On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we celebrate and honor the invaluable contribution of women to our society. At Lighthouse, we take pride in our predominantly female workforce, which has been the case for the past seven years. Seventy percent of our dedicated employees are women, and today, we highlight seven of these inspiring women whose stories are a testament to the power and resilience of women. They have shown unwavering commitment to our mission and have played a significant role in the success of our organization. We pledge to continue empowering and uplifting women in all aspects of life.

Ruchi Mathur, CEO of Lighthouse Communities Foundation, has had a long and fulfilling career in the development sector. After spending ten years in the corporate world, Ruchi found her true calling in the non-profit sector, where she has spent the last 17 years in various leadership roles. Lighthouse Communities, a non-profit organization founded in 2011, aims to create a platform for public-private partnerships with a focus on livelihoods. Despite starting with less than Rs. 10 Lakhs as corpus in 2015, Ruchi and her team were able to build a successful organization with the backing of an excellent board and the support of ecosystem partners. Today, Lighthouse Communities is recognized as a pioneering and breakthrough PPP model, and has expanded to other cities in Maharashtra, as well as Delhi, Hyderabad and Odisha. Ruchi’s drive to facilitate dignity and agency for others has been the driving force behind her successful journey.

Meet Mrinal Gharpure, a woman who defied social norms to chase her dreams. A Pune native and a mother of one, she began her professional journey in 1994 while still in college. Over the years, she worked in PSU, private, and MNC banks before taking a long break of six years to raise her son. Although many people objected to her decision, she cherishes the wonderful time she had with her child and the chance to explore other interests.In 2006, personal compulsions forced her to return to work, and she resumed her banking career. However, she yearned for a job that would be more meaningful than just money and position. In 2019, she finally got a chance to move to the development sector, taking up the role of Country Director at Social Venture Partners. Despite the challenges she faced in this new field, Mrinal found it exciting and fulfilling. Thanks to the courageous women who raised her, her mother and grandmother, Mrinal believes that everything happens for the good, and this faith has kept her going. In November 2020, she joined LCF as Director GOYN, continuing her journey to make a meaningful impact in the world.

Growing up in a village, Nutan spent her childhood playing traditional games like tree climbing, gilli danda, and lagori. However, her studies were not her focus until she got good teachers in 10th grade and achieved a 60+ percentile without any help. This was a turning point in her life. After completing her BA, Nutan studied MA and even did a 4-month fashion design course where she learned various skills. Unfortunately, after getting married and having children, her education took a backseat. But in 2006, she refocused on her education and completed her M.Lib. Nutan worked as a librarian at Meenatai Thackeray D.Ed College for eight years, during which she completed her M.Phil. She then joined Aundh Lighthouse in 2016 as a Project Coordinator and has been a part of the team ever since. Nutan is grateful to her family for supporting her career and is proud to work in an organization that values everyone’s development.

Rukaiya Khan, a Senior Cluster Head at Lighthouse Communities Foundation, is a development professional with over a decade of experience. Despite coming from a typical conservative Muslim family with six siblings, Rukaiya worked hard to overcome challenges in her education and career choices. She began as a social work intern at Awakening Jagriti and then worked as a health supervisor before moving on to become a Community Mobilised and Education Counsellor at Disha Institute. She then worked as a district coordinator in a state government project and as a Programme Manager for Aurangabad District at Magic Bus before joining Lighthouse as a Centre Head in 2019. Rukaiya completed her post-graduation in Social Work from Pune University and received a Postgraduate Diploma in Development Management Leadership from ISDM, Delhi. After ten years of hardship, she was able to buy her parents their dream home, becoming the first economically independent girl in her family and community. Rukaiya believes that true leadership begins with self-transformation and changing oneself before attempting to change the world. Her story is an inspiration for Muslim women everywhere.

Deepali’s life took a drastic turn when her father, a director at Bal Chitavani, passed away due to a heart attack, leaving the family’s responsibilities solely on her mother. Deepali’s mother began supplying tiffin to make ends meet while Deepali focused on completing her Bachelor of Engineering. With their financial situation not being good, Deepali contacted Ruchi Mathur for a job. After being offered a position as Digital Facilitator at Natrajan Education Society, she eventually became a Digital Impactor for Lighthouse Communities Foundation. Managing the operations of 16 digital centers, Deepali quickly rose to the position of Assistant Manager. With her contribution to her family’s income, Deepali supported her sister’s marriage and continues to support her younger brother’s education. Three years have passed since she joined Lighthouse, and Deepali couldn’t be happier with the way her life has turned around.

Monika Shelake, a 25-year-old M.Sc Physics student, resides in Bhekrai Nagar, Hadapsar. She joined the Lighthouse as a student and completed the Foundation Course, followed by the Office Executive Course, with an impressive score of over 90%. After her marriage, she moved to Pune, where her husband works as a manager at a famous shopping mall. As a Skilling Youth Coordinator at Hadapsar Lighthouse for over a year now, Monika is known for her strong opinions and passion for her work. She is a great friend and mentor to the students, with a keen eye for detail and excellent command over data. Her sense of humor and team spirit make her a valued colleague.

I am Prajakta Arjun Sonwane, a BCA degree holder from Pune. My family consists of my mother, younger brother, and me after my father’s demise. Despite facing a gap in my education due to my father’s death, I decided to pursue makeup artist courses after completing my degree. My sister introduced me to the Lighthouse Foundation, and I began attending their foundation batch, which included daily meditation, digital empowerment, and spoken English classes. The experience helped me build self-confidence, a positive attitude, and improved my communication skills. After completing the foundation course, I was offered a job in the Lighthouse’s data and donor team, which I gladly accepted. I completed a two-month internship with the team, which eventually led to a permanent job offer. The team was friendly, and I enjoyed learning new things every day, which became my hobby. As a Lighthouse employee, I take pride in the journeys of the students who come through the doors every day.