The reality of my country:
Hi! I am Urmila Chanam.I come from India-the second most populous country in the world where for every 100 kilometres, you will find a new language among the people. There are as many communities and ethnic groups as there are religions and belief systems. We have spent sixty-nine years since our independence from British colonial rule struggling to find peace and understanding in this diversity and to attain food security, education, equality, livelihood opportunities,health, survival and empowerment of the marginalized.
An unrelenting patriarchy, stiff caste system that doesn't favour women, gender discrimination, sex determined abortions- female foeticide and infanticide, alarming drop in the child sex ratio and obsession with the male child, high maternal mortality, child marriage, dowry and the increasing crimes of rape and honor killing - India is all of these.
This reality about the Indian woman never escapes each one of us and we lead our lives daily, side-by-side with our vulnerabilities and situation. I often tell my friends that the only difference between an empowered woman and another is the ability to talk about our problems and reach out for help.
The distance and my journey:
I travel to remote villages in different parts of India and overseas to educate girls and women in schools, educational institutions and villages on the biology of menstruation, its hygienic management and safe and environment friendly disposal of used sanitary material. My goal is broader than just dissemination of accurate information alone and it lies in helping girls and women to shed this inhibition around their bodies and sexuality and 'break the silence' around menstruation.
I am convinced that we can move from ‘shame’ to ‘pride’ and begin to view periods as a life giving phenomenon and not something to be ashamed of.
I am convinced that there is great shift in the status and dignity of women in my country and community when women stop believing that they are 'untouchable' when they bleed every month.
Empowerment ignites from the first match of finding a perspective, a voice and ability to make choices.
For this reasonI called my campaign ' Breaking the Silence' because the biggest barrier to women's health and aspirations is our habit to remain silent in our suffering, challenges and crisis. With finding a voice there is finding a life of empowerment.
Breaking the Silence is an individual initiative that operates in nine states in India and across four countries globally in partnership with NGOs, civil society organizations, media organizations, government, other implementing agencies and the community closely. In 2015 it won the UNFPA National Laadli Awards for the Most Powerful Campaign in the country.
It wasn't always like this:
But it wasn't always like this.
A little over six years ago I joined World Pulse and spent time reading, looking and following empowered women from around the world and their individual stories, their journeys and their aspirations. It looked so perfect yet distant till gradually, over a period of time I began wanting that for myself. I took one tiny step at a time till I covered a sizeable distance and looked back to find myself to have developed into a leader in my community in my own little way.
My journey with World Pulse is a testimony of the power of women and digital empowerment. World Pulse offers a unique platform for women worldwide to connect to each other, talk about their problems and seek solutions together. This opened a new world where I had access to information on every aspect of my life, I built my level of competence, I found friends, supporters and well wishers here who believed in my work and I found immense potential for opportunities to advance myself and my cause.The internet has made this relationship possible and why shouldn't we utilise this amazing resource that enables us to 'reach out for help' and unite our voices?
How I introduce myself to others:
I love it when I say, ' I am Urmila from World Pulse.'