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MEENAL

ABOUT MEENAL

Meenal is the eldest of three siblings and was born in London in 1979. Her great grandparents, who were originally from the state of Gujarat in Western India, moved to Uganda in 1914. Her family migrated to London in 1972 during the Ugandan Asian expulsion. With roots in India and Uganda, Meenal feels an affinity to both countries but views herself as a proud British-Indian.

After leaving school, Meenal went on a year-long journey to explore her roots through study and travel across India, a period of personal growth in which she spent eight months studying Sanskrit at Pune University and the rest of her time volunteering in rural villages. On returning, she went to read Indian History and Development Economics at SOAS and completed her MPhil in Oriental Studies at Cambridge University. Meenal married Rishi Sachdev in 2005 – they had their first son, Rudra, in 2008 and their second, Ish, in 2011. The family’s most recent addition, a German Shepherd dog, Nala, joined them in 2020.
“My family values and cultural experiences have made me into the person I am today.”

SOCIAL CHANGE

In 2004, Meenal co-founded the youth leadership organisation, Connect India, which she directed for over 10 years. Connect India’s main aim was to empower young British Indians to be agents of social change by providing them with opportunities to visit India, learn more about their identity, and develop their leadership through workshops, work-shadowing and service-based activities.

Deeply affected by the horrific stories of children who had been trafficked and compelled to try and make a difference, Meenal hosted a ball in 2012 to raise funds for charities tackling this issue. Shiva Foundation was established later that year, supported by Shiva Hotels, with the aim of preventing and confronting human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK by working in partnership with business and local Government.

“A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

DRIVING CHANGE THROUGH BUSINESS

Bringing stakeholders together is Meenal’s strength and collaboration is a cornerstone of her work as she believes that in order to end human exploitation, everyone must be part of the fight. Across all her roles, she collaborates with business, government and NGOs to create change. Shiva Foundation has been helping the hotel industry mitigate risk of exploitation since 2015, creating a widely-used Blueprint (for which Meenal received an Honorary Doctorate) and setting up the first-of-its-kind hotel network to address modern slavery. Since then Shiva Foundation has worked with various organisations, including the GLAA and the Home office, to create toolkits that will address transparency in supply chains and clearer modern slavery protocols for business. With prevention at the core of its activities, Shiva Foundation works with universities to educate future industry leaders about the risks of modern slavery and conducts research to identify root causes.

Currently, Meenal also advises a London Hotel group on their work around purpose and sustainability as they build their approach to community and the environment.

SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITY

Meenal has always had a strong presence within her local community and has sought to instil this same passion for public service in her children. She relishes organising meaningful activities for her sons and their friends, such as working with food charities and partnering with local hospitals and hospices.

Meenal decided to run for local councillor in 2015, where she was successfully elected as the first female Indian councillor within the Borough of Hertsmere and, in 2020, she became a cabinet member. Along with the day-to-day duties of being a councillor, Meenal used this platform to carry on training on various human rights issues – she helped establish the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership in 2017 and has become a vocal supporter of Herts Young Homeless and St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge. Currently, Meenal is a Policy advisor to the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner – advising especially on fairness within the criminal justice system and domestic violence.

FEEDING THE SOUL

Meenal has a passion for Indian history, politics, languages, art, architecture, wellness and yoga. She grew up in a joint family system with her grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins and believes these family and cultural experiences have made her the person she is today. She mentors young people and keeps aspiring to build systemic change in the fight against injustice—in between school runs and sports fixtures of course!