Name: Rakhee Lahiri Westwood | Designation: Poverty Programme Manager | Company: Mind | Place: London
(May 30, 2023) Born to immigrant parents in the UK, Rakhee Lahiri Westwood always knew that she wanted to help people tackle inequality and change systems. She worked with the UK’s National Health Service for several years and also the World Health Organisation before making her way into the charity sector in the UK.
Raised in East London, Rakhee moved to Birmingham for her Bachelor’s in Politics and Economics, before doing her MA from the University of Birmingham in International Relations and eventually another in Public Health from Queen Mary University of London. As she began her career with the NHS as programme manager for healthy lifestyles, she soon grew to become a senior public health strategist working primarily in the areas of mental health, and alcohol and substance misuse.
A subsequent move to Copenhagen saw her temporarily change tracks to volunteer with the International Dalit Solidarity Network before joining the World Health Organisation as a consultant working on knowledge management as well as research for the policy-making unit. “I have always wanted to help people, tackle inequalities, and change systems to make it easier for people to be able to make healthier life choices and prevent illness. As they say, prevention is better than cure,” says the mother of two about her career choice. The fact that her parents always stressed on the importance of education as well as the fact that she had access to opportunities that helped her forge her own path is not lost on Rakhee. “That, and feeling connected to the work I do and also finding fantastic mentors have played big roles in where I am today,” she smiles.
Talking about her current role, Rakhee says, “I work for a large national charity on national programmes that support people in communities to look after their mental health and well-being. Over the years, I have managed to secure several positions that I desired. However, more recently it has been trickier to gain part-time employment in meaningful roles.”
On the plus side, the charity sector in the UK is seeing good diversity in terms of the talent being roped in. “It’s getting better all the time. Diversity, in its many forms, has always been an important consideration in the organisations I have worked for and I value this highly,” says Rakhee, who finds herself gravitating towards part-time roles in recent years. “Since I had my two children, I have been fortunate enough to work in part-time roles. This has created a great work-life balance for me and my family. I try to make time for myself when I can, using the time to exercise, read and be outdoors.”
On a typical day, Rakhee and her husband work together as a team to drop off the kids at school before putting in a full day from 9 am to 6 pm before fixing dinner and spending a reading and television routine to wind down. “When I am not working, the days will be mainly focussed on life admin, preparation of meals, ensuring that everyone has what they need and that we are prepared for any weekend plans. The children also do several activities. Over the weekends we like to see friends and family,” she smiles.
As a family, Rakhee also loves to travel. “These could be anything from camping in the UK to international trips when possible. That apart, I also like to fit in sessions of pilates and yoga for myself.”
As a child of immigrant parents, who had moved to the UK in the 1970s, Rakhee also finds her celebrating her roots through language, culture, and food. “I have had the good fortune to spend quite a lot of time in India as a child and also travelled to the peninsula for six months after my wedding. My husband and I also take our children to India; we love it,” she smiles.
- Always be prepared to take on extra study (Master’s degrees or certification courses) where it’s important to stay relevant in your field.
- Whether an NRI or PIO, find ways to connect with your culture and pass it on to your kids.
- Find mentors who will challenge you and set you on your path.