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.
Today, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one of the leading exporter of food but look a little deeper and you will find, we have also managed to bring a great divide-not just economic or between the rural and urban but of differing stance on the rights of girls and women. In one part of the country,women are being given dignityand human rights and laws are being improved to address crimes against women like rape, while in other parts of India, as in Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh, two sisters are ordered by the village council to be raped, paraded naked, their face blackened as punishment for the actions of their brother(he brother had eloped with a married woman from a dominant caste).
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 effort is to dispel the myths and taboos around menstruation and open conversations with girls and women on their bodies, sexuality and menstruation with an aim to empower them with accurate information and an ability to render value to themselves.Girls and women , when made to shed this inhibition around their bodies and sexuality, 'break the silence' around menstruation.
I also would like to see information on health and well being vested in common people and not just medical practitioners and research scientists and do not believe that only the most educated have the capacity to understand.The video attached was captured during a menstrual hygiene lab conducted for adolescent school girls and lady teachers in remote village in Andhra Pradesh, India and I found anyone can master information about their bodies and health- even this little girl, if taught.
Inclusion of every section of our society in knowledge sharing is a prerequisite to building stronger communities.
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 reason I 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.'
Reach me at
My Vision for the Future
A world where a girl/woman’s dignity, self-respect, aspirations, education, avenues and livelihood are not subject to societal and culturally imposed myths, taboos and stigma around menstruation or their bodies/sexuality/biology.
- Campaigning for a world free from myths, taboos and stigma around menstruation
- Advocating for right to dignity for girls and women during periods
- Breaking the Silence Campaign
- On Impact Television Talk Show
- Silence Broken, a short film that will challenge the cultural norm of untouchability of girls/women in periods
- Breaking the Silence- Most powerful campaign in the country
- On American Community radio, KBOO Bread and Roses
- Times of India
- MTV, music and social messaging to stop justifying rape
- National Laadli Award 2015
- International Youth NGOs Summit (IYONS) 2015
- My article on Afghan Zariza: "Afghanistan’s HIV/AIDS Crisis: A Moment of Truth"
- My article on Women International Perspective: "As I Remember Her: A Story of a Child Bride in India"
- My article on Women International Perspective: "Ima Keithel: A Symbol of Women’s Empowerment in Manipur"
- It takes 3 hrs to say ‘vagina’ sans giggles
My Topic Interests
- Human Rights
- Technology & Innovation
My Region Interests
- Asia Pacific
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- Middle East and North Africa
- North America
- South and Central Asia
- Sub-Saharan Africa