Rising Star Kumudini David is on a mission to “enable, empower, enrich” others through vocal mastery. Her advocacy helps change the lives of survivors of abuse. How does she do it?

On Women’s Entrepreneurs’ Day, Wedu caught up with Rising Kumudini David from Sri Lanka. Kumudini is the founder and CEO of Voice with Kumu, where she teaches a diverse range of students, both voice professionals, such as singers and speakers, and non-professionals, to achieve vocal mastery. 

Her mission is simple: every voice is vital – enable, empower, enrich. In addition to vocal pedagogy, her journey as a survivor of child sexual abuse and overcoming the trauma informs her practice. She also advocates for the survivors of abuse, helping bring more awareness about child abuse in Sri Lanka, better supporting the survivors, and pushing for amendments in the country’s penal codes on sexual and gender-based violence that currently deny justice to many survivors. She recently graduated with an MSc in Clinical and Health Psychology from the University of West London. 

Read our Marketing and Communications Associate Bidhya Maharjan’s conversation with Kumudini. They delve into helping her student at Voice with Kumu become confident in their voice, her advocacy for survivor-centred laws, and what fuels her entrepreneurial spirit.

Please note that the interview has been edited for brevity.

You have been working as a vocal coach for over a decade. How does Voice with Kumu fulfill your “Every voice is vital – Enable, Empower, Enrich” mission?

I have learned over the years that training to use the voice is mental work. I help my students get past their self-imposed boundaries. For example, many of us have been told that we cannot sing, and we internalise what others say about us. I work with various students, from children, whose parents want them to play with their voice. Teenagers come to me because their voice is breaking, and they want to stabilise it. Many older students come to me because being able to sing is on their bucket list. Voice professionals, public speakers, and toastmasters come to me to enhance their vocal ranges, learn vocal techniques, work on their projection, etc.

I recently completed an MSc in Psychology. Although I am not a trained therapist, I am exploring the techniques of dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which focuses on learning and applying key skills in emotional regulation, stress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal skills. All art forms are therapeutic.

I help students form an identity that they feel comfortable carrying and allows them to achieve what they thought was impossible for them. I feel the happiest when they have a breakthrough and do something they did not know was possible. That is empowering my students.

Why is it important for people to learn to use their voice?

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. Because of the abuse I went through, I experienced depression quite early in life. The fact that I was prone to a depressed state of mind in the formative years of my life meant that my reaction to such trauma became routine to me. Usually, your ways of coping will be in your blueprint forever.

My reaction to abuse was pulling away from society and living in my mind. I isolated myself. However, I had a breakthrough at 14 and had to learn to be normal and align myself to operate in the real world. This felt like rejoining the human world and learning to communicate with others became a task. That’s when I started to learn and research trauma, which was as easy as it has become. To understand myself, I started to learn about how we cope with different stressors, trauma dysregulation, and so forth, which informs my practice.

All of my students have some sort of trauma, whether they share it with me or not. I help them understand their reactions and their intuitiveness. For example, when I teach my students breath control, which is how you gather power and hold it to take control of your breath, it is affected by existing tension in your vocal cords, so I teach them to recognise and resolve that tension.

Please tell me more about your work with survivors. What are some of the ways you help survivors?

I am among the very few survivors in Sri Lanka who openly state that they are survivors of child sexual abuse, which I first spoke about at the age of 33. I realised that by keeping quiet, I was enabling the perpetrators. Now, I help survivors of all types of abuse. In an official capacity, when survivors are not responsive to the police or court-appointed individuals, such as guardians or lawyers, they ask me to step in. Usually, survivors find it easier to talk to people like me who have survived similar abuses. I am sympathetic toward them.

I get calls about people who need help almost every week. They seek suggestions on what they can do because they are facing abuse. If they are in imminent danger, I connect them with therapists, safe houses, lawyers and others through my networks.

Lastly, I also advocate for amendments to penal codes in Sri Lanka. Existing laws do not address most cases of child abuse with due gravity.

What has been one of your proudest moments in this journey?

When I first started talking about the abuse I faced as a child over a decade ago, very few people talked about abuse from the perspective of survivors. I remember receiving pushback from people around me. They said I was risking my reputation. But there’s more protection and prevention awareness, whistleblowing, and more people are coming forward and standing up for survivors. Now survivors can say, “Enough. I will fight back.” While I can’t take credit for this shift, I believe I have contributed to it in my way.

What’s important to you to succeed as an entrepreneur? If you had to give advice to fellow entrepreneurs, what would it be?

I am more than an entrepreneur; I am a catalyst and a change agent. I am an artist. For people who want to become an entrepreneur, find what you are passionate about and ways to ensure you can sustain yourself through what you do. The key element is to be passionate about what you want and keep doing it.

“I am more than an entrepreneur; I am a catalyst and a change agent.”

What do you appreciate about being a Rising Star?

The Wedu community in Sri Lanka is relatively smaller than elsewhere. Despite that, Wedu keeps us informed and updated about leadership development opportunities and checks in on us often, and I appreciate it. It gives me a sense of empowerment and support, which I greatly treasure.

Are you interested in learning more about Kumudini’s work?

Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Will you join our community of allies in closing the gender leadership gap? 

Wedu is committed to supporting women leaders like Kumudini reach their full potential. Our community of allies create opportunities for and champion women leaders. Here are two actions you can take today to close the gender leadership gap:

  1. 💁🏽 Mentor a young woman leader. As a Wedu mentor, you can help nurture the leadership potential of our Rising Stars across South and Southeast Asia in an eight-month online mentorship programme. Become a Wedu mentor today at here.
  1. 💁🏽 Give to Wedu. With one-on-one mentorship, women’s leadership courses, and education funding, our work helps women leaders realise their changemaking ambitions. Donate here.

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