There are three Ambassadors who stand out for me as inspirational and as sisters I have had the tremendous pleasure to form an indelible bond with thanks to the inner network set up for us here within our World Pulse site.
My dear sister Urmila Chanam and I moved so quickly and easily into a deep friendship. I had followed her campaign as she created a map of her journeys across India meeting so many women and girls, bringing information on menstruation and their bodies, undoing the myth that we are lesser-than because we bleed, in fact that we are special and wonderful, deserving to be cherished, and knocking on doors to bring news to parents that the practise of menstrual huts needs to end. Dressed in a black jacket she has created a new tradition, leading a motorcycle brigade of up to 50 men riding together in commitment to ending stigma toward women when bleeding. It is also her commitment to farmers that has meant a lot to me, spotlighting the elderly woman who won first prize at the Tangerine Festival last year. Whether on the radio, in a government office, in a rural area, in a village square doing street theatre, Urmila continues to dream big and make change happen. What a gift to have become close friends over these past years, as close as can be, as if we have met in person, hoping to meet in person one day. Urmila has built awareness of women’s issues, now recognized by her Government, soaring higher every day, juggling the seemingly impossible, inspiring me for what is possible when a woman puts her heart and soul into creating a world that honours women.
One of the first stories that touched my heart as I began to read on World Pulse was reported by Kirthi Jayakumar. Through her I learned about the Red Elephant Society and Kirthi’s efforts to encourage young people to write letters to each other across religious lines. It was perhaps the first time I explored using our private message system to say hello. Our early discussions soon turned into a cherished friendship. From our early conversations on, I have marvelled at and been inspired by the countless ways that Kirthi has reached out to create self confidence and connection among young people lucky enough to meet and learn from her in person. I have watched videos of her speaking and imagined her spellbound audiences. We have even exchanged books. When Kirthi reaches out, miles disappear, differences are celebrated, mistrust melts away, and new confident ideas form. Across such distance our own discussions have created an indelible friendship that I cherish.
I felt Sherna Alexander’s strength and warmth immediately having been given the chance to co-lead the online group set up by our beloved World Pulse team a few years ago, to gather stories from women who have experienced gender based violence. From our first planning on Skype our collaboration was sealed for me by Sherna’s warmth, and in gratitude that World Pulse had made it possible for me to plan with such a strong and outspoken leader whose vision is to transform her whole country. We were able to meet by chance in person a few years ago and I was able to witness her extraordinary ability to raise the energy of everyone in the room to dream big and trust that we are here to do this together. Such joy to meet and celebrate the deep connection we had already formed. Sherna’s voice rings out leading us all to celebrate our collective power in knowing we are everywhere envisioning and creating together a world without violence toward women.