Sakshi Thakur OAM: King’s Birthday Honours

The founder of social enterprise ‘Sewing the Seeds’ and advocate for women’s economic empowerment will receive an Order of Australia Medal as part of the 2024 King’s Birthday Honours.

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For entrepreneur Sakshi Thakur, eliminating poverty all comes back to empowering women.

“I truly believe women are going to be the reason we might break the poverty cycle going forward, because they’re the ones that invest their income back into their children’s education back into their families, back into their communities. That’s why we focus on women,” she says.

Thakur is the founder of ‘Sewing the Seeds’, a social enterprise based in Pondicherry providing textiles education to women, with the aim of removing the social and economic barriers to safe employment. Currently, they employ eight women full-time, with plans to expand to other cities.

“I’ve been able to see it first-hand. I’ve seen the children go to school. I’ve seen the women invest in their own self-care by how they show up to work, the way they dress up, the way they prioritise themselves, the way they talk about themselves,” she says.

As a descendant of Sindh refugees and migrating between Kuwait, Oman, Sydney and Melbourne, Thakur feels strongly about standing on the shoulders of her female ancestors.

“I truly believe that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. I won the birth lottery by being born into a social and economic status that allowed my family to migrate… I want to make sure I use all the privileges I’ve had to give back to the generations of women that have sacrificed so much for me to be here,” she says.

“The women before me were incredible and I really want to make sure that all women have opportunities to have safe employment… employment is such a powerful way to express yourself.”

Another motivator for Sakshi Thakur is her passion for her cultural roots. From a young age, she’s trained in Kathak with Tatkaar Kathak Dance Institute Australia, sat on the board of IndianCare from 2021 to 2023, and currently teaches entrepreneurship to refugees and migrants through Catalysr.

“I think it’s just in our nature to do; it’s like brushing your teeth, you just do it because it’s important to do as part of life. It wasn’t something that I saw as an extra curriculum activity… so wherever I could add value or wherever I felt like I had skills or time or energy or for a particular project that was happening, I would just do it and serve…That’s important in our family upbringing, in our values and how we show up for our people,” she says.

women in saris
Sakshi Thakur and some of the women involved with ‘Sewing the Seeds’. (Source: Supplied)

Thakur initially started off in the corporate world, working in Financial Services at Ernst & Young (EY), but soon realised her heart wasn’t in it, and took the leap to change careers.

“At the time, it was scary, but I know that in hindsight it was the right thing to do. I know I made my parents really proud by getting this job; every parent just wants to see their child have stability and happiness. Leaving meant there were some difficult conversations to be had, but I was really lucky my parents supported me,” she says.

Her time at EY was certainly not wasted, however.

“It taught me a lot about the way women spoke about money, especially in South Asian communities, and the way women spoke about business. EY really shaped me; they still have a really big impact on my work and mentor me,” she says.

Thakur hopes the social enterprise sector will one day grow to be as valued as the corporate sector.

“We do need donors, we do need philanthropy, but what we need more is people’s time towards the social enterprise sector and the only way we can get that is if we value them equally… I hope the future of the social enterprise sector is it being taken as seriously as the corporate world, because [we] do a lot of good work and really require more resources and people,” she says.

Sakshi Thakur is the winner of numerous City of Monash leadership awards, a Seven News Young Achiever Awards semi-finalist, and a recipient of the NFP Directors Scholarship from the Australian Institute of Company Directors Governance Foundations.

Sakshi Thakur
‘Sewing the Seeds’ currently employs eight women in Pondicherry. (Source: Facebook)

Today, as part of the 2024 King’s Birthday honours, she’ll add Order of Australia Medal to that list.

“Recognitions are nice to validate that you’re not doing something wrong and you’re on the right track. But I feel like the same person I was before the OAM, and I feel like I’ll be the same person after the OAM, which is kind of nice,” she says.

“Ultimately, I just want to make India proud, and I want to make being an Indian woman mean something. I hope I’ve done that through the OAM.”

READ ALSO: Women only: Indian links in Kings Birthday Honours 2024

Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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