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Anita Goyal of Hemraj Goyal Foundation: “Read around the areas that you are weak on and ask for help”

Being authentic and connecting with your audience through using the right tonality, style and language will help you to communicate better. Preparation is key and delivering your messages concisely with a great story telling to add value to people’s lives is empowering. Sharing your ideas and concepts and being vulnerable to be more relatable and […]

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Being authentic and connecting with your audience through using the right tonality, style and language will help you to communicate better. Preparation is key and delivering your messages concisely with a great story telling to add value to people’s lives is empowering. Sharing your ideas and concepts and being vulnerable to be more relatable and realistic enables a credible connection.


As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Anita Goyal, CEO of the Hemraj Goyal Foundation, an author, a podcast host, an award-winning philanthropist, a speaker and Chair and Trustee of many charitable organisations.

This year she received an MBE in the UK’s prestigious New Year’s Honours List for ‘services to diversity and female empowerment.’ The most notable charity work for which she was cited was addressing female genital mutilation, menstrual discrimination and human trafficking within minority groups. As honorary chair of The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Appeal she raised £191,000 in one year, which led to the recruitment of the UK’s first ever FGM social workers.

As well as charity work, she is an inspirational speaker and has made it her mission to empower women and minority groups to make positive changes in their career, habits and relationships. She founded a network called ‘Ultimate You’ and through this, hosts workshops on productivity, goal-setting, vision boards and relationships. During Covid she took the concept of the Ultimate You workshops, and made them applicable to school children. The Enrichment Experience in Schools Programme is now implemented in several UK schools.

Anita is also author of a book called Voices from Punjab (which features interviews with highly influential Punjabi women) and a host of a podcast called Relight my Fire.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in East London (UK) and lived in a huge family with my parents and grandparents. I had a great childhood with lots of fun and love with great values of an Indian family and my mother was hugely inspirational as well as a wonderful role model. My mother was determined for my siblings and I to be educated and work towards professions that would give us prestige and elevate the family name. As a child, I was hugely fortunate and we travelled to India and Canada often as we had family there, this instilled the joy of visiting new places as I grew up. Growing up was full of adventure and enriched with culture, especially with all the Sikh and Hindu celebrations. I really value being a British Asian and this is the greatest gift that my parents gave me. I grew up embracing and amalgamating both cultures.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

There was always pressure for me to achieve well at school and attend university. I eventually became a Science teacher and worked in a reputable girl’s school in Forest gate, close to where I was born. I loved teaching and my career spanned over twenty years. Education was my passion and in my early thirties, I relocated and eventually progressed to leading my own department as Head of Science and an Assistant Headteacher.

Then tragedy struck, and I lost my first husband when I was 38 years old to a chronic disease and this really put my life into perspective. It was when I met my second husband, who is an award-winning entrepreneur and philanthropist, that my life started to change direction. When we decide to marry and bring our children together as a blended family, I left teaching and became the CEO of the Hemraj Goyal Foundation. This is the family foundation that my husband founded in 2010, and I was able to transfer my teaching and leadership skills to a new sector. Over the next seven years my philanthropic journey began together with a new family.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most exhilarating year of my work in the family foundation was in 2018 when I became the honorary chair of the FGM (female genital mutilation) appeal for Barnardo’s. I was so passionate about this cause and inspired by the mission of the National FGM Centre having read the book Desert Flower by Waris Dirie many years back. I set about hosting some of the most unique events and conferences to raise awareness of this horrific act as well as fundraise to help prevent new cases of FGM, breast flattening and child abuse linked to faith or belief. When I proceeded to work with Barnardo’s on this, I established the importance of this work and followed my heart, utilising my ideas to bring this out to the communities. This led me to being recognised and awarded with an MBE from the Queen in the annual New Year’s Honours list 2021 for ‘services to diversity and female empowerment’ as well as becoming one of the vice presidents of Barnardo’s.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I entered the charity sector, I realised that I didn’t know much and governance was a challenge for me. I had no idea how to collate the annual accounts and manage the budget for an entrepreneurial family to bring value to the trustees. I was oblivious to my mistakes, and feedback was given, which I took as a great learning opportunity.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had a lot of support and guidance from my husband — Avnish Goyal. He has always encouraged me to elevate my thinking and with his encouragement and joint vision, he gave me the confidence to organise some of the grandest events to raise awareness about human trafficking, FGM and menstrual education. Avnish has transformed my thinking about being the best, going first and using resources more effectively to achieving the desired outcome, always fulfilling my vision in making a difference.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I would ask, what is there to fail at? In the charity sector, use your drive to guide you to make a difference and keep going in your humble approach. Opportunities arise and when you take them you generate pathways to lead you to phenomenal people, forming networks that will assist you in your vision.

Set clearly defined goals that will commit you to a course of action. Establish an environment and space in your organisation that is values your uniqueness and is aligned with your vision, that resonates with your character.

What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

Setting goals to magnetise my mind to seek out new opportunities, opportunities that I need to seize in order to create the personal, professional and spiritual life that I desire, is what drives me to getting up everyday to give my talks.

I think setting goals helps you to get the inspiration to act on your priorities and make things happen in your life rather than waiting for opportunities to land in your lap. Selecting goals that engage and motivate you is one of the best ways to boost the level of your personal commitment to life and increase the energy you bring to your days.

Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?

Being authentic and connecting with your audience through using the right tonality, style and language will help you to communicate better. Preparation is key and delivering your messages concisely with a great story telling to add value to people’s lives is empowering. Sharing your ideas and concepts and being vulnerable to be more relatable and realistic enables a credible connection.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

I think that mindset is vital in overcoming this — by believing in yourself by taking the action to achieving it and being committed to speaking in public. My advice is to prepare and deliver, by using every speaking experience as your opportunity to practice and make improvements. Ultimately, know your why, be clear on why you are speaking and be driven by this to help navigate your fear. Ask, are you making a difference and does it add value? When you do speak, and you forget something, forgive yourself be kind to yourself as no-one ultimately knows that you missed anything. Grow to trust yourself and have some top tips to share at the end of your talk that are easy to recall.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Get a mentor and a coach is something that I wish I had started right at the beginning of all my career paths.
  2. Read around the areas that you are weak on and ask for help
  3. Enrol on professional courses that will help you to perform faster
  4. Develop your professional and personal networks
  5. Join groups of like-minded people to help you grow

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

This year after Covid, I created an exciting programme for schools, where our foundation is funding the personal development workshops to provide young people with tools and life skills. It’s called The Enrichment Experiences in Education and is launched in 10 schools. As schools reopen again, our aim is to impact 10,000 students over 2021.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

Scheduling my yoga twice a week with a yoga teacher online helps me recalibrate and connect with my physical and mental wellbeing. I also use an app called Calm to do short bursts of meditation daily and breathing exercises. I ensure that I sleep eight hours every night and I’ll sometimes have an afternoon nap to rejuvenate.

My daily walks help me refresh and being vegetarian, I eat two meals a day and around five times a week I do intermittent fasting for 16–18 hours. The other really valuable part of developing my mindset is listening to great podcasts and reading great non-fiction books to re-define my thinking.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love one of the Life quotes that a great teacher Sadhguru offers:

“Within yourself, is it more pleasant to be loving, or to be angry, hateful and jealous? Which is a more intelligent way to exist? Loving, isn’t it? All I am saying is, please live intelligently. This is not for someone else’s sake. It is pleasant and beautiful for you. Creating a loving world is not a service that you do for someone else. It is an intelligent way to exist. You can create a loving world in every single activity that you do in your life. Creating a loving world does not mean doing something more or less. If you live your life constantly focused on what you want, it will unquestionably happen in your immediate surroundings, and it will also begin to happen in the larger surroundings.”

My husband and I live together with our three children, a blended family and my mother-in-law who is eighty-eight years old. That’s three generations under one roof and this has been a great learning lesson of love in my life. By using this message, I get to choose to be loving every day of my life and the world opens for me.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I am driven to bring about change in education especially around personal development in schools. Anyone in teaching can tell you that education is more than textbooks or exams. Schools are places where children and young people learn social and emotional skills and train their minds to approach different challenges. Teaching these skills is vital in setting students up for academic and career success, protecting their mental health and preparing them to play an active role in society. That’s why the development of life skills is often referred to as ‘character education.’

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

There are many inspirational leaders such as Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey as well as Sadhguru and Jay Shetty. To have lunch with these people would enable me to have an insight into their world and how they create the content that they share with the world!

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


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