I still remember the day that I broke down, crying inconsolably in a room full of 30 women and the powerful voice of soulful singer Shabnam Virmani echoing through the big white hall that we were sitting in. It took me by surprise. Because as a woman leader, you are always expected to not display any signs of emotion as it is often misconstrued as a sign of weakness. But this outburst made me feel more powerful than ever before. I found strength in my vulnerability. I felt safe in a room full of strangers.
That’s the power of She Creates Change. Every woman who has been a part of this transformative experience, including myself and the team of Change.org, has come out of it, a stronger person. That room full of strangers ended up becoming a powerful community of women changemakers who were on a journey of self-reflection and self-realisation, just like me.
Growing up as a middle-class woman in India, I craved a community that would share the same aspirations, the same fears, and whose lives are shaped by a common purpose of creating a more equal and just world. I was never lucky enough to find that and as a result, I had to fight many of life’s big battles against patriarchal, conservative structures all alone. Most women don’t usually stand up and fight because they don’t have an ecosystem of support. They feel alone and they don’t have a safe space to share their experiences.
Developing and executing the She Creates Change program has been one of the most challenging yet fulfilling experiences of my professional career. The program connects women with a strong desire to create change to build bonds of sisterhood. It helps them get in touch with their purpose and agency, and provides them digital campaigning expertise so that they can build waves of support on issues concerning women and girls.
She Creates Change is not just a training program or a leadership capacity-building program. It is so much more. Through experiential learning, the program makes you reflect on your journey as a woman; it sometimes opens up old wounds so that you can heal completely, it helps you connect with yourself at a deeper level. It also gives you the strength of a community.
And the results are showing. In the past 4 years, this vibrant community of 150 women leaders has started over 300 campaigns on women’s health, education, safety, sanitation etc. on issues that really matter to them, based on their lived experiences.
Like Srilekha, who was taking a flight one day and realised that airplanes don’t keep sanitary pads on board. She started a petition to make sanitary napkins mandatory in medical kits for all airlines in India #PadsOnBoard. Or Afrin, a Muslim woman from Gujarat, who saw her sister becoming a victim of domestic violence, and started a petition urging the Imam at the mosque near her house to condemn domestic violence during the weekly Friday sermons. Or Chandana, who was tired of being judged because of her skin colour demanded that Fair & Lovely change its narrative after years of regressive advertisements and branding. These deeply personal stories that spoke to people’s hearts were able to drive large-scale change because they came from a very honest place.
I strongly believe that all major revolutions in the world over the next two decades will be led by women. All women need is to find their voice, learn how to organise and strategically fight for their rights. With She Creates Change, this is just the beginning. Our learnings, experiences and stories of the past 4 years of the She Creates Change program have been curated into this Impact Report. As we endeavor to make the program even more diverse and inclusive, we wanted to launch our Impact Report to give you an insight into the powerful journeys of 150 women and the change they have already created, to make the world a more equal and equitable place.
*Nida Hasan is the Change.org’s Executive Director in India.