Anita Naidu is a woman who’s at the top of her game in the things that she holds closest to her heart — engineering, social advocacy and mountain biking. At a prestigious conference for women executive leaders, WNORTH, the Telugu Canadian is going to be one of the speakers along with other global leaders such as the first lady of Canada, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, a few Olympians and authors. The conference, which will take place from April 18 to 20 in Whistler, Canada, is a forum especially for women who are in senior executive leadership positions or are aiming to be on that track. Top female business leaders in corporate, public and entrepreneurial sectors will attend the conference for leadership training, high-level networking and will listen to inspirational talks by global leaders like Anita.
Apart from leading multinational developmental projects on refugee crisis, counter terrorism and women’s advancement, Anita is recognised for her work in providing technical solutions for social impact and human rights advocacy. In 2017, she was the Google Impact Challenge winner with just a team of three people. She was a project leader at the organisation called PeaceGeeks, which leverages technology to promote peace in human rights. They had developed an app that provides information on services to refugees and has serviced over 6,00,000 refugees so far. The app was first deployed in Jordan, with United Nations High Commission for Refugees, but is now also brought to Canada.
It all started for Anita when she joined Engineers Without Borders, and found herself in Lebanon during the Syrian crisis. She recalls, “I lived in Lebanon, close to the Syrian border and worked on the refugee crisis and on social impact documentaries. I have also worked in South Africa for the Canadian International Development Agency on communal land reform. My work has taken me all over the world and one of the most important lessons I have learnt from these experiences is to stand for things you believe in, even if you have to stand alone or be the first to voice its importance.”
But it’s not all work and no play for Anita, who has been a professional mountain biker and is now one of the most sought-after instructors for the sport in the country. She’s also the first Indian girl to be a sponsored gravity athlete. Ask her how she manages engineering, social activism as well as alternative sports, and she has a simple answer. “It’s quite a balancing act but diversity of experience is what truly shapes our humanity. And of course, passion, adventure and a desire to change the world doesn’t need a schedule! Growing up as the only Indian girl skiing, climbing, snowboarding, skateboarding and mountain biking, it was really important to me to challenge the status quo. Sometimes you have to smash the ceiling so hard the walls shatter! I organise camps and clinics for all levels of mountain bikers. These bike clinics are not just for taking one’s riding to the next level but also to build a deep sense of community and identity.”
Talking about her Indian connect, she says, “My dad’s family is from an area near Tirupati. In my younger days, I have lived in India and spent quite some time there over the course of my life. I want to do something in India as well, so I’m in talks with some mountain bikers to bring them to India in the hope of helping the sport grow, particularly among Indian women.” Anita is being featured in an Indian documentary on female athletes in alternative sports.