Focus on success and positivity not on obstacles — Positive mind set is same important as hard work. When your actions are aligned with your focus on success everything what you can imagine and truly believe in is possible.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Veronika Mudra.
Veronika Mudra is the CEO & Founder of White Ribbon USA. White Ribbon USA is a nonprofit organization aimed to combat domestic violence and gender based discrimination towards women and girls by organizing local and national awareness and educational campaigns, advancing legislative changes, creating social responsibilities programs for corporates, companies and organizations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you very much for inviting me to this interview and for your interest in the White Ribbon Campaign. I am domestic violence survivor, my personal experience led me to becoming founder and CEO of international non-profit organization against domestic violence towards women White Ribbon in both the U.S. and Ukraine. I became a refugee from Ukraine and was granted asylum in the U.S. I never thought that I’ll be managing such big non-profit organization myself. I received my degree in social science and technologies, but my second higher education is in financial management, so I was sure that I’ll be doing business. But at some point, when I had to protect my rights, I got acquainted with so many imperfections on legislative level that makes refugees’ mothers and children the most unprotected and vulnerable categories of immigrants. On my own experience I saw that existing system of immediate support for domestic violence victims is not always easy approachable specially to the victims in critical emergency situations. It takes a lot of time and hustle to receive free legal support, get accommodation in shelter specially with kids, or get an access to transitional, supportive or affordable housing but very often domestic abuse situations are quite times sensitive.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The first time that I got acquainted with White Ribbon Campaign was accidental. About 6 years ago, I returned to Ukraine hoping to get my story heard publicly by country’s official authorities when domestic violence was not in a social or political agenda that much at that time. I was looking to acquire an existing NGO to start my activism in Ukraine and I got a call from Poland from my friend, she asked if I want to take over her NGO located in Ukraine since she was not planning to return to Ukraine. She said the organization is called White Ribbon Ukraine. I had no idea that it’s a part of global movement and thought it’s just some small local initiative. After I got it under my management, I realized what a precious gift she gave me. I started to learn more about White Ribbon around the world and at that point I realized that so many world opinion leaders, decision makers, celebrities, influencers support White Ribbon movement so I decided to bring it to the U.S. as a centralized White Ribbon USA office. So I started it in my home state of California with support of my mentor Marina Masowietsky and now we are getting more and more nationwide exposure.
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?
It happened to me in the Parliament of Ukraine when we did our first awareness event an art exhibition “Harmony of Equals” aimed to support new law criminalizing domestic violence in Ukraine. Me and our volunteers were talking to female Members of Parliament but one of the women asked me why we don’t talk to men about it since White Ribbon was founded by men and is male initiative against violence and discrimination towards women. I didn’t realize before power of gender parity in women rights movement and vital importance of involvement of all genders in women rights protection. It was an eye-opening moment, since that day I changed my vision and approach to all our campaigns and initiatives.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
White Ribbon is the largest in the world movement aimed to engage men in supporting activism against domestic violence towards women. Our first donor in the U.S. who believed in our idea and change, we want to make is a great philanthropist Stewart Rahr who is also the biggest supporter of a Make A Wish Foundation. Recently I’ve met with Nick Lynch via Lunch Club networking platform who is a Make A Wish kid and cancer survivor, he became a founder of the charity tech platform Collidescope.
It’s incredible when you meet people who’s life was literally saved because such people as Stewart Rahr have an understanding of importance to support charities and civic movements that directly help and impact people’s lives. Nick in became deeply passionate about non-profits and now he works to help organizations to change the way they start, build and grow their missions. Male support of activism against domestic violence towards women and girls bring more awareness among men and it’s really crucial cause in majority of cases domestic violence is caused by violent male behaviour towards women.
We came up with a range of innovative tools to tackle domestic violence issue. For the example we work on the first in the US mobile application of full cycle of self-help tools for domestic violence victims. We use films as powerful tool to deliver social messages to large audience. Now we are producing a short film based on a true story about refugees mother and a son who became victims of domestic violence and were forced to be separated by abusive father because the Hague Convention is still not reformed in domestic violence aspect. We stand for certain legislative changes for example Hague Convention reform in domestic violence aspect, returning asylum program in the U.S. under domestic violence protection.
For elementary schools we developed a concept of Lessons of Equality series of educational cartoons as a part of early gender equality education that teach children tolerance, equality and mutual respect. Traditionally White Ribbon organizations don’t provide services for domestic violence victims but current situation in the US and specifically homelessness issue in California led us to establishing affordable housing project.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Traditionally White Ribbon organizations are not services based meaning we don’t provide direct personalized services for individuals. But our campaigns and events impact large quantity of domestic violence survivors. For example, last year on the International Children
Protection Day we organized a workshop about psychological aspects of domestic violence and there was a mother of 5 children who experienced domestic abuse from the side of her husband. We provided for her legal consultation, she came up publicly with her story that led to her husband’s understanding of the issue, he had therapy and now the family was reunited with fresh start and better relationship values.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve? How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is working together with a team with taking major part of responsibility on you.
Leader inspire others to grow and be better versions of themselves, leader challenges a team to develop together. A leadership is a mindset plus daily hard work. It’s also a great responsibility for others and your joint creation. Years ago I spotted a young girl who was an assistant to Member of Parliament. I felt she had greater potential and was underestimated. I invited her to work together and now she grew into CEO of our representative office in Ukraine. I feel happy and very proud of her achievements.
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) Never ever give up
I didn’t give up and refused to accept reality in which women are oppressed, discriminated and disrespected as I experienced it in Ukraine. So, I immigrated to the U.S. with my child and started a new life and now giving back to my community here in the US and in Ukraine in terms of advancing women and children rights protection.
2) Every big venture starts with a small but true and honest belief; all the rest will fold — do in life what you really believe in.
I started to be in voted in non-profits because I deeply felt an injustice towards women and children, specially to single mothers, immigrants and refugees, low-income single parent families who suffered domestic abuse. I’m trying to make their lives better.
3) Go with a flow, swim together with a life stream — life has more wisdom than you do don’t swim upstream, let life guide you
I believe that everything that happens to is not a coincident, every failure is an opportunity to grow, if you read the signs and trust life it will lead you to a better version of yourself.
4) Every problem is an opportunity to grow — Every achievement and success has a history of failures. I was the most vulnerable category when I just immigrated with my 3 years old child, it was very hard to start from scratch and build a new life from a new page. But hard work pays off.
5) Focus on success and positivity not on obstacles — Positive mind set is same important as hard work. When your actions are aligned with your focus on success everything what you can imagine and truly believe in is possible.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m already a part of the movement that is White Ribbon campaign a global civic society movement against domestic violence towards women. I joined this movement as I strongly believe in its concept and started my activity as a co-founder and CEO of local representations in the US and Ukraine. That’s my way of giving back.
Can you please give us your favourite Life Lesson? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Only a life lived for others worth living” — Albert Einstein
By helping others we can heal ourself and be better humans, partners, friends, society members.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 😊
It will be great to have a conversation with Kamala Harris or her office. Over the years we developed a range of effective solutions for gender policy in terms of immigration and refugees policies, legislative amendments in regards to domestic violence victims and refugees under domestic violence protection program. Legislative suggestions related to protection of mothers and children who applied or already obtained asylum under domestic violence protection program in the U.S. Also we came up with few important IT solutions related to domestic violence online self help tools that became specially relevant due to pandemic.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!