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You Need to Meet: Manvir Bhangu, Executive Director of Laadliyan, a non-profit empowering South Asian women and girls

You need to meet Manvir Bhangu, a dedicated community builder with over a decade of experience in gender equity, human rights, youth and community engagement, research, immigration, and settlement work. Manvir is also the founder of Laadliyan (laad-lee-ah), a non-profit that empowers South Asian daughters through education, engagement, and awareness. Since 2013, Laadliyan has directly impacted over 12,000 girls and women through mentorship opportunities, access to menstrual hygiene, bridging intergenerational divides and much more. Through her impactful work, Manvir has been recognized as one of Brampton’s Top 40 under 40 in 2018, won the Women Working in Social Activism Award in 2022, and received the Young Woman of Distinction Award from YWCA Toronto in 2023.


As the Executive Director of Laadliyan, what is the most significant lesson you’ve learned about leadership? How has this insight influenced your approach to leading an organization dedicated to empowering South Asian girls and women?

As a woman leader of colour, the biggest lesson I have learned in my leadership journey is how important it is to be authentic and bring others up with me — especially other girls and women. As a leader, it is my responsibility to ensure that how I show up for my community is authentic and resonates with them. Establishing and nurturing a community dedicated to South Asian girls and women, I have consistently adhered to the principle of practicing what I preach. Recognizing the direct impact of my efforts on hundreds of girls and women each year, I am committed to fostering opportunities that enable the collective advancement of those within my community. I cannot succeed without them. Embracing a community-centred approach, I am dedicated to consistently striving for the growth of other girls and women. 

Can you share a particular initiative or project at Laadliyan that you’re especially proud of? How has it positively impacted the community you serve?

I take immense pride in the remarkable growth of our Laadli to Laadli Mentorship Program, a distinctive initiative dedicated to offering guidance and mentorship to South Asian girls and young women across Canada as they navigate academic and career pathways. Crafted to showcase influential figures who share similar cultural backgrounds, this program has successfully impacted the lives of over 400 girls and women.

Our approach is unique, pairing mentees with mentors who are South Asian women, each excelling in their respective fields. Our matching process takes into consideration both the professional interests of the mentees and the preservation of their cultural values. Currently, we have a diverse pool of over 200 mentors representing more than 80 fields.

Through the Laadli to Laadli Mentorship Program, we aim to empower girls and young women by demonstrating that there are no boundaries to their potential achievements and aspirations. We want them to always remember they possess the capability to become anything they aspire to be. This initiative, something I wish I had access to growing up, stands as a testament to our commitment to fostering limitless opportunities for the next generation.

What key skills or qualities are essential for women aspiring to be leaders, particularly in the non-profit sector? 

I believe, particularly in the non-profit sector, it is important to be creative. We are solving some of society’s most complex problems where applying a traditional approach does not always work. Being able to think out of the box is a great skill that is crucial for women aspiring to be leaders in this space. Furthermore, the ability to collaborate is crucial as we are usually limited in our capacity and resources to move things forward. I have found that fostering partnerships and collective efforts has been a pillar for me as I built my organization. 

You also have to be brave. You’re often tackling difficult situations, navigating uncharted waters, and might be hearing “no” a lot along the way — having a strong mind will be key. Being a leader in the non-profit sector also means being a critical-thinking self-starter with great organizational skills. Critical thinking is essential for evaluating situations, making informed decisions, and ensuring the most effective use of resources, which are often limited. Being a self-starter is equally important, as it instills a proactive mindset, enabling leaders to initiate and drive initiatives forward independently and creatively. 

With evolving workforce dynamics, what significant changes in diversity, equity, and inclusion do you foresee impacting non-profit organizations? How do you think these changes will shape the future of the sector?

I think the understanding of diversity will become more nuanced with a greater emphasis on intersectionality. The integration of technology will play a pivotal role in fostering a more productive, connected and inclusive sector while providing opportunities to engage those whom we may have often missed including in our approaches. 

I think in the next few years, the non-profit sector will witness increased collaboration on a global scale, resulting in an interconnectedness like never before, resulting in learning from diverse communities across the globe and being open to new and creative ways of working. Lastly, as we see more programs like the Laadli to Laadli Mentorship Program, we will also see a push for greater diversity in leadership roles within non-profits and other sectors. I am confident that diversity at the top will lead to more comprehensive decision-making processes that consider a wide range of perspectives and experiences.

Balancing personal and professional life is a growing concern for many professionals. What strategies do you employ or recommend for maintaining a healthy work-life integration, especially in a demanding leadership role?

As someone who founded an organization at the age of 21 while working full-time with other commitments, I knew very little about prioritizing self-care and wellness. I fell for the hustle culture narrative and have only recently come to recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life integration. It is so important to acknowledge that, above all else, your health and well-being take precedence. 

Actively fostering a sense of disconnection and rejuvenation, I allocate time throughout my busy work weeks to detach and unplug. I now make deliberate efforts to focus on personal goals such as trying new things, with the same dedication I bring to my professional responsibilities. This deliberate boundary-setting approach ensures a more mindful separation between professional obligations and personal rejuvenation, contributing to a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle.

What excites you about the future?

What truly excites me about the future is being able to witness the growing influx of women achieving positions of power and prestige, breaking barriers in various fields. This shift is paving the way for a future where the next generation of women will have an unprecedented abundance of role models to admire, regardless of the career paths they choose to pursue. 

The prospect of young women being exposed to diverse, accomplished leaders across different sectors broadens their horizons and reinforces the idea that there are no limitations to their aspirations. This surge in visible women’s leadership serves as a beacon of empowerment, offering a wealth of possibilities for the women of tomorrow, instilling in them the confidence and motivation to strive for excellence in their chosen fields. The evolving landscape of women in influential roles not only signals progress but a transformative shift in societal norms, fostering an environment where every woman can envision herself in positions of leadership and influence.


To keep up with Manvir, connect with her on X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn. To learn more about Laadliyan, follow the organization on Instagram.