Lessons from my ambassadorial year

Urmila Chanam
Posted August 31, 2017 from India
My year as the World Pulse Ambassador was spent using skype and video conferencing to reach girls and women living in vulnerable environment
To teach them about menstrual hygiene management, sex education, water and sanitation and the importance of having skills to use the internet to get information on different aspect of their life
The applause at Women Deliver 2016 San Francisco when World Pulse Ambassadors were announced
The applause at Women Deliver 2016 San Francisco when World Pulse Ambassadors were announced: I can never forget this moment in my life. Women in another corner celebrating women in another corner! (1/34)

Last year in the International Conference, Women Deliver held in San Francisco in USA, fifteen women were announced as World Pulse Ambassadors.Founder/CEO of the world's largest social network of women leaders,Jensine Larsen made the announcementin the global platform, introducing each woman as a leader in her own right. I heard there was an air of celebration as the audience got on its feet and applauded. One of the women was me.

I was not in San Francisco at that time but I could still feel the wave of joy. I wantedto accept this responsibility placed upon me to advocate for digital empowerment of girls and women but coupled with this moment of joy was also a little voice of uncertainty of how I would carry out my role, if I would match up to expectations. To be able to do justice, the conviction that'sneeded to back your dedication comes from reports on how the gender digital gap is growing wider with Africa reporting the largest divide at 23% and America the narrowest at 2 %(https://webfoundation.org/2016/10/digging-into-data-on-the-gender-digita...) making it all the more important to bring more girls and women 'online'.

My message to women who will come after me as ambassadors is attimes youwill wonder how a program could be organised unless you havefunding, would people be interested in your message, who are the people most likely to be receptive, is it possible to even carry out all the activities and initiatives while you have a fulltime job( like I did), run your own organization or have family commitments.The 'how' will become a constant but let it not be a barrier because this is what I discovered on what could be your message, the do's and don'ts, what approach works and what you eventually will walk away with at the end (read on) .

The year I spent as Ambassador of World Pulse was super eventful. In the last twelve months where Irepresented World Pulse in international and national conferences as a speaker, my message was to increasethe use of internet by girls and women and building connections between them as a vehicle to address social norms that lie at the crux of the manysocial problems in India or elsewhere.To champion digital empowerment of girls, women and the marginalized it is critical to connect the dots between these social evils to women not using their voice to end them. It is important to get more girls and women online so they can tell their stories( and issues pertinent to their community, political background or cultural setting) and pitch for the change they want to see.

One such conference was theUNICEF National Consultation on Social Norms and the Rights of Women and Children attended by close to 100academic professionals on27-28 March 2017 in Bangalore, India where discussions centered around impact of social norms on the development of children and women, on antenatal period in a tribal woman's life, on child birth practices, on feeding practices,on education, on gender based violence, on menarche and the culture of silence, on addressing challenges on maternal, child and adolescent health as experiences by Health Department, gender stereotypes in media.

Initially, you would have to work a little to come up with how use of internet could be seen as a related subject associated with a solution to wide number of problem. It took me a day to come up with how I would fit the vision of World Pulse and use of internet into a discussion on social norms and in this forum meant for sociologists, development communication experts, social researchers and program practitioners Ipitchedfor the role media(World Pulse) and citizen journalism(stories of women by women and for women) could play in changing negative social norms to positive social norms and designing outcomes related to the rights of women and children.

After the first time, it comes easy to visualize the depth of internet use in every possible space of intervention. This is when you truly become an advocate of digital empowerment of women.

I always like to quote Chi Yvonne (https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/leina)and what she achieved using digital skills. Look at the social evil of breast ironing in Cameroon where mothers believe this measure will prevent rape of their daughters. Chi Yvonne who is the Founder of Gender Danger, an NGO working on education towards the eradication of harmful traditions against women and girls in Africa (http://genderdanger.webs.com/) used internet, digital skills of writing her story, her recommendation on how and why to end breast ironing using hercomputer to post it online on World Pulse website(https://www.worldpulse.com/fr/node/182) and other web-based platforms like Facebook and even on herorganization's website and succeeded to bring globalvisibility to this inhuman practice, campaign for its eradication, aligning like minded individuals and organizations to support her and in the process develop a resistance to practices that are harmful for girls.

World Pulse envisions the transitioning of a girl/woman from an existence of being a mere spectator to being vocal and suggest solutions and lead her community to change in partnership with other women around the world.

My learning from this is you do not have to set aside a program specifically for advocating use of internet; you can integrate this message in many of your current activities and public appearances during your job, your own organization work too. Additionally, if you need a success story of a woman change maker who uses internet to enhance impact, you will not face any difficulty in identifying her because World Pulse is an encyclopedia of women leaders. I found Olutosin Oladoshu Adebowale from Nigeria, Zephaniah from Pakistan, Neema Namadamu from Congo, Beatrice Achieng Nas from Republic of Uganda and so many other inspiring women!

If you do not have staff or a team to help you, do what I did! I reached out for help from World Pulse sisters I was close to and who helped me with their expertise. Busayo Obisakin from Nigeria helped me out during the Women Digital Skills Training I conducted in April 2016 for a small group of 10 women sales professionals in Bangalore(https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/groups/voices-our-future-virtual...) by being my co-facilitator using Skype to connect to us in India and sharing her experience in using internet, World Pulse and digital skills to enhance her work. Olutosin Adebowale, Stella Paul and Upasana Chauhan- all World Pulse women extended their support by being panelists on the International Women's Day Skype Program held on 8th March 2017 where close to 30 callers from around the globe joined the skype based conversation and many viewers connected to our Facebook Live streaming(https://www.facebook.com/events/195342270949672/)/

During the Nepal National Training on Menstrual Hygiene Management held in Nagarkot in February 2017 I conducted sessions on digital tools to enhance program implementation on menstrual hygiene management program to 60 participants from Nepal and Pakistan who were government officials from different departments. The participants shared how useful that session had been to unlock their own apprehensions on sharing on social media or on online portals for fear of loss of privacy, lack of idea on benefits of networking and thinking it was only for the new generation to be online.

Noteworthy are accounts of two of my colleagues who were also trainers like me in that program who shared that the session had completely changed their view on being connected to others.

Abdulwahid Ahmed Jama working with Kenya Red Cross Society shares his experience of attending the digital skills session and says,'This training was extremely useful in instilling in me a culture of sharing information in real time. I found there is no greater advocacy than using social media to push for a cause.'

Ayesha Riaz, another participant from Pakistan who works in the Education Department says,' Digital skills training was so inspiring because no body receives training on this topic unless your line of education is this.People might buy the latest gadgets but how many know how to use it well and for good?

And then there were ample opportunities in myfriend circle, among colleagues, with family where I couldgive hand-holding support to set up a Skype account, or an e-mail, take a picture and share it with friends and so on. You will be surprised to find the number of people who find the confidence to be online through your help.

Take every travel opportunity to meet World Pulse sisters who live there or are in transit. Meeting women of World Pulse andbeing personally known to them encourages us all when we see the numbers we are and the collective strength in us! I remember how difficult it was for me and World Pulse Kashmiri journalist Aliya Bashir https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/aliya-bashirto meet in Mumbai where we both had gone on work. It had been a time when the entire country was facing a unique crisis of demonetization and we had no cash at hand. Aliya Bashir was staying in a hotel 15 km from mine. I had more cash with me than Aliya had so I decided to make the effort instead and took a cab to her hotel. I waited in the lobby of the five star hotel looking out for her as known from the pictures I had seen of Aliya. We have known each other for seven years on World Pulse but this was the first time we would be meeting. When I saw her coming with her arms open, my heart knew no joy greater than this.

I also met Paulina Nayrahttps://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/paulina-lawsin from Philippines and Phionah Musumba https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/phionah-musumbafrom Keyna in a conference in New Delhi earlier this year.We were meeting for the first time. We exchanged gifts, hugs, kisses and tears. The women sitting adjacent to us were impressed by our reunion and love for each other and one asked us, ' Can you please share with us more about the love you three have for each other?'. What better way than this to introduce World Pulse to others?

The journey that was meant to facilitate learning process in others also left me with lessons that willchange my life forever, one being that the biggest resource we have is OURSELVES and with that alone, we can move mountains. The other learning is, digital skills are not stand-alone topics, subject of learning or occupation; instead it is a skill that can be used alongside any other activity in any industry you work in or in your personal life- everyone can benefit from it! I found several teams and persons I want to continue working with, a new confidence and peace of doing my best in my circumstances. I also drew closer to World Pulse sisters and take delight in being considered as a focal person or point of reference for other women who train others.

I thank all my friends, sisters, volunteers and others who supported me to accomplish the goals I had set for myself.Thank you World Pulse for giving me the opportunity to serve the global sisterhood and my World Pulse family.

* Note: This article is dedicated to conclude a very important phase of my life of having servedas World Pulse Ambassador and the lessons I learnt I share with others so that they can lead with enhanced efforts.

Comments 17

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Jill Langhus
Aug 31, 2017
Aug 31, 2017

Hi Urmila. Thanks for sharing your inspiring and grateful story. It sounds like you are making a big impact and learning a lot:-)

Urmila Chanam
Aug 31, 2017
Aug 31, 2017

Thank you sister Jlanghus, the journey meant to facilitate learning process for others also taught me so many things- one being that the biggest resource we have is OURSELVES and with that alone we can move mountains. Keep in touch.

Step by step we walk,

Much love,

Urmila Chanam,

India

Veronica Ngum Ndi
Sep 02, 2017
Sep 02, 2017

Hi Urmila your are a great ambassador.Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring beginners like me who are striving to be ambassadors in the nearest future.

Veronica

Urmila Chanam
Sep 02, 2017
Sep 02, 2017

Dear Ndi Veronica Ngum,

Using your voice becomes easier if you have digital skills because that has the power to reach across geographies, oceans, cultural barriers and prejudice. I share my learnings from the one year I spent advocating digital empowerment of girls and women on World Pulse, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other online sharing platforms. Many women like yourself, my friend will benefit from this sharing and your own efforts will be more advanced version and you will be forewarned and prepared for your journey. Let us use this opportunity to connect the dots. Keep in touch and keep sharing.

Hugs and kisses,

Urmila

Gisele Beer
Sep 02, 2017
Sep 02, 2017

Great Urmila.everyone woman should face her fears and make her voice heard like u did.this really helps in bringing change.they will always be time for everything no matter ur busy work schedule u still had time to empower women on the importance of internet in this digital world.I pray up coming ambassadors copy ur steps .stay focus.cheers!!!

Urmila Chanam
Sep 02, 2017
Sep 02, 2017

Dear Gisele,

The greatest joy is sharing and making others bold and resolute in their path and you find strength from each other to walk together and pave for change. Its funny how you can manage things if you really want it to work it out. Thanks for reading.

Much love always,

Urmila

Olutosin
Sep 02, 2017
Sep 02, 2017

Ambassador Urmila, salute. You are a great example and I urge other leaders to follow your advice, suggestion and advice. This is what I did; I also did mine like yours, I integrated Worldpulse into all our programmes. It works and I am doing that presently too.

you are a great ambassador, sisyer and friend.

Urmila Chanam
Sep 02, 2017
Sep 02, 2017

My precious friend and sister,

Thank you for remaining the pillar of strength in my life and supporting me in all my initiatives. World Pulse program on building digital skills enhances personal and professional lives and we both are the living examples of that statement. Sending you loads of love from Bangalore!

Love and hugs

Urmila

Sister Zeph
Sep 03, 2017
Sep 03, 2017

My sister Urmila 

What an inspiration you are and what a great work you have done, you are a leader by birth and a blessing for girls and women of our world, I admire you a lot for all that great work which you have done, you are not only transforming lives of women but of coming generations too. I love you so much as always  

Urmila Chanam
Sep 03, 2017
Sep 03, 2017

My sister Zephaniah,

I am so lucky to win your love and friendship. Thanks for supporting me and for the way you stand up for girl's education in Pakistan. I too hold you in the highest regard for your courage for it is not easy to stand up and brave up against a culture that dominates girls and women. One day we too will meet in person, hug and dance in joy. Let us walk together.

With all my love and prayers,

Urmila

Jensine Larsen
Sep 05, 2017
Sep 05, 2017

You are a beacon my sister!  How do you keep rising higher every day??  I celebrate your determined spirit. Your words are opening doors for so many more.

Urmila Chanam
Sep 07, 2017
Sep 07, 2017

Dear sister Jensine,

I am so happy to play my part and so proud of how you play yours to encourage all women on World Pulse. Sending you lots of love from India.

Hugs and kisses,

Urmila

Obisakin Busayo
Sep 06, 2017
Sep 06, 2017

Dear Urmila,

You are a great ambassador my sister and you are simply inspiring and amazing!! Keep the good work, keep moving on!!

Love

Busayo

Urmila Chanam
Sep 07, 2017
Sep 07, 2017

Dear Ambassador Busayo,

I am endeared by how you stood with me, helped me even when you had so much on your own plate. Thanks for being there.Love you always.

In solidarity,

Urmila Chanam 

Sophie Ngassa
Sep 14, 2017
Sep 14, 2017

Dear sister Urmila, your story is so inspiring. I read it 3 times to make sure I do not miss any word. Yes! you are a power house.I follow your advice taking one step at a time. Thank you for sharing your love.

Urmila Chanam
Sep 14, 2017
Sep 14, 2017

Dear Sophie,

Greetings from India! I am so happy to hear you benefited from my story. No matter how long it takes to pen it down or how busy you are, its worth it to share it! Keep in touch.

Much love,

Urmila

Sophie Ngassa
Sep 14, 2017
Sep 14, 2017

Please dear i sent you a message in box. Thanks