We are living in uncertain times. The world is not the same place since COVID-19, one virus changed the world forever. It has shown the most beautiful and ugly sides of humanity in exaggerated tones, colours and sounds. Where do we go from here? What will lead us out of this quagmire of ugliness we find ourselves in? The resounding answers we hear is Feminist Leadership. From Jacinda Ardern to Angela Merkel and many more women down to the grassroots communities who are involved in the relief, each of them showing us a way to deconstruct the traditional patriarchal approaches and reconceptualizing true development. This resonates with what my work has attempted to do for several years, go down to the most vulnerable girls and women and make them take charge of not just their lives but the destinies of their people.
All feminist journeys start with an ‘Aha’ gender moment. Mine was through an innocent game of playing ‘house’ where I dared to upturn patriarchy and had my cousin brother pretend clean the house. I was quickly reprimanded that cleaning the house is a ‘girl’s job’. Ever since then I have looked at life through the cliched ‘blue and pink’ tinted glasses. What began as a discovery of my immediate world became a life purpose, gender equality in every sphere of life. Since 2002, my work in the development world at VOICE 4 Girls and Soch for Social Change has been with communities, policy makers, grassroots leaders, activists, girls and women where gender equality has been the central focus. It is best put in the words of Anjali, an adolescent girl studying in a government run school in Isnapur, Hyderabad, Telangana, India. She says, “I am a Sakhi, a peer leader. It is time to raise my voice not just for myself but for other girls in my community too. Change cannot and will not stop with me!” Girls and women are forever spreading their circle of solidarity and we need to give them the space to do so. With thousands of stories of bravery like Anjali’s story, I begin to believe that change is possible.
However, this joy is short-lived as I see the amount of work that still needs to be done to ‘clean house’. In more than a decade and a half in the social impact world I have realised that advocates of SDG 5 rarely look at what is going inside their own organisations. With ever declining feminist spaces even within social impact organisations, my work with FAIR SHARE becomes extremely relevant. It shows the mirror to all of us asking us to look within our workspaces, board rooms, work culture and HR policies. As social impact organisations, we need to have the same priorities and policies we apply to the communities we serve. FAIR SHARE helps social impact organisations look deep within themselves to realise this change and to come together for change. I urge organisations to reach out to begin this important work as feminist leadership is the future of the world!