HRH Princess Tessy of Luxembourg has extensive experience in diplomacy, education, and fighting for human rights and women’s empowerment, all while raising her 2 boys.
No personality has just one dimension – or even two. People are fascinating concoctions of multiple experiences… And such is today’s guest.
Her Royal Highness Princess Tessy of Luxembourg has extensive experience in formal and informal diplomacy. She spent five years in the military, a portion of which was as a peace-keeper in Kosovo. Tessy passionately promotes a number of causes including human rights, women’s rights and global health. In January 2017, she received the ‘Woman of the Decade Award’ from the Women Economic Forum for her work in women empowerment, security and peace.
We discussed the role of the military and that of the United Nations. We explored formal and informal education. We talked about parenting and the value of exposing one’s children to diversity at a young age. Finally, HRH Tessy provided some actionable tools for busy people in the world who want to find different ways to give back to society.
A huge thank you to Naseba and the Global WIL Economic Forum 2017 for making this interview possible.
Read the Transcript
Rana Nawas: (00:00)
Hello ladies and gentlemen. My guest on today’s show is Her Royal Highness Princess Tessy of Luxembourg. Tessy has extensive experience in formal and informal diplomacy. She spent five years in the military, a portion of which was as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. Tessy passionately promotes a number of causes including human rights, women’s rights, and global health. In January 2017, she received the Woman of the Decade Award from the Women Economic Forum for her work in empowerment, security, and peace. During our conversation, we touched on her life in the military, what she does today with the United Nations, and how everyday businesswomen can get involved in philanthropy. So let’s get into it. Tessy, thank you so much for being here with us today.
Tessy Antony: (00:53)
It’s a pleasure.
Rana Nawas: (00:53)
Thank you. You’re a princess and over the weekend I was hanging out with my friend’s seven year old daughter and asked her what do you want to be when you grow up? And she said, I want to be a princess and I have no idea what to say to that. I’m a corporate, 17 years in the corporate world. I don’t know what that means. So what advice would you give her or what myth would you bust?
Tessy Antony: (01:18)
Well, maybe let’s start with the advice like the cute things. I think being a princess really means how you treat people. That’s how it starts and really to feel it from your heart and then going on from there. I think it’s really a stereotype for a little girl. I was also the same when I was young. I always wanted to be a princess too. So I was wearing these beautiful princess dresses for carnival, and my twin brother was wearing these soldier outfits and we became each what we were what we wanted. So that was very funny when we looked back at pictures when we were young. But, yeah, so really just, you know, be who you are and you will meet the right person. And every man that a woman will meet will be her prince. So that’s for that. And then for myth to bust. Princesses work. We work a lot, as everyone else. And, yeah. And it’s important like that. We are very privileged. We have, of course, a big audience. Our microphone is bigger if you want. And as such, we need to take advantage of that and make sure that we help where we can to raise the voices of people that can speak for themselves.
Rana Nawas: (02:37)
Amazing. And what was something that you found a little weird when you kind of became, went from normal to her royal highness?
Tessy Antony: (02:47)
I didn’t think weird would be, maybe the wrong word, but unusual for me would be that, for example, when you go shopping, I love my grocery shopping for example, and other things, and we live very very normal life in London, that people would just pull on you or something like that. That was a bit unusual at the beginning, but it was just because they were just so happy to see us. So nothing mean or something but it was very unusual for me to, that we were getting recognized and so on.
Rana Nawas: (03:21)
Okay. So let’s shift gears now and talk about who you really were before you got married. And that was, you joined the military at the age of 18. Can you tell me a bit about why you did that? I think it was you and your brother signed up together. Is that right?
Tessy Antony: (03:34)
Absolutely. My twin brother and me. And one of them is a funny story because my father actually signed us up, signed me up, really. My twin brother wanted to do it anyways. My sister was already in the military and my father said, hey, now that your brother’s going, you’re going to. And I was a little bit upset at the beginning and I was scared, of course, because I was so young, at 17 and a half I had to boot camp. They call it Mustrum where you need to do sports tests and academic tests and everything to see if you’re fit to even join. And then the four months of hardcore training start. So, you know, it was, it was quite a experience when the moment happened that I joined.
Rana Nawas: (04:17)
And was it, what you expected being in the army?
Tessy Antony: (04:22)
It was. It was, of course, sports wise. I’m not a big runner, so they always called me the flag of platoon because I was always the last one which was really hard — the running. But for the rest, it was really, it’s an amazing school of life. I would have done everything the same. I met wonderful people. I also really learned my weaknesses. It was, of course, very hard for me because in the Luxembourg at the time, we were 25 woman in total.
Rana Nawas: (04:50)
Tessy Antony: (04:51)
A thousand men. So that’s still very small, but 25 women is really not a lot. And so as such in a really, you can really say a man-led environment at that time. Still today we are lacking a lot of women in the military. But I guess that is a universal problem. You know, there’s things that happen and it’s not always nice and men are very strong towards women because they think they shouldn’t be there. And hence, as such, I learned a lot about myself, about my weaknesses, my strengths, and that made me what I am today.
Rana Nawas: (05:24)
And one of those experiences that you had in the military was being a peacekeeper in Kosovo. How did that shape you? What did you learn? What did you see?
Tessy Antony: (05:34)
Well, that as well. I was very young and it was the first time I was away from my parents for five months. The only woman of my draft. So for me it was really, it was a quite emotional experience as the only woman I needed to go to the mountains as well for the searches and then look — well search the women there. And one specific example I would like to share to really show how life changing it for me was and that’s when I said I need to get involved more into women protection, woman rights, listen more to women. What do they need? How can we help them? Because there was an example of a woman with a baby and her husband had left months ago and we went to their house to see if they have weapons. Obviously, you know, in war, on both sides, they need to protect themselves, so she had weapons in the house and the moment she saw she was very aggressive because she was scared also because she had a young child and all alone and then she threw everything on the floor but completely naked screaming – and I, 18 and a half, barely, Didn’t really know what I should do. And I went to see and I said, I’m not here to hurt you at all but you know, I need to do this because that’s what we had to do. And that is also when for the first time in my mind I really thought, you know, yes, we’re here to do a mission, but is it the right mission? To come in, come here, intervene, and, you know, take their own protection. The only protection they have away from them and then just walk away again. And so that was a little conflict inside me and that is also when I started questioning of course championing in the military, but also questioning it and always questioning everything around it to make sure that my own spirit and what I’m doing is right in my own beliefs.
Rana Nawas: (07:31)
I mean Kosovo and the Balkan war was notorious for violence against women, sexual violence against women. Did you see any of that or experience any of that from the ladies there?
Rana Nawas: (07:44)
Well actually yes, both. Seeing, not that there was any rape in front of me or anything like that. Thank goodness. No, I was spared from that. But obviously a woman got hit for example, or they would talk to me about it. So I really became, for example, in my camp, a point of contact for the women to talk to me. They really felt comfortable with me and I felt very privileged because I also wanted to understand what is going on and how do they manage and how do they protect themselves. And as such, as well, I myself had also an experience and that is why I got into sexual violence in conflict with UNAUK for example, as a patron, because I had two attempts of sexual abuse on myself and I could, I defended myself without a problem.
Rana Nawas: (08:38)
Service in the military?
Tessy Antony: (08:39)
That was in the military, that was in another military. And I could protect myself and broke his nose very proud. But to be serious, it was really, it was very unexpected. I was not prepared. I was all by myself. I was very young, first time away from my parents and I just didn’t know what to do and my reflexes were right because I had the right training before deployment. But then that again, put it into context where I was like, I had that training, I could defend myself. Nothing happened to me. What about all of these other millions of women around the world who experienced these awful things by their family members, by people they don’t know, by whoever. It’s just unacceptable. And that’s why, again, as well, I’m very much involved into these topics.
Rana Nawas: (09:32)
And you mentioned the UNAUK, what does UNA stand for and what does that mean, your involvement with them?
Tessy Antony: (09:38)
Of course. So UNAUK is United Nations Association. It’s the only charity of the UN in the UK. It is not funded by the UN and I’m a patron there, so the highest position and they really put forward the agenda of the UN so they for the first time really pushed towards democratic elections of the new secretary general. So they had a very huge campaigner for that which was amazing and really well received and it was a great success. And then now this year is about sexual violence in conflict, hence why they asked me to become the patron, which I’m very honored and I hope I can really help them to raise awareness through my experience and my expertise. And, yeah, just to really show that yes the UN has a lot of problems. It needs a lot of reform. The UN, it took two world wars to create the UN as we have it today, there will be nothing else similar to it anytime soon. So I think we should invest in what we have because the structure is there and the framework is there and there’s no other organization in the world that brings so many nations together for one cause. And so I really truly believe in the UN and what it stands for despite its weaknesses. But I think that is what motivates me to really work with them because I want to make them strong again as well.
Rana Nawas: (11:04)
And it’s not just the UNAUK. Your involvement with the UN, you’re also an ambassador for UN AIDS. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? What does UN AIDS do?
Tessy Antony: (11:13)
Absolutely. So, the UN, they have several branches if you want. And UN AIDS is a separate branch of the UN so they’re completely separate from the UN but what they do is obviously HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS research and everything that comes with it. Advocacy, creating awareness. And so I am the UN global advocate for young women and adolescent girls. So again, there comes my passion about really starting as young as possible to really equip every girl in this world, let it be with sexual health education, protection, education in general and everything it can be to make every single girl do what she is there to do. And so, yeah, it’s a great passion of mine and I really love working with them. Specific example of what I did with them then was, for example, I was at a global conference in South Africa for them where I worked as well with Prince Harry and he works with me a lot on these things. He’s very big advocate as well for HIV/AIDS and also for women. So he’s a fellow woman-empowerer.
Rana Nawas: (12:37)
So a feminist then?
Tessy Antony: (12:38)
Absolutely, absolutely. And he’s doing a really great job such as his mother did. It’s really, really impressive to work with him. But, going back then. So South Africa I was really able. I worked in a brothel where for me it was, I was a bit scared. I need to be honest because obviously the clients and the woman were there while I was there as well. And so we would go around and, you know, try to talk to the woman and say, you know, there’s a truck outside, would you like to get, you know, preservatives or to protect yourself or would you like to do a test? When was your last test or anything else they needed, if they needed any other medication, if they had any other questions as well as for the male people that were there as well. So we were really there to just show presence and say, you know, there is a big stereotype around it, but, you know, we’re not judging you what you’re doing, but we give you the opportunity to, if you want to, to make sure you’re safe.
Rana Nawas: (13:38)
And forgive my ignorance, but I really thought that HIV/AIDS was almost gone. So what are, how prevalent is it still in the world today?
Tessy Antony: (13:48)
Well, it is. It is still a very, very big problem. If you look at the statistics, roughly there’s around 31 million people who have HIV AIDS in the world and around 17 million don’t know they have it and that comes with unfortunate the stigma again because young people don’t want to test themselves because what if, what if I have it, you know, and what do I do? Where do I go, how will my friends react, my life will be over or something like that. Or there’s also one other new trend which is worrying. I think it’s because HIV/AIDs doesn’t kill you anymore because the medication is quite effective and hence young people don’t pay attention so much anymore to it, which is also something what I found very, very interesting. Then of course you have, you know, why a question such as the one you asked that you said, how is it possible? I thought, it was not there anymore because we have so many other geopolitical economic problems in the world that HIV/AIDs unfortunately is falling through the grid. It’s really, we have an initiative at UN AIDS for example, it’s called the 90-90-90 initiative and as such, you know, by 2030 we want that 90 percent of people who have HIV AIDS, they know they have it, then the 90 percent who know they have it will, 90 percent of these will have treatment and then the 90 percent who have the treatment will have a constructive result. So that is the initiative which Luxembourg, my country of birth and my home has heavily funded in as well. They are great advocates for that and I’m really grateful to as well as a UN AIDS ambassador that my country is really investing heavily in it and really see the need to do so. So, yeah.
Rana Nawas: (15:43)
Well I won’t lie, Tessy, you mentioned Luxembourg, you are definitely the first Luxembourgian I have ever met. How many of you are there?
Tessy Antony: (15:51)
Well, you know, we not about to the quantity but the quality, as they say, so I hope I’m not dissapointing you.
Rana Nawas: (16:00)
Not at all.
Tessy Antony: (16:00)
But, no, there’s around 575,000 people of Luxembourg.
Rana Nawas: (16:07)
You are a cofounder of Professors Without Borders. Can you tell us a little bit about that, why you set this organization up and what you do?
Tessy Antony: (16:15)
Absolutely. So Professors Without Borders is my newest baby it’s kind of like that. I have two young boys and a professors without border is now two years old. I created it with two very good friends. One Dr Warren Caroline. She was actually my teacher at university in international law and we became friends after my studies and then the other one is called Majecks and he’s the barrister. And so we were sitting very casually at Regents University as I am a visiting lecturer from time to time and teach on terrorism and Caroline and Majecks, we were just talking and chatting and said, we’re so blessed here in London. A lot of people are very blessed with the education, but why can’t we make that available for everyone? The quality of education, the quality of teachers rather than telling the students, come here, why don’t we bring it to them? And so the conversation started and Professors Without Borders came to life. Professors Without Borders is a NGO social enterprise where we try to reverse the brain drain, so we bring really quality teachers, Cambridge, Harvard LSE, so as top top, top teachers, to them for summer school. So this year we were in Sierra Leone, we were in Uganda, in the only woman university and in Thailand. And so there was a second year and it was very successful. Hundreds of students came between 16 and 25. This year we focused more on university because we think when they around 16, 18 that is really when the brain is ready to understand as well what is happening around you socially, politically, economically and that is also the subjects we teach. So we teach really on local politics, local social problems, institutions which I teach on and so on. It is really customized to the university, to the students, to their neighbors, that they understand the wealth of their country, that they understand that they can do so much in their country to really inspire them to get involved in what they have at home rather than leave.
Rana Nawas: (18:21)
So your programs are customized to the local environment to inspire the local talent to stay and do something constructive.
Tessy Antony: (18:28)
Yes. Exactly. And with that we also create textbooks every summer, new textbooks on what is going on, what do they need to know, what is important for them. Also agricultural-wise, there’s also skill-based trainings model MUN and all of these things. So we really try to keep it very diverse that they really, you know, get all kinds of angles from their own cultures.
Rana Nawas: (18:51)
And how long is the program or how is it structured?
Tessy Antony: (18:56)
Well now, because well obviously, most of it is funded either by the founders or by friends and family for the moment. So, it depends all on funding but how we did it so far and what we really achieved and I’m so proud of it. I can really not say more it was really amazing. It’s two weeks each, six hours a day for the students. So it’s quite intense and they need to write essays. They have a lot of seminars a day and they, what is really important to understand they come in their free time, it’s their vacation they are giving to come to school which is really incredible. And we have an amazing time. Then we were really this year specifically we were welcomed with open hands. It was really incredible. One example, which is unfortunate what happened, really sad and I would not wish anyone that, but fortunately for us, we gave them a course which was on infrastructures. So you, I don’t know if you heard about the big floodings in Sierra Leone.
Rana Nawas: (19:59)
Tessy Antony: (20:00)
And just before we left. Well, it was just after we left that that happened, so the streets my teachers were walking everyday and the university where they were going to was completely flooded and hundreds of students died and people and everyone around. And so that’s very unfortunate and we really, my condolences still today go to everyone there and they’re still rebuilding and we’re still investing in it because it is really horrible. But one positive thing that we could give them fortunately without knowing is that we gave them a course on infrastructures, logistics, and how to deal with sudden natural disasters, actually and so the students knew exactly what to do and they put that in place. They went to the institutions, they went to the government, they went here and they were ready and they wrote us a letter and they said we were prepared because you taught us that and that for us was just we knew it is right what we’re doing.
Rana Nawas: (20:59)
What an incredible testament, wow.
Tessy Antony: (21:02)
Rana Nawas: (21:02)
So you get these awesome professors from all over the world bringing them to Sierra Leone, Uganda, Thailand with a customized local program which the which people volunteer to do in their spare time, two weeks and then it’s a continuous relationship with the textbooks etcetera.
Tessy Antony: (21:17)
Yes, yes, absolutely. Because we cannot just go one year and then not come back. So Sierra Leone That was our first summer school two years ago and we went back this year. We will go back next year again. Uganda we added this year and Thailand. We will go back as well next year and next year we will also add India. So I’m very excited about it and we’re in conversations with people from there and universities because unfortunately one of our hinders that hinders us to expand even quicker is that we need an infrastructure, we need a classroom, we need an invitation. We bring everything but we need somewhere to sit. Exactly. And so, you know, if you know any countries that have that and would be interested in it, you know.
Rana Nawas: (22:01)
We will talk offline, I definitely have some ideas for you.
Tessy Antony: (22:04)
That would be great.
Rana Nawas: (22:05)
But you weren’t lying, Tessy, I mean you are really busy. You’re an ambassador. UNAIDS. Professors Without Borders. You princesses, you work hard. Okay. So you touched on a couple of things that I’d like to dive into. You very casually mentioned that you are, that you, how did you put it? You sometimes give courses on terrorism.
Tessy Antony: (22:27)
Rana Nawas: (22:27)
Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Tessy Antony: (22:29)
No problem. So I wrote my thesis on biological terrorism. I think it’s fascinating. And also because of the medical background that I’m really interested with the HIV and everything. I really like everything that has to do with health and so as my studies in international relations and institutions, I thought to myself, well, how can I combine my love to the health and my studies that I’m doing? And so I wrote about biological terrorism and I compared Al Kaeda with ISIS and the capabilities and violent nonstate actors and everything around it and as such, Caroline, my cofounder said, well listen, I’m giving a class on different topics which are very unfortunately out there and biological terrorism is not yet that big, but it is a serious threat. It is a big problem. I would argue it is a big problem and it’s not much talked about. And so she said, can you come and just talk about what you wrote? And, you know, what students should read to kind of brush up on it and learn about it and what does it even mean and all of that stuff. So that’s how I got into that. I do it very rarely, only when Caroline asks me because I’m a bit shy in front of the classroom. I do enjoy it a lot, but yeah.
Rana Nawas: (23:51)
For our listeners’ benefit, what is biological terrorism?
Tessy Antony: (23:56)
Well, it’s living bacteria. You have also the chemical warfare, but that aside biological is living, living organisms, which is just like a virus for example and you release it. Some die off because they are obviously very fragile, but like anthrax for example. Anthrax can stay in the ground for a long time and it’s active and that has horrible side effects on the human body and, you know, it goes on your lungs and a lot of internal/external bleeding and all that stuff. But biological terrorism, then as such, is really living agents and it’s a very cowardly way of doing warfare because the perpetrator, the one who wants to do harm, often has disappeared by the time the first side effects turn up because it takes around one, let’s for the sake of argument, three to five days to have a flu. Right? And that is the same as for bacteria, somewhat instant of course, depending on how potent but others are takes days and by then, you know, if someone really wants to do something like that would be gone then. And so it is a silent threat. Absolutely.
Rana Nawas: (25:13)
So let’s go back to something else you mentioned, which is a lot of travel that you do. You mentioned a lot of exotic places. You travel extensively, how do you manage with your two sons?
Tessy Antony: (25:28)
Well there’s two things here. They are also in school, in boarding school at the moment so since two years which of course helps. On the other side, well, they’re just sitting outside the recording studio. They’re with mama in Dubai to, well first of all see my work and then also to have some quality family time. But that said, I really try to take them with me as much as possible because I think young people can’t learn if you don’t expose them to the reality around them. And as such, you know, I take them everywhere with me, I take them with me to the embassy, I take them with me to events, well I took them with me here they are with me tomorrow at the conference and they ask a lot of questions. They are very involved. My oldest is very philanthropic, plays violin and then gives the money to homeless people or bakes in the kitchen and it brings it to a shelter, like they’re very, very aware of what is happening outside. And I’m grateful for that because as I said before, I don’t know if it was in this conversation or the informal one, but we are very privileged and I want them as well to understand that they are very privileged and as such, you know, we’re here to do something and at a young age at a young age, there’s no age to do good. And that’s why I love traveling with them. It’s fun. It creates memories. They learn and you know, and I’m not alone. I love having them with me.
Rana Nawas: (26:57)
Wow. I’m so inspired myself. I have two sons and they’re very young now still but I’m really inspired to do what you do. I think it’d be great. Gosh, the company, as long as they’re already, you know, on the plane, they don’t give me too much hassle because right now it’s very difficult once we get past that. But okay, so you’ve traveled extensively with the boys, now let’s shift gears. You’re a woman, you’re a working woman. How do you pack for all that travel?
Tessy Antony: (27:25)
How do I pack? Like physically pack?
Rana Nawas: (27:27)
As in like tips for packing, for frequent business travelers.
Tessy Antony: (27:31)
Well I have my little packages, I have it ready already so I have my shirts and everything already ready that I just throw into luggage. Like for example yesterday I came back from Switzerland at 1:00 in the afternoon and at 6:00 we had an event for UNAUK because today is UN Day, United Nations day, and then we went straight to the airport. So I literally threw my one luggage from Switzerland in the corner, got the other luggage, put the bags that I prepacked while I’m on the weekend, I put them, you know, like the wash packs and everything. I have everything doubled really. And then, yeah, off we go and we changed at the airport to go into the plane. So it was really funny yesterday particularly because I was in my little dress and my high heels in customs and people were just looking at me. Where is she going? And so I rushed to the bathroom when I changed inside the airport because I had no time to do it before.
Rana Nawas: (28:29)
So lots of pre-planning and pre-packing?
Tessy Antony: (28:32)
Rana Nawas: (28:32)
Got it, got it. Okay. And so you’ve worked in the military and you’ve worked in a lot of, with a lot of NGOs and you’ve set up your own business. What has been your experience of gender equality in the workplace?
Tessy Antony: (28:43)
Well, you know, we came far but we are far away from what is right still. I think, you know, taking Luxembourg for example they really invest into conferences, for example, for employees to really understand, you know, what can be done also for mothers. We have the gift of giving life and as such, you know, of course, thats for a private employer it is difficult because they will lose money because the mother would be on leave and then the reeducation for the mother later to come back. So there’s an investment to be done. However, I think that investment is absolutely justified because, well, let me start with, you know, every leader had a mother and without that mother there will be no leaders in our male world and that is the same for every woman. And, anyways, before that, you know, I’m looking forward to today that there is no more woman leaders but only leaders because there shouldn’t be any differentiation of the word anyways. But going back down to that I think a woman brings other aspects to the workforce, and of course in the inequalities happen men say, well, you know, she needs to be home with the kids, why can’t I? So now we have a little bit of a shift towards where men can stay home as well, which is great. And I really embrace that. But then on the other side, you know, what is also really interesting is that when I talk a lot with women about it they say, well, my biggest challenge is other women at work because they say, well, other women, they don’t want to have children for example. And then they make me feel bad but I go home and be with my children. So I feel like a bad mother or that I don’t deserve to be here. So that is a problem. And so I think we women, you know, as we always say, we stick together, well, why are we not doing it? It’s the problem. And not a lot of people address it. Last but not least for that point because there’s so much we can talk about equal pay. It’s also still a very big problem. I remember when I was in the military I didn’t have the same salary as my twin brother and we did exactly the same at the beginning. It of course equalized out at the end, but I remember when I got my paycheck and I looked at my brothers and I said, how is that possible? And but I just thought, okay, maybe I did something different or he and I didn’t realize because I was so young, but now I know that, you know, it is still out there. Of course in the military that is all taken care of now. But there’s still a lot of other domains where we have that problem in a lot of also developing countries. And so I think we have a long way to go. We have come a long way and I really congratulate all of these strong women and men and organizations that made it happen. But inequality is definitely still a hot topic at work.
Rana Nawas: (31:42)
Yeah, for sure. In the corporate world it definitely, it’s massive. So since we’re with the corporate world, let’s stick there a little bit. There’s a lot of women I know who want to give back, you know, very senior career women, you know, very busy, so short on time, maybe not, you know, billionaires, but women who want to give back and they think that they need to have lots of money or lots of time to be able to do that. What would you say to that?
Tessy Antony: (32:13)
Well, I think, you know, money is one thing that of course, you know, you can always give more, but even small money does a change. So I think one should not restrain herself or himself of getting involved into charity because one cannot give enough. There’s never not enough. So that is for the money part. So as much as you can, why wouldn’t you? And then on the part with time, of course, time is the most valuable commodity we have and there’s no doubt with that. There’s nothing else that can buy you back these 30 minutes. You’re sitting with me here on this sofa. So I hope it’s worth it, but, no, that’s it, it’s really, it’s so precious and hence when one invests into a project or gets interested in it. Make sure it speaks to you as I always say, you know, people say, well, how do I know? How do I know in what to get involved with? And how do I know it’s the right thing I say, well, look out of the window, you see so many causes you see inequality, poverty, infrastructures, climate change, you see so many things just looking out of the window, what speaks to you and then you start get your research done, how can you get involved? And then of course, you know, if you can pair it will work great and specifically women in senior positions, there’s always CSI in any company now it’s the new kid on the block, isn’t it, that everyone wants to give back. And I think we should take advantage of this trend and really make it a good company kind of and saying, you know, we are involved in these causes which speak with our company. And as such, you know, we invest in this, in this philanthropic areas and we send people there or we I don’t know what they will do but I think that is a good way to get started.
Rana Nawas: (34:09)
So for philanthropy, you don’t have to devote your life to do your job every day. You can give a little money and give it a little time and support other people who would do that. Yeah.
Tessy Antony: (34:19)
Rana Nawas: (34:20)
So you and the Prince of Luxembourg are currently going through quite a public divorce. What happens next for you as a single working mom? I mean, you’ve been a single working mom for a few months now and any tips you’d like to share with other single moms?
Tessy Antony: (34:35)
Well I think it’s just, you know, always stay strong, you know, live what you believe is right. And, you know, we have these little human beings around us that need us and despite, you know, if there’s any difficulties or misunderstandings or whatever it might be in a relationship that either creates turbulences or ends it. I think, you know, kids have nothing to do with that. And they need to be taken care of properly by both the parents and as such for me, you know, my husband, we have very good team. I need to say. I cannot say anything about him. He is a very big support still today. He’s the most wonderful father and so, you know, despite that we have separated and getting divorced. I think, you know, we’re in the 21st century. We’re not the first couple that that happened to and it is important to admit and not be ashamed of saying if it doesn’t work anymore, it doesn’t work anymore and really stay strong with your decisions and move on because you know, life is too short and there’s so many wonderful things out there to waste your time on things that don’t work anymore and then construct on that and create new things. I create new things with my husband soon to be ex husband on other topics and that’s wonderful as well.
Rana Nawas: (36:08)
Great. Yeah. I mean, the kids, right, at the end of the day it’s about kids.
Tessy Antony: (36:13)
Rana Nawas: (36:13)
Did you have any childhood heroes, Tessy?
Tessy Antony: (36:19)
Yeah. Well it’s just, you know, for me I think because I, for example I don’t watch tv or something like that, not much. I’m a bit of a nerd. I love my books. But what I do can say is that I created my heroes as I was growing up. So my first hero was of course my parents. I always admired how hard my father worked. He’s such a hard worker and he’s also a politician and he really tries do change and people, you know, they come and ring at his door 24/7 and he always opens the door no matter what time, lets them in listens to what is happening and always tries to help always and that I admire. So he’s definitely one of my heroes and I want to be like and then other than that, just the people I meet when I join events, I see all of that like He for She Award I attended a few days back where men in organizations were awarded for empowering women. It was incredible. It was really amazing. So these were my heroes because I was like, wow, you know, great guys and organizations, we need to do more of that. And then the teacher that takes care of my children. My children are very dyslexic and God knows I’m not the most patient mother with homework and I am so grateful and she is my hero because she sits with them for hours working, with them. And so for me I think heroes are made daily and they are all around us. We just need to see them.
Rana Nawas: (37:48)
I completely agree with that. I always say my hero is the everyday working mom. That’s my hero.
Tessy Antony: (37:57)
Rana Nawas: (37:58)
So you mentioned books that you’re an avid reader. So what are some, a book, for example, you read recently that you would recommend to the listeners?
Tessy Antony: (38:07)
So well my favorite book is the “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” It’s a book, it’s a true story. And because of her we have the polio vaccination. She died 50 years ago and still today her cells reproduce. Was the first cell that would reproduce in such a manner and would really also that again, that book really, that’s why I’m so involved into rights specifically. Her family hasn’t seen proper dime of it and because of her we have most of the vaccinations. So it’s a really interesting story. So that is one of my favorite books. I think it’s a really good read. It’s interesting. It’s funny. Other than that I’m reading a book about the emotional intelligence of mindfulness. So as I of course went a little bit through turbulent times the last two years, I needed to make sure that my mind is clear and that I’m balanced and happy and I found love to meditation and yoga and as such, mindfulness really, I really got into it and I really enjoyed it very much. And it’s really interesting reading these books because I learned so much about other people that I meet and how mindful actually they do their tasks, their everyday tasks, how mindful they talk and like did the easiest things and yeah, it’s just really interesting because you get to know people on a different level and they don’t even realize it. It’s very interesting.
Rana Nawas: (39:36)
And is that how you switch off or relax is to do yoga and meditate?
Tessy Antony: (39:40)
Absolutely, absolutely. I do my meditation everyday. I do between 10 and 30 minutes because obviously I don’t have so much time but if I can I really try to squeeze in 10 minutes at least just to check in with my body and see how am I feeling.
Rana Nawas: (39:56)
Guided or do you just sit on a sofa and chill out?
Tessy Antony: (39:59)
Mostly guided, yes. I liked the guided ones because it also makes me think about what I need to release and other than that yoga and I go running when I really feel stressed. I just go and run full speed for like 20 minutes and then I’m good.
Rana Nawas: (40:18)
Is there a question that people have never asked you that you wish they would?
Tessy Antony: (40:22)
I wouldn’t phrase it like that. I think the question that is more appropriate is a question I would like to hear more from people is how can I get involved? I think that is really a question because a lot of people say, this is so interesting and this is here and there and it’s wonderful. I got their interest but they never say, well, how can I get involved? So I say, well, do you want to get involved? Or I always say, well, everything I do, if you like something no matter who I meet, even people I meet in the plane when I went to Switzerland last week. So it was twice in Switzerland in five days but when I was last week there was a woman on my plane her name was Maria. And we started talking and she said, well, what do you do? And I said, well, I do this and this and this. What do you do? So it was a proper conversation. She was from Russia and at the end she said, wow, this is amazing what you do. And so inspiring. And I said, well, if you want to get involved, give me a note pad. I’ll write down every single website and my number and if you like anything of that you call me and I will make sure you can get involved because I think, you know, the more, the merrier and no one should ever be afraid of addressing or reaching out to these ambassadors out there. That’s why we are there. You know, our name is out there if you want to get involved write us people always so intimidated because they always say, oh, we can never reach them. They are untouchable and they are all the way up there and we are here and you know, we can’t do anything. That’s not true. We are, and I speak for a lot of us, maybe not everyone, but a lot of us that we really want people to approach us about our work and how they can get involved. So a question I hope to hear more in Dubai at the conference tomorrow would be, how can I get involved?
Rana Nawas: (42:10)
Great. And for the listeners’ benefit, how can they get involved? How can they approach you about, you know, you’re an ambassador for UNAIDS, you’re a patron of the UN Association in the UK, you’re a cofounder of Professors Without Borders. If they’re interested in any of these, how do they go about getting in touch?
Tessy Antony: (42:25)
Absolutely. Well, as I said, you know, there’s a website for each and an email and just address it to me or, you know, yeah to me. A lot of people did it and it comes to me. I always, also letters and everything, it always reaches me and I would always take time to write back myself. There’s no one else who replies to my mail.
Rana Nawas: (42:46)
Wow. Amazing. Tessy, this has been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time out with your sons next door while you’re on a visit to Dubai to come into the studio and have a chat. Thank you very much.
Tessy Antony: (42:58)
It was such a pleasure. Thank you so much to you.
Rana Nawas: (43:00)
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at rananawas.com/win or search When Women Win on itunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram @rananawas. Thanks and have a great day.