is supreme; we know the primacy of the divine mother as the source and strength of all creation.
On the physical level: Ayurvedic life and lifestyle. My lifestyle is built on an awareness of purity, cleanliness, harmony and support for the inner workings of the body and energy. I’m a morning person and especially have a ‘detox’ and clearing mindset. A new dawn is a deep moment of communion with oneself, a rebirth every day, so I do also have a prayerful sense of fresh openness to engage with the new energies of the day. Working till noon with my office teams, I also drink water, vegetable juices, tea along with our natural Ayurvedic detox and immunity strengthening supplements by my company BIOAYURVEDA. I focus a lot on keeping up my energy and immunity. Health is the real wealth, indeed.
I’m passionate about working and learning. Goals and dreams may change, but learning, working and walking with purpose uplifts you as a human being. That constant opening up of the mind, broadening of horizons, change of perspective, spiritual expansion and blossoming of the energy – all these are very important to me and drive me as a person.
How do you define success?
Success is about awakenings and openings, about finding doors so to say, and we indeed hold the key to that. We succeed every moment by simply holding up the attitudes of never say die, not quitting, and always doing whatever we can to the best of our abilities even in the worst of our circumstances.
If you could ask the person reading this article one question, what would it be?
What if you woke up this morning and realized you are a goddess?