Urmila and Olutosin together at last in Bangalore, India. Photo © Aneesh Acharya

A Sisterhood Without Borders

Before Olutosin and Urmila met in person, they had already changed each other’s lives.

Although they are divided by their geography—Urmila lives in India and Olutosin in Nigeria—the two women see themselves as sisters. Their online friendship has boosted Urmila’s confidence as a journalist, strengthened Olutosin’s evolving role as a mentor, and surprised both women with the depth of love that can grow from a few supportive messages sent through the Internet. Here they join their voices together to tell their story.

Olutosin: After three years of online friendship, I couldn’t believe I was finally in my dear sister Urmila Chanam’s home in Bangalore, India. Her whole family was there to welcome me with food, love, storytelling, and eager conversation. Urmila’s sister-in-law confided in me, “We have never had such a huge feast in this house before, and I have never anticipated the visit of a foreigner like this.” Her mother went into her wardrobe to decorate my neck and ears with her precious jewels. Her elder brother said to me, “Young woman, I have heard so much about you from Urmila. Please make yourself comfortable. Our home is your home.”

“My daughter,” Urmila’s father advised me, “Go and write your story. Make it into a book for the next generation because I made a mistake. I did not write the story of my experiences in the Indian army. Now I have forgotten everything and it will enter into the grave with me. Write about your experiences, make others read and learn from those facts.”

Later that night as I lay in my bed I reminded myself of Urmila’s father’s advice. I whispered into the wall in the thick darkness: “Olutosin, go and write the story of sisterhood before your memory fails.”

2011: A Friendship Sparks

Urmila: Our relationship began through a medium most consider frivolous—the Internet. Olutosin would read my articles on World Pulse and leave comments. I don’t even remember how the comments on my stories transitioned to undivided support, to affection, to understanding, to love. I began to share everything with her and she returned by sharing everything with me. From messages on World Pulse, we also began communicating through Facebook and Gmail. We used Skype to talk to each other, share our dreams, our aspirations, our thoughts, and our souls. We also shared our disappointments and our heartaches. We shed many tears for each other’s hardships.

Olutosin: On World Pulse, I had already experienced incredible support, motivation, love, solidarity, and kindness. I received six months of citizen journalism training. I was mentored by two great women who were committed long-term to my cause. I had access to help in times of distress or sickness, and recommendations for leadership programs, grants, and awards. I knew I had a home in more than 100 countries. I had a mountain made of sisters. I had international recognition, respect, improved writing skills and self-confidence. I had new dreams. After receiving so much from World Pulse, I decided to give back to every aspiring sister who raised her hand looking for friendship and sisterhood.

Finding a Shoulder to Lean On

Urmila: In the afternoons my bedroom gets very warm. I remember a day when the back of my neck was wet from perspiration. I was drowsy and demoralized like never before. But I knew I could not rest yet. I had to look up more job portals and apply for more jobs. I needed a job and I needed it badly. I had lost count of how many interviews I had been to.

A good job is hard to come by in India, where it seems journalists are sworn to poverty. I was a social development journalist and I couldn’t find newspapers with a beat other than politics, crime, fashion, travel, business, and food! My self-esteem and my resources started to dwindle. There came a time in my life when I began to think how much a meal would cost me and if I could make do with eating just boiled corn in the street before I got home.  

Olutosin: We all need encouragement and support to become better, more focused, individuals. I was driven to stretch my hand to Urmila, who is blessed with openness and desire for change. All I had to offer her was my commitment and loyalty.

Urmila: The day I was shortlisted for a big position in a renowned organization, I still remember finding Olutosin online and breaking the news to her. I was jubilant to have the opportunity to compete for the position. “Go, sister, go!!!” were Olutosin’s words before I left for the interview. I faced a difficult selection procedure, where I learned that this selection had been going on for a few days and there were many others who were competing for the position. I gave it my best, but deep in my heart I had decided I could not expect to get this job. When I walked out I looked back to that big beautiful office, thinking this would be the last time I would see it.

When I met Olutosin online that night, she asked me about my interview. She now tells me that this is what I told her: “I did well but I have no chance of getting that job. There were so many out there who had better qualifications than me.” Olutosin responded with reassurance and unwavering faith in me, which motivated me to hold on to hope and optimism.

Olutosin: Like every sister, Urmila has myriad issues and most of these issues are a mirage; they do not really exist. They are fragments of our imagination, borne out of fear due to our socialization and tradition. I realized that, like me, she needed a push from someone who would just stay behind her and say “go ahead,” just as it was instilled in me by other women on World Pulse.

Passing the Torch

Olutosin: Once, when Urmila sent me an email about a bad day at work, I responded to her with advice that my World Pulse mentor Ma Natalie Safir gave me in 2009: "There are some cases when those people you look up to make you feel as if you are a non-existing rag. It has nothing to do with you; it has a lot to do with them. Some people cannot handle what is right with you." As I went on, Urmila penned down all my advice, just the way I had written down the advice of my World Pulse mentors Ma Natalie Safir and K-Lee Starland.

Urmila: Olutosin has been there to hear what I have to say, to correct me when I waiver, to pick me up when I fall, to boost me when I lack confidence, and to believe in me when things go wrong. This is what I have found in the global sisterhood at World Pulse.

2013: Meeting in Person

Urmila: I could not believe it when Olutosin told me, “I am coming to India!!!!!!!!” She would be traveling to Kerala for a program at an organization called Kanthari. Later, in October, she would come to my city.

Olutosin: I would have an opportunity to meet my dear Urmila! She jumped and screamed when I informed her.

We have our pains and our tears and those moments of fear, but above all, we have one another. We cherish every opportunity to learn from each other.

When I arrived in Kerala, even before Urmila and I had a chance to meet in person, she offered a broad shoulder of support to me. She was always online to chat. “What do you need?” She would ask me. “Do you want your phone to be recharged? Do you want more Maaza (an Indian drink I love)? How can I mail Maaza to Kanthari? Should I send some money to your phone? Do you want to call your daughters?”

Ah, sometimes I would get fed up with her desire to give everything—even what she does not have at hand. I would scream, “I do not want anything!” Urmila’s love and kindness brings tears to my eyes. I could not ask for more. 

Urmila: When Olutosin called me and told me she had taken a train to Bangalore and would reach my city in a few hours’ time, it all began to feel real. I was waiting for her, lost in my thoughts as flashes of what Olutosin and I had shared all these years came to me. My eyes filled with tears remembering how she had been a source of motivation and affection for as long as I had known her. And I had not even met the woman!

A small voice behind me broke my trance. “My sister! Is that you?” were her first words spoken to me in person.

Olutosin: Just imagine, we have been online friends for three years. She has become well-known to me like the back of my palm. I sighted her immediately, waiting by the roadside. “This is my sister,” I informed my roommate who accompanied me. Surprised, she asked me, “How did you know that she is the one?” I smiled and responded, “I don’t see her as an online friend anymore. I have accepted her as my sister and I can recognize every one of my sisters when I see them.”

Urmila: I jumped up and embraced her. We laughed, we hugged, we cried, we screamed. We beamed from within.

Olutosin: Everything stood still at the BEL Circle junction in Bangalore. We had so much to say at that moment; we both started talking without listening to each other. We had bottled up so many unsaid things, waiting for a warm embrace, for the ripe boil of our words to burst out. It was our moment, a time we had patiently waited for these past years.

Urmila: One of the first things I told her was, “I got that job, sister!!”

Breaking Down Barriers

Urmila: A circle was completed that day. I met the woman who had played such an important role in my life for so long. I realized that there isn’t any difference between a ‘real life’ and ‘virtual’ friend—there are just true friends!

Olutosin: World Pulse is a community of great people who are yet to meet. We are not just online people. We exist! We have a pulse, we have blood, we are human, we are clicking away softly at our computers in nooks and crannies throughout the world.

Urmila: Olutosin and I spent an entire day together in my house while she was here. I cooked for her with joy and we ate together as one big family.

This is what I want to say to all women of the world: Don’t you ever doubt that we women can support each other across continents and across manmade barriers. We can be there for each other to share our problems and seek joint solutions—until one fine day distance becomes just a word. Like it did for Olutosin and me.

About Olutosin

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale is the Founder of Star of Hope Transformation Centre in Lagos, Nigeria and a citizen journalist. She has traveled the globe and carries the message to support education of the girl child. She trains women to become entrepreneurs in a bid to strive for economic independence and empowerment. A powerful speaker, she is a change maker in her community, her country, and wherever she goes.





About Urmila

Urmila Chanam is a social development professional in HIV/AIDS, a gender rights activist, and a journalist in Bangalore, India. She works with vulnerable communities including transgendered people, sex workers, and trafficked women and girls. A columnist for a leading English daily, she writes against child marriage, domestic violence, and trafficking of women.

Olutosin and Urmila are currently working together to make a documentary film on Olutosin’s entrepreneurship trainings for marginalized women in remote parts of India. 

And this is just a beginning.

Comment on this Editorial


Lately I have not been on Worldpulse. I am finding myself busy, learning, and progressing but after reading this article, I remember what drew me to worldpulse in the first place, the powerful and supporting community. This story is a reminder of that. Thank you for sharing! God bless your sisterhood and may you guys continue to florish in everything you do:)!

Dear Rochelle,

I am so encouraged and warmed by your words. You are so right when you say that support from sisters was what brought you first to World Pulse. In my journey I found that it's very rare to receive support in a world thats becoming more and more competitive. In here, I have found a world outside of the other world.

love and hugs Urmila Chanam Bangalore, India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

My dearest sister Aimee,

How have you been???? I am like you- when I am touched I cry tears :) Olutosin and I are not two people anymore, she often tells me, we are one.

Much love Urmila Chanam India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Dear Y,

In Olutosin's words, we are the world. We have a pulse. And we have blood. World Pulse is made of people who are yet to meet.

These words inspire me, and I am convinced we will meet too. Till that day let us do our bit, let us walk together

Love and hugs Urmila Chanam India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

This has given hope, and an understanding that world pulse is truly a sisterhood. Being a new member i feel so blessed knowing am going to meet a match like this and together iron will sharpen iron by the grace of the must high.

Dear sister,

Welcome to our family- World Pulse!!!!!!! We are 60,000 women from 180 countries and each day we have a new family member.

In solidarity, Urmila Chanam India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Am so happy for you two, and this is such a wonderful experience for both of you, and also for the rest of us Women to learn from, there is nothing that can separate the Love of God.

When there is Love in your heart, you can do the impossible for even someone who have never met or know. God's Love is true & amazing. I agree with you, there is nothing that can stop us from supporting each other, as sister's if we all speak one voice.

Not even manmade barriers, can stop us. This is something we can all embrace and pratice with time, beacuse the problems we go through are the same, and we all have deferrent ways of seeing things and how we approach certain problems is deferrent.

We can do all things through christ who strenghtens us. Let us not give up.

All the best in the projects you are doing.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale and Urmila Chanam

Stay Blessed.


Dear Hope,

I so believe in the words you spoke, " When there is love in your heart, you can do the impossible for even someone who have never met or know. " Love truly is the motivating force and this very force is abundant in our global sisterhood. I hope this story keeps you bound to our global family at time you lose sight and you lose hope.

Much love Urmila Chanam India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

We should celebrate more sisters working together, sharing their experiences because this smashes all the myths about women not liking each other and pulling each other down. Tosin and Urmila show us that you can connect with anyone - even people you have never met, if you are open, non-judgmental and you listen.

I appreciate all my relationships and especially those I have made on Worldpulse. Lets keep the flag flying.

Best wishes, Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

Dear sister Osai,

In my experience, women are capable of bonding, of overlooking differences and deep compassion. I celebrate Olutosin's friendship everyday. Celebrate yours!!!!

In solidarity, Urmila Chanam, India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Dear sister,

Wish you in advance a merry Christmas!!!!

Hugs, Urmila Chanam, India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

This is just so good. I enjoyed every bit of this story about the wonderful friendship between Urmila and Olutosin. Thank you World Pulse!

Love, Precious

My pen speaks

Dear Precious sister,

I am most delighted to see so many sisters from around th world respond to Olutosin and my story and relate to it, relate to us and aspire for a friendship that we saw, found and kept.

I still remember us thinking aloud together that hey, we must share this with our sisters!!!!!But it was tougher than we thought. One day sitting in Olutosin's guest house, we sat to write and we didn't know where to begin!!!! We were aware of our individual style of writing and didn't know where we would converge.

I am happy the convergence of words happened. Perhaps minds in sync often do that :)

Love and prayers, Urmila Chanam, India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

How gorgeous is that?! Dear Urmila and Olutosin, your story is beautiful, uplifting and, for me, familiar. How heartily I agree that we can support and love each other across many miles, across cultures and across any perceived great divide! No divide is too great when true, devoted friendship is in play.

And Olutosin, I also appreciate what your wonderful mentor said about others sometimes not liking what is right with us. That, in fact, may be the essence of many obstacles. But you both already know never to hide your light under a bushel -- do you know that term? -- just to make others feel less insecure. That is, stand up and shine brightly, and let others follow you. Because, you are leaders now. Oh, yes you are!

With Love,


Sarah Whitten-Grigsby

Dear sister Sarah,

Your words:" Never hide your light under a bushel, just to make others feel less insecure. Stand up and shine bright and let others follow you," is my newly acquired motto sister!!

Thank you for your kind words. I am confident it will keep me to carry on when I am down or disillusioned.

Much love, Urmila Chanam India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

I love every word from your comment, so loving and so uplifting. Thanks darling sister.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre 512 Road F Close Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

Dear Sarah,

You know what, I think I will try it myself now- to try and see under the surface. It would be an interesting exercise. I wonder what all will I discover???

Love and hugs, Urmila Chanam, India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

What a beautiful story of love, sisterhood, and support! I, too, have met World Pulse sisters in person after developing a relationship online. When at last we embrace, it's as if we've grown up together. Thanks to World Pulse, and thanks Urmila and Olutosin for this lovely journal of connection. With love and peace, Julie

Dear Julie,

I am not surprised you have a similar experience. I speak to so many women who have been under the umbrella of World Pulse and tasted what it is to be a one sisterhood, one dream community. Most of all, I have personally tasted how it is to trust and be trusted through these relationships. In today's times, multitudes of people come in and go out of our lives but how many people do we trust and are trustworthy? Very few.

Looking forward to hear more from you.

Love and prayers, Urmila Chanam, India E-mail: urmila.chanam@gmail.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/urmila.ch

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Knowing these two sisters closely,I will state without mincing words that if women could follow this model in being one another's keeper,we will be half way gone in our journey to a better world for women! I love you my sisters! LEINA

We love you my darling sister and YOU KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre 512 Road F Close Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

Dear sister Chi Yvonne,

If only women looked out for women, we wouldn't have to look for support elsewhere!! Thanks a lot for always standing by like a rock of support! You are loved and cherished by me and Olutosin :)

Much love Urmila Chanam

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

The story of your sisterhood is extremely touching and teaches each and everyone of us that our pigmentation is always only skin deep. Love, trust, genuine friendship, and real connections between people (no matter where they hail from) will triumph every time. Thanks for this inspiring narration of two women who reached across the miles, continents and geographical artificial barriers to create an everlasting bond. God bless you both and may your wonderful friendship and sisterhood continue to grow and blossom.


Thanks so much for this comment, distance is a space that is not recognized by love and sisterhood, we close the space with words, e mail, Skype, etc and ultimately by creating a new space in our hearts for our loved ones.

Thanks again.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre 512 Road F Close Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

You are welcome! Keep being an inspiration and great example to women and people everywhere about how peace, love and good will can be spread from one end of the globe to the other if we are only open to trying.


Thanks so much sister, I will always work towards change in our communities....and our women

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre 512 Road F Close Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

Dear Barbara,

I am distressed over the recent racial,discrimination of people who come from north- east part of India, where a guy can just be murdered in broad day light just because he looks different from other Indians and they don't like his hairstyle(Read Nido Tamia case). It is at times like these, we need more people who rise above race and caste and make a new world.

I am encouraged by your words.

In solidarity, Urmila Chanam India

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Isn't it a sad commentary on us as human beings when we can discriminate against our sisters and brothers because we are "different" from each other? I am so sorry to hear about the possibility of a person being murdered just because he looks "different" and someone has issue with the way he styled his hair? Unbelievable and outrageous to say the least. Yes, indeed ALL people need to rise above judging others just because they are from a different caste or race or religion or whatever other criteria. I pray that there will come a time when people are never judged and always respected and viewed as being a part of the human race. Period. Thanks for responding to my comment and keep up the great work, Urmila.


Dear sister Barbara,

I am left to believe that we must rise each and everytime there is a violation. Perpetrators should be told that they cannot flee.

Prayers, Urmila Chanam

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Dear Sisters: God has created a wonderful connection among you...together united you are a force hard to reckon with.. Keep strong and continue the good work!


I so love you two very different women from very different cultures and circumstances. I am hoping with all my might to meet both of you at the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions.