Domestic violence is a well-known scourge, but one form of DV that is far less recognised is financial abuse, or when people use money to control their partner.

Fariha Chowdhury, the 299th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is the CEO of a not-for-profit organisation, Arise Foundation Australia, that helps financial abuse survivors regain their financial independence.

When Fariha cofounded Arise in 2021, she assumed financial abuse survivors would generally come from less privileged backgrounds. However, as she discovered, this kind of abuse is perpetrated against people with all levels of education, income and status.

A financial abuser will often take control of their partner’s salary and bank account, forcing them into a submissive position and potentially making them beg for money.

Fortunately, there are shelters and organisations that help women (and their children) escape from a domestic violence crisis. Arise helps survivors with the next step – providing them with financial assistance, English programs, digital literacy programs, job training and job placements, so they can regain their financial independence.

Fariha had a very successful career in corporate finance, which included serving as the Asia-Pacific CFO for American Express Global Business Travel. But, like many people, she reassessed her life when the pandemic hit, and realised she wanted to do more meaningful work.

At around the same time, Fariha and her cofounder had a friend who was dealing with a domestic violence crisis. While helping her, they discovered how hard it was for DV survivors to rebuild their lives.

So Fariha made the bold decision to quit her job and begin the hard work of building a start-up organisation dedicated to solving that problem.

A large part of Fariha’s new job involves networking with partners, government ministers and potential funders. Fariha is very well suited to that role – she’s an extrovert, she’s great company and she has very good people skills.