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Empowering Women and Girls by Paying it Forward
When we met Neetu Jhaj, we were drawn to her passion to challenge the status quo and pay it forward to women and girls. Neetu is the founder of Rehna Raiya, an empowering and uplifting clothing line for young girls with a unique charitable component. Neetu worked for years to develop and launch a clothing line to fill gaps in the girls’ clothing industry. She wanted to help young girls and teenagers feel confident, independent and empowered. Aside from launching a first-of-its kind concept that provides girls with independence when wearing a convertible jumpsuit, every dress in the collection also comes with matching shorts so a girl can play like any boy without limitation. A significant percentage of net proceeds from the clothing line benefit the Rehna Raiya Foundation’s mission to empower and educate youth.
With her husband Rick and daughters Rehna and Raiya, Neetu finds many occasions throughout the year to donate time and resources to youth educational causes, school supplies, resources and meals to those in underprivileged communities. “My husband and I work every day to teach our daughters that the true measure of success is how you were able to make life better for others.”
As a young girl, Neetu didn’t view herself as the confident and capable person she sees in the mirror today. Rarely seeing any coverage of the accomplishments of brown girls, it was hard for Neetu to relate to the idea that this world held opportunity for girls like her.
Today, Neetu Jhaj is a successful business leader who alongside her husband and family, run Countryside Corporation which provides over 500 jobs in Kern County. Neetu credits her business acumen to her family and her Punjabi roots. She gives credit to decades of family members and women before her who made incredible sacrifices to allow her to be in the position she is today. “I am forever grateful for my village, my family and the women who came before me and helped me realize a girl from an immigrant family can fulfill her dreams. It is an honor to be able to pay it forward and positively impact someone who was just like me once –a timid brown girl who didn’t believe she had potential.”
Years ago, an employee shared her dream with Neetu to be the first in her family to go to medical school. Neetu encouraged her to go for it. “Every woman is capable of her dreams. She just needs to believe it and then work hard to achieve it.” says Neetu.
This past summer, Neetu and her husband got a call from this same employee sharing good news on her medical school acceptance but bad news that educational loans fell short to cover tuition for the first year. Neetu and her husband weren’t going to let this roadblock keep her from fulfilling her dreams and covered the remainder. Neetu and her family feel blessed for this greater purpose to pay it forward to the next generation.
Leadership has been a natural evolution of Neetu’s desire to level the playing field for women and girls. When she observed the inequity of women and men at a social non-profit, Neetu asked to be put on a committee. She was met with the same silence as many women had before her. She challenged the status quo and took the issue to the top of the chain. Not only did Neetu create a seat for herself on the committee but within five years, she became the first woman president in the 30-year-old history of the non-profit. As president, she created policy to allow a fair and equitable opportunity for any female to serve on the board. There are women now serving on this board who were previously told they did not qualify.
Neetu considers it important to lead by example and leave a lasting imprint for the generations that will follow. “It’s important to show the next generation of girls what they are capable of and encourage them to push the envelope even farther.”
“There is power in actions and words. My daughters and I begin and end each day with the same powerful words:
I love myself
I believe in myself
I am unstoppable!”
Neetu is the Founder & CEO of Rehna Raiya, an empowerment clothing line for girls that donates 5% to 100% of net proceeds to youth charitable causes. Neetu is the founder of Rehna Raiya Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to the educational advancement and empowerment of youth.
Along with her husband and family, Neetu is an owner of Countryside Corporation, a three-prong construction, real estate acquisition and retail development company that owns and operates multi-national brands (Shell gas, Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut).
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