She Leads Indeed

As a part of the She Leads initiative, a joint campaign by the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Women of Worth and the British Deputy High Commission of India, a leadership workshop was organised at the Great Lakes Institute of Management. The She Leads campaign recognised aspiring young women from across India and inspired them to take up roles as leaders in their respective fields. Ten winners from various colleges were selected and an award ceremony was organised earlier in the year. At the event, they were able to interact with people such as Shruti Hassan, Kiran Bedi and the British Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai. As a continuation of this campaign, a three day leadership workshop starting on the 31st of June, was conducted by the Great Lakes Institute of Management Chennai.

The workshop began with Prof. G. N Radhakrishnan who conducted a session on personal effectiveness and developing self. He explored the concept of emotional intelligence and its relevance to leadership, which is a topic that has gained importance recently. Emotional intelligence essentially refers to the capacity to monitor one’s own and others emotions and being able to respond appropriately. Prof. Radhakrishnan elaborated on how this was essential in maintaining good relationships with coworkers and also for maintaining peak performance, in oneself and in those around.

The next day was centred around economic development and was led by Dr. V.P Singh who outlined certain basic economic concepts and connected them to current policy and events. He explained how controlling monetray supply can affect growth and inflation. The She Leads finalists spent a productive afternoon with the press after which Prof. Sridhar concluded the day with an enlightening session on financial planning. The session was extremely useful for a group of young women on the verge of starting their careers, as it pointed out the benefits of starting to save at an early age and of investing these savings in various places.

The last day started off early with Prof. Sridhar’s discussion on the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility. Later, Prof. Stephen Chinnaswamy conducted a session on team building wherein he spoke of the various facets of what it entails to be a leader. He strayed away from defining a leader as the stereotypical aggressive boss, and advocated a definition in which a leader was meant to be flexible, emotionally intelligent, and willing to make mistakes as long as they learned from those mistakes. He conducted activities that were designed to facilitate better understanding and was also able to use what he taught in order to answer the questions that the participants had prior to the session.

The workshop on the whole was a resounding success as the participants enjoyed interacting with the highly competent, experienced and skilled faculty all the while being exposed to new areas of skill and learning.

A mother’s view on child safety

We have heard about the incidents involving women and children being molested and probably momentarily dwelt on it and maybe (if you’re like me) gotten misty eyed over it. I don’t plan on quoting statistics to you nor do I want to get technical by defining abuse and all it’s horrific offshoots.

My heart and gut clenches every time I think of a child getting hurt by an adult who should have protected him or her. It’s an abuse of power, of responsibility and of position. It’s not okay! As a mother to three precious little ones, I consider, as my primary calling and responsibility, their safety and well being. I do realise though that in many cases where abuse has occurred children have been handed over with love to those whom parents have trusted implicitly, in order that the parents could make ends meet and provide a better home and future for their family. So then, the question arises as to what can be done to make life safer for these children who have to stay at daycare or a crèche or at a relative’s house while their parents support and provide for them? For one, the child has to be taught by their parents to protect their body from a predator. Predators both known and unknown considering, scarily enough, that a lot of times the abuser is someone known to the child. Parents being the primary caregivers and nurturers have every reason to educate their children and create a safe space of communication between them which will be a fall back in the event of any harm coming to the child. More importantly there has to exist a cordial relationship between parents and school teachers who spend the most time with the children outside of home. Also important is the cooperation that parents need to offer the school authorities when they attempt to bring in additional safety measures for their students rather than criticising or working at cross purposes to them. The most crucial factor though, would be for parents to not be caught up in the rut of societal pressure which could cause them to sweep incidents like this under the rug rather than dealing with it head on. Easier said than done right in our conservative and often times judgemental society? But think about this, if I stand up to deal with my child’s hurt, pain, questions and memories then i can do far more good for that little human than giving him or her the world. Just by believing them, holding them close and playing a part in their healing without any judgement could radically change their lives. Abuse leaves scars. An aware, caring and involved parent can make those scars fade dramatically. I urge all you mummas and daddas out there, no matter how old or young your kids are. Listen to your children, observe them for behavioural changes, monitor who they play with and stay abreast of their lives. You can be that MVP in your child’s life. It’s never too late. Start now! #fearlessproject #stayaware

Live Fearless

We will all agree that safety of women and children is a huge concern in our country today. We agonize over the safety of our children and even of ourselves. Fear does have a crippling effect on life and the decisions we take every day. Yet, we seldom stop to consider how to eliminate these fears so we can live free. When we happen to switch on the television and hear about a horrible incident of rape or child abuse in an institution we fill ourselves with more fear. Have you stopped to think if this fear is healthy or rational? If fear is our only response to issues of safety we are to be pitied.

Fear as a response to safety issues can have damaging consequences. Fear will cause us to live in a constant state of anxiousness or paranoia. I remember the time in 2012 when the horror of the rape incident in Delhi shook us all. The immediate response was to shut ourselves in and tell our daughters to not go out late. Some daughters and wives had their parents and husbands pull them out of jobs with late night shifts. If we all locked ourselves in would the world become a safe place? Is this the kind of safety we want? Or do we want to change the meaning of the word ‘safe’ by working towards ensuring safety of our women and children in public spaces, campuses, at work and at home without curtailing their everyday normal movements?

Again, we tend to assume that abusers are often strangers not known to us. But statistics all over the world say otherwise. Abusers of women and children are usually people known to them at work, at school, in our campuses and at home. We teach our children not to talk to strangers but have we talked to them about saying No to unsafe advances of family members or neighbours? Abuse can scar a person for life. And fear is not the answer to safety.

Recently while talking to a few college going students, I was stunned to hear them say that safety is one of the biggest hindrances to them pursuing their dreams. I am not here condoning lack of caution in any way. We need to be wise and take precautions that will ensure our safety. But not at the cost of fear that cripples us from living life to the fullest.

Safety is my right. When I feel safe I don’t want anyone to think that they are doing me a favour. My safety does not depend just on me doing the right thing. It also depends on how the environment I am in responds to my need for safety. In other words, the community of people I live with, mingle with and interact with on a daily basis are as responsible as I am for my safety and the safety of my fellow humans.

WOW’s Girl Arise campaign was launched to raise the bar on women’s safety in campuses, work places, at home and in public spaces. Again, one cannot ensure the safety of women and children by just empowering and bringing awareness to women. If men stand aloof and pretend like this is of no concern of theirs, we will never have a safe world. Men and women together need to work on making this world a safer place for women and children.

Statistics says that 53% of children in India have faced some form of sexual abuse. Another myth to dispel is that abuse happens only to girl children. Boys face abuse too. There is a huge population of children in our country who are sold into brothels or exploited by the porn industry. We need to buck up and respond if we believe that children are our future.  

The #Fearlessproject is an attempt to equip student campuses and learning centers to be safe places of learning. By equipping teachers, trainers, management staff and more, we hope to contribute towards ensuring safety for students. Our training courses will not only equip campuses to ensure safety of students but will also help educators identify signs of abuse in a child and reach out for appropriate help.

Fear may be our immediate reaction to unsafe situations. But let not fear be the only solution to safety. #LiveFearless!

Workshops!

Women of Worth kicked off 2017 by launching a training workshop, “Igniting Young Minds”, at Vedanta Academy, Tirupur, for children of grades 1 to 10. Training has been WOW’s core competency in accomplishing one of its three major mission goals, which is to educate and train people from all facets of life to bring the change we all seek in order to build a harmonious society, devoid of gender inequalities and discriminations.

The question is, How? How can we bring this change and also raise a generation of responsible citizens for the future, when we know children easily fall a prey to societal pressures and discriminations because of which we see so many of them battle confusion, turn into recluses, fall into depression, grow up with low self-esteem and end up as adults who do not voice opinions to problems that matter?

WOW’s workshops address some of the sensitive and controversial issues that children face day to day in a friendly and an approachable way.  It doesn’t halt at awareness but delves deeper in an aim to ignite and liberate their potent young minds, evoking a sense of passion and responsibility within themselves, towards others and the community they live in.

At Vedanta Academy, our well-equipped team split the workshop sessions into three categories such as the junior section, senior section and the staff. The junior’s category had a workshop under the title, “Media Literacy: A class on Self-Worth” that educated children on how to filter media messages and the other two categories had sessions on “Anti-Bullying “and “Sexual Abuse” which addressed topics such as ‘How to report bullying’, ‘What if I am a bully?’, ‘Break the silence on abuse’, ‘How to prevent and spot abuse’ and much more.

Every session commenced with an ice breaker and proceeded to address the topics of interest through videos, games, activities, enactments and lots of interaction. Below is a video of the junior’s category interacting with our team during an activity called “Precious”, which aimed to make them understand their unique self.

Picture: The Trainers for the senior category encouraging the boys to do a roleplay on the topic “Bullying”.

Role play on bullying

Senior boys

We believe no child or individual are the same. Likewise, no workshop we put together is monotonous either. We take great care in customizing our materials to cater to the needs of the school and the issues that looms large on a particular campus or environment. Thus, changing and igniting young minds, one school at a time.

WOW is marching towards its next phase in training by welcoming schools and colleges to be a part of the UN campaign #BeBoldForChange, a drive that is addressing gender sensitization and equality this International Women’s Day month. If you would like us to bring the “Bold for change” campaign or any of our workshops to your campus please write to us at wow@womenofworth.in for more information and our team will get in touch with you.

Finally, we extend our commitment and encourage each and every one of you to be a change in your corner of the world; Together we can make a difference!

Lead the change!!

Do Away with the ‘But’

ZeenathWhen I stepped out in the sun, my skin breathed, long, life giving breaths, as it bathed itself silly in the slanting, loving sunshine. But, I never truly enjoyed the sun, as I should have, for a fear nagged at me. I’ll tan, I’ll become darker and I won’t be beautiful. So, I ran back into the home. From a little girl who was afraid of the sun, yet loved it like something terrible and scary should be loved, to a young woman who calmly tucks her hair behind her ear, exposing herself more to the sun, almost delighted at the browning of her skin, almost able to hear it like the crackling of a fire, I have come a long way.Everything good, beautiful and divine was fair. All the leading ladies in the films were fair, the angels printed in my textbook were fair, the darkest girl in the class was made very aware of her complexion, and even the brides of my family applied foundations that were nowhere near their shade of skin. The wheels of beauty hurled towards one destination, and that was “to be fair.”

To be fair was a prerequisite that few of our genes failed to fulfill, to be considered beautiful. It broke us down on a level that was much deeper than skin. It broke us down in places where we regretted belonging to a community, to a skin colour, to a race and to an ethnicity. We could be bestowed with the most striking eyes, full luscious lips, a shock of lustrous locks and the perfect nose, but we would still be the ones who were “Beautiful, but dark.”

We smiled coldly at these ignorant compliments. The society was apologetic for us. The kindness killed me. When I looked at a girl, dark like me, older than me, approaching the ‘age of marriage’, I sought solace from her. But, I didn’t get any. I got fear, I got an outpour of woes and I got from her an attentive ear to any “homemade fairness packs” that my mother might know. If the societal apology and kindness killed me, the victim’s self-blame scarred me. I knew my pride wouldn’t survive a hit so savage. So I did the only logical thing one does, when threatened, at least the only logical thing that wouldn’t brand me a coward. I fought.

I fought balancing on the strong shoulders of my friends and family and the edge of my pride was sharp. I still stand, poised, clutching my pride, waiting to see if someone would call me “Beautiful, but dark.” In this stance, I chant my prayer.

ZeenathI am dark, a shade darker, and three tones deeper
I am dark, not wheatish, and not dusky, I am dark
No excuses.
I am dark, as you accused me to be, making generous excuses for me
It’s okay, I am educated
It’s okay, I am rich
It’s okay, I have the hair to make up
It’s okay, I can sew and stitch
Thank you, but no thank you
Why console me for something I am not crying about
Why console me for something I guffaw in pride about
Don’t make excuses for me, for I am perfect as I should be
I am finally dark and anything else, I don’t want to be
So let me be.
I’ll toss my head and walk in arrogance
Arrogance I’ve earned,
I’ve slain your ignorance
I, the collective hurt pride of all the dark skins
My fight is undeserved but fight I will
Because the hurt is undeserved
And I won’t take it.

Zeenath is one of Dark is Beautiful’s ardent supporters who lives in the beautiful city of  Hyderabad with her family.  She hails from an orthodox Muslim household where her upbringing involved spending a big chunk of her time with books that preached the most unorthodox ideas between their covers. The effect of the reading and writing culture became an evident part of Zeenath’s life which she describes in her own words as, “in an ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’ like fashion, I switch between the two throughout my day.”  Professionally, she interns at an auditing firm as part of her Chartered Accountancy program and aims to trudge to the other end of the tunnel in a couple of years.

As a lover of Indian cinema, Arabic food, baking, literature and her south Indian lifestyle, Zeenath is a charged up young woman who tries and gives her best in everything she sets her eyes on and doesn’t stop till she emerges successful.

In her account “Do Away with the ‘But’” she bids an adieu to the clichéd “But” that frequently takes a free ride on most of our compliments given to the melanin-rich, hoping that her prayer chant would break the spell and liberate our minds so that the memory of its existence does not haunt anymore.

Directors Note – “She Leads”

Kavitha Emmanuel, Founder & Director of Women of Worth writes to fill in on some of the advances WOW has seen this year of which WOW’s leadership empowerment campaign takes the spot light. She also shares her experience on being a leader herself on this unfeigned note that we bring to you right from her desk.
 Women of Worth’s latest campaign “She Leads’ is a campaign that hopes to motivate and mentor the next generation of women with leadership potential to stop at nothing and scale with confidence those heights which are rightfully theirs. Through SHE LEADS we hope to smash the barriers that limit women’s potential by nurturing in young women a resilience and conviction to reach the top without holding back.
As the implementing partners of this campaign initiated by the British Deputy High Commission, Chennai and supported by The Madras Chamber for Commerce and Industry, we were invited to participate and present SHE LEADS at the tech summit held in New Delhi on November. The Summit was inaugurated by Narendra Modi, our hon’ble Prime Minister and Teresa May,  Prime Minister of UK. It was a landmark event indeed and I was happy to be there to introduce our new campaign to business owners, politicians, entrepreneurs and students who were at the summit.
kavi-quote
At the session on Women In Leadership, an 18 year old student took me by surprise when she asked this one question to the panel of women leaders: “You have all shared about your great moments. But I want to know about your failures and your struggles on your way up here.” My immediate thought was, “here is a leader in the making!’
As leaders, we don’t often talk about our failures and our challenges. We try to hide behind our great moments to escape the shame of those moments we wished we were dead! I have had my share of failures. I still struggle with insecurities of not feeling capable enough to lead. I see people more gifted and talented than I am. I do struggle with feelings of jealousy and sometimes I do give up thinking I am not good enough. I am afraid of crowds. I hate public speaking. I do get depressed when I goof up a speech or when an event falls flat. And then there are those mistakes that have become life lessons.  I am not always confident even if I look that way. I come across to people as a bold and confident person. But on the inside I am often fearful. To me personally what gives me the courage to move on is my faith. My faith in a God-ordained destiny helps me walk through tough and discouraging times.
The secret about being a leader is not that you don’t fail or feel weak. But that you develop in you the resilience and tenacity to overcome all barriers that try to stop you from moving forward. Every experience you go through becomes your teacher. Failures become your stepping stones to success. Your failures make you richer if you will be open to learning from them. And it is not forbidden to talk to a friend about your failures or insecurities. It is normal to feel inadequate or fearful. It is normal to feel like you want to give up half way through a project. But what is crucial is that we don’t stay there in that moment but gather the courage to pick ourselves up and press on towards our goals.