I Became A Global Grassroots Leader Through The Power Of My Written Words

Urmila Chanam
Posted April 2, 2018 from India
In a village in Bagalkote district in Karnataka state in India
What writing has meant to me over the years
What writing has meant to me over the years (1/5)

A divorce is not an end to a marriage. It’s the beginning of a life where people see you as a failure in all other aspects of your capability. Your conversations are cut in between, your points of view are overridden, easy references to your personal life are made in connotation to the current debate and you see yourself lose status in your family, friend circle, work space and society at large. All your qualifications fade in comparison to not having a husband anymore!

It was during this phase in my life way back in the time between 2008-2012 that I first started writing columns and articles in an English daily in Manipur, the Sangai Express which still has the largest circulation. Writing gave me a chance to be heard when no one was listening to me. Writing gave me equality, it allowed me to finish what I had to say without interruption. My weekly column by the name ‘Sunday Sentiments’ not just gave me many followers and admirers, but it gave me my lost respect. I healed from my personal loss after I began writing. I had no time left with me for indulging in self-pity or regrets. I had so much to look forward to with each new article in my head.

Gradually, over the years, through changing jobs between 2012-14, writing became a means to explore the world outside of my own life and I stepped onto the different issues of social justice in our society. I began writing for development media platforms like World Pulse, India Water Portal, the Alternative, Northeast SUN Magazine, the Women International Perspective as I delved deeper into issues affecting girls and women while keeping a 9 to 5 regular job. I began reading more. My world broadened. This was soon to be followed by the inevitable; the duality began to affect my health and peace and coincided with the time, my article on the silence and shame surrounding menstruation won me my first journalism award, the UNFPA Laadli Award for Gender Sensitivity in 2013. I was ready to go one step further from writing to begin to work around finding solutions and that is why I say, words are not thoughts but action in the making.

It was the following year in 2014, I began my global campaign ‘Breaking the Silence’ to end myths, taboos and stigma on menstruation through on-ground outreach, educating girls and women in different parts of India and an active digital action campaign using technology and internet to influence mass perspective. Writing took me from journalism to social work but what amazed me was I never lost touch with my writing which remained at the heart of whatever I did.

Thick into social work now, my work takes me to different regions and cultural context and different levels from strategy, vision building, research, advocacy with the government and multiple stakeholders, training and capacity building, public speaking, program management, knowledge management besides behaviour change communication. And with each passing year and a new skill learnt, writing still remains my biggest strength in my work. While many can implement programs and activities, very few can write or write to do justice to the work that has been carried out.

My boss from my first job in rural development once said, “No matter how great the work has been, if it has not been captured in writing it has no meaning because its impact remains limited to the few beneficiaries of that intervention while writing and sharing about it, would have led to the possibility of replication and scale.”

From writing articles and columns in newspapers, magazines and web-based media platforms, I began writing for other reasons at different times. Writing has saved a project from being shelved and brought continued funding thus making it possible for girls and women to receive education on menstrual health, brought team members from other countries and continents closer to each other’s vision and activities (through Twitter and tagging colleagues) and helped built team spirit, aligned like-minded people to come together and join forces to strengthen each other’s goals and brought the possibility of fighting for our rights outside of courtrooms and finding justice.

I have used my writing to share experiences, insights gained from the field and furnish recommendations to the government through my articles. There is a lot of secondary research/reading a social worker and development professional does before starting work in a region that aids reflection on the right approach and strategy. For instance, before meeting government officials in a district in Haryana I used my waiting room time to read about the gender profile of the place and read several articles online. Writers feed doers, policy makers and implementers, even motivation comes from the written word we are surrounded with on a daily basis. I am sure the writer of that article that helped me formulate my strategy will never know her contribution to my work on menstrual hygiene management.

The impact of writing can never be measured, no, it’s not possible but it can be sensed.

Besides that, writing on menstrual hygiene management has raised awareness among others and I find many more champions have risen who are advocating for a world free from stigma on menstruation. This is where I say again that writing gifts your experience and energy to others who then take the torch ahead to run into different directions on the earth. Change travels through the power of written words.

I can be most honest when I write than when I speak because this is that one space in time where I know I will not see the face of criticism, suspicion or interruption. It is just me and what I have to say and a tunnel that opens to a person who is keen to listen to me. I can afford to stammer, be tongue tied or shy and yet complete my thought process through my written words.

Writing has healed me, built my life, given me aspirations, made few of my dreams come true, made me confident, enthusiastic, positive, loving and beautiful inside and given me friends and admirers. Writing has given me a tool that can open many doors with ease.

“I still remember your story titled What’s your name, Sir. It was so funny,” a stranger told me when introduced in a function and my mind raced to the year I had written that. 2011. Writing is eternal; it has no shelf life.

                                                                                                                                   * * *

This article was originally published on Youth Ki Awaaz as part of its #WhyIWrite campaign on 31st March 2018 on its 10th anniversary. Link to the story: https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2018/03/writing-helped-me-become-a-global-g...

For any query or discussion related to this article you may reach out to me at urmila.chanam@gmail.com, visit my website http://breakingthesilencereddroplets.com/

 

Comments 47

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Rahmana Karuna
Apr 02, 2018
Apr 02, 2018

WOW!!!! just WOW. thank you so very much for writing and posting this Urmila. So much wisdom. very articulate. i hope you continue to follow your heart with passion. The women of the world can only benefit from what you are doing. Nurture yourself well, if i could i would give you a hand massage after a rose water soak to keep those fingers tapping away!! :-) Rahmana

Urmila Chanam
Apr 02, 2018
Apr 02, 2018

Dear Rahmana,

Oh my love, how much I would appreciate a massage ha ha ha! You know most times I am so tired especially during my trips that even a beautician giving me a haircut can make me go off to sleep! Nurturing and self love are so so important.

Hugs
Urmila Chanam
India
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

Tamarack Verrall
Apr 02, 2018
Apr 02, 2018

My dear Sister,

I don't know that I have ever read such a brilliant piece on what writing can do. Your own journey, strengthened with every piece you wrote, is a blueprint toward empowerment and this post is a roadmap for how to develop a movement nationally and internationally. You have put into words the power of what we have together globally here within our storytelling and news sharing in WorldPulse. What a treasure you are. This is profoundly inspiring.

With love in Sisterhood,
Tam

Urmila Chanam
Apr 02, 2018
Apr 02, 2018

Dearest Tam,

I am privileged to have you in my life to appreciate, encourage, support and love me and the biggest empowerment of an individual comes with acceptance. Recently, I met a young Pakistani man who looked broken in spirit and learnt he grew up on his own without parents. I saw his hunger for someone who would listen to him, support him, encourage him. Now a grown man, he might be physically developed but we all need to be listened to and appreciated and when that does not happen, our existence is stressful and filled with sorrow.

Sister, hugs to you from me. Hope to give you a hug in person one day.

Kisses
Urmila Chanam,
India
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

Tamarack Verrall
Apr 05, 2018
Apr 05, 2018

Dear Urmila,
So many men and boys are broken and hopeless from lack of support and inhuman expectations laid on them. Your love shown to this young man will have undoubtedly changed his life. We are working for all of us, and you shine starlight on the path. I too, look forward to the day we get to meet in person!

Urmila Chanam
Apr 08, 2018
Apr 08, 2018

Dear Tamarack,

Few weeks back in a school when I was engaging young boys, they exclaimed why are you talking to us about menstruation you should talk to girls! I was a bit amused but I thought deep and found that boys and men are not clear about their roles on issues that affect girls and women. This is where communication is so critical. Thanks for reading my story sister.

Hugs and kisses
Urmila

Olutosin
Apr 02, 2018
Apr 02, 2018

Beautifully pieces together. I am happy to be your sister. Keep on writing, it heals. Love.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 02, 2018
Apr 02, 2018

My precious sister,

In these pieces did you see yourself too? You have been such an important part of all the phases in my life and I cannot seem to wait for July this year when I will take a flight from Bangalore to Lagos to be with you, live with you, eat with you, sleep with you, talk with you, laugh with you and work with you.

Please tell my brother, your husband and my beautiful children that very soon I will be cooking an Indian meal for them.

Much love always
Urmila Chanam
India
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

jlanghus
Apr 03, 2018
Apr 03, 2018

Hi Urmila. Thanks for sharing your amazing and powerful story about the written word. I totally agree with being able to be more honest when writing versus speaking. I also feel more authentic and real, as well. It's easier for me as an introvert, and a perfectionist, to write how I really feel and to communicate in a more accurate manner than if I was on the spot speaking it.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 04, 2018
Apr 04, 2018

Dear sis,

That was exactly the case with me. My voice used to always get over powered by more forceful people who spoke more and discarded others speech.Thank you for your encouragement my sister.

Love always
Urmila Chanam
India
urmila.chanam2gmail.com

jlanghus
Apr 05, 2018
Apr 05, 2018

Hi Urmila. That's interesting:) Yes. Exactly. More extroverted, or egotistical people will and do just talk over you. I always think I'm being polite and respectful when I let other people talk, and I still do believe that, but the other side of the spectrum is, like a power-play to me, that people that are used to talking over others just want their opinion and voice to be heard and don't seem to care what others opinions or voices are. You're welcome:) Have a great day!

Valéria Barbosa
Apr 03, 2018
Apr 03, 2018

Dear sister, it is so special to read that writing has healed you. I am well aware that writing can save us, for it has saved me. I sensitized myself to each of his sentences and strengthened myself to continue writing. Gratitude for the generosity of sharing your story. Cheers.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 04, 2018
Apr 04, 2018

Dear Valeria,

I suppose we are talking about the Holy Scriptures here? What a great example of writing that can guide, help, heal, give peace.

Love and hugs
Urmila Chanam
India
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

Nnenna Hannah okoh-Metu
Apr 04, 2018
Apr 04, 2018

Keep writting,you inspire me.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 25, 2018
Apr 25, 2018

Thanks my sister Nnenna. I encourage you to share too all about your thoughts, experiences, aspirations so more and women also believe that sharing is the first step to finding a solution.

Love
Urmila Chanam

Sister Zeph
Apr 05, 2018
Apr 05, 2018

My sister Urmila

You are amazing and you inspire me everyday, divorce is seen as a taboo in our culture still but basically it shows your power and your No to the wrong which was happening to you, you are so brave and your writing has an ever lasting impact on lives of hundreds of women around the world, Love you my sister

Urmila Chanam
Apr 26, 2018
Apr 26, 2018

Dearest of all Zephaniah,

I am inspired by your resilience and persuasion and I admire you so much. Our love for each other will prove that women look much beyond political beliefs and at larger humanitarian values. Thanks my sister for reading.

Love always,
Urmila Chanam

Apr 26, 2018
Apr 26, 2018
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Loreen Meda
Apr 09, 2018
Apr 09, 2018

Urmila, I am beyond words. I love writing also but I have not been as diligent as you when following this passion. I know how it is when people refer to you and your circumstances when talking about negative things only or use you as an example so much so that even young people loose respect and start talking down to you. I am inspired by how you took this negative time and channelled it into something positive.

I hope know I will learn a lot from you, I am trying to write a Children's book. I am hoping to write a book that can possibly be made into a children television programme. Your story is very encouraging. I will share it with the ladies in my group

Urmila Chanam
Apr 25, 2018
Apr 25, 2018

Oh my sister Loreen,

I am thrilled to hear about your writing project because children are so special and doing something for them comes from only love, love, love! I have an author friend by the name Aditi De who lives with me in Bangalore city of India and has written a book for children. Few weeks ago while sharing our experiences she was telling me how gratifying it was to write a book for children. I wish you all the best.

I have lived 11 years of struggle and now when I am in a better position, I still know there is a long way to go still. One thing constant is I will keep writing and keep trying to overcome. Keep writing my sister keep in touch.

Much love always
Urmila Chanam
India

Immaculate Amoit
Apr 09, 2018
Apr 09, 2018

Dear Urmila,

I can relate that writing does help us heal, I have healed from my many losses and grief through writing. And writers do give us a lot of information and helping us gain new insifhts and perspective on issues we are passionate about or gain knowledge on issues we have no idea on. Keep writing my sister. You ate an inspiration. Your writing changed me too.

Hugs
Amoit

Urmila Chanam
Apr 26, 2018
Apr 26, 2018

Yes Amoit, knowledge does come into us seeing in slowly and sinking deep into our minds through the written and read words. It could mean so many different things to different people.

Love always
Urmila Chanam
India
urmila.chanam@yahoo.com

Phionah Musumba
Apr 12, 2018
Apr 12, 2018

Amazingly brilliant, my sister!

Urmila Chanam
Apr 26, 2018
Apr 26, 2018

Thanks a lot my sister Phionah. How are you doing? Are you in India this year too for the Women Economic Forum? I did not make it this year owing to having to focus on Manipur.

Much love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam

Anjana Vaidya
Apr 13, 2018
Apr 13, 2018

Dear Urmila,

Thank you for sharing a nice piece on writing. Indeed writing is so powerful, it is an extension of thinking. You explore a lot and find much more things, while you do preparation. Keep writing and being much more powerful.
Best regards,
anjana

Urmila Chanam
Apr 26, 2018
Apr 26, 2018

Dear Anjana,

I am happy to get a message from you and hope to be in touch with you, going forward.Thanks for taking out time to understand me and my moments in this story.

Hugs
Urmila Chanam

rachel_2
Apr 13, 2018
Apr 13, 2018

Urmila, this is beautiful! I'm so happy to read that you've found a way to courageously rebuild your self esteem despite the social judgements adn put-downs with which you were surrounded. You're so right about writing having no shelf-life - I love the image of a tunnel leading to the person who does want to engage with what you're saying, and the valuable point that in writing you get to finish your point without the criticiser butting in! This is so clear and eloquent. I wish you stength and courage to go on doing the invaluable work you've chosen - you're already acheiving so much!

Urmila Chanam
Apr 26, 2018
Apr 26, 2018

Dear Rachel,

I come from a country where value of a boy child is noticeable right from the time the baby is born and the girl child and the adult woman is only a second class citizen in her home and society. Her needs come last.What works best is to make yourself special to you first and always believe you are special. Self care is not selfish, it is to protect yourself from the attack of others. Writing is a way of self care for me and it is so gratifying. Thank you sister for taking out time to read.

Love and prayers
Urmila Chanam

terri_2
Apr 18, 2018
Apr 18, 2018

Dear Urmila,
Thank you for your empowering words. As a divorced woman I understand your pain on that subject. Society considers marriage the norm, but if that marriage is not loving, equal or empowering and we as women chose to exit it- it gives us a certain stigma. I hope that your words encourage other women not to have shame if they are divorced. At least in this day and age we have the power and choice to disentangle ourselves from a situation that no longer serves our individual Pirpose.

Keep writing and empowering both men and women. The world needs your wise words as well.

Angie

Urmila Chanam
Apr 25, 2018
Apr 25, 2018

Yes, you are right my sister about the stigma. That has always followed me no matter which place I go to. Additionally, a divorced woman also has safety issues and some men believe we are available. What kept me strong were few things like a desire to stand on my own feet and be economically independent and another was World Pulse and its stabilizing impact on me in terms of the exposure it gave me and how it built my writing and communication skills.

Much love
Urmila Chanam
India

suzette_2
Apr 18, 2018
Apr 18, 2018

Hi Urmilla,

You are a WINNER!
Yes, you are a fine example to people across the globe, especially those who are blanketed by despair.
It takes a lot of persistent positive energy to rise with the sun so to speak, to kindle positive vibes that will help one to claim each day as a new gift. To soar and accomplish the passion of one’s heart admits negativity.
Continue to nurture the circle of Love my sister.

One GOD, one people, one LOVE!

Urmila Chanam
Apr 25, 2018
Apr 25, 2018

I love you sister for saying such beautiful words to me. You made me smile.

Hugs
Always
Urmila Chanam
india

suzette_2
Apr 25, 2018
Apr 25, 2018

Cool! More Strength (:-). We stand tall as sisters transforming our lives in positive ways. Supporting each other, sharing caring one for all all for one.

One GOD, one people, one LOVE!

Juliet Acom
Apr 23, 2018
Apr 23, 2018

Cheers Urmila!

For encouraging women to love themselves, speak out, see the glass half full.
Thanks for sharing your story and the amazing work that you are doing.
Continue to inspire us.

Best wishes

Urmila Chanam
Apr 25, 2018
Apr 25, 2018

Oh my sister, it was not always like this. It took 11 long years, several jobs and personal experiments, lot of luck, lot of love and good friends but I am so glad I am here. Thanks for reaching out to me and reading my story. Hope we will share many more in the coming days on World Pulse.

Love and kisses,
Urmila Chanam,
India
urmila.chanam@yahoo.com

judy_2
May 08, 2018
May 08, 2018

Your writing is powerful. You write with such passion and honesty. You are on a life changing journey changing many lives. Thank you for sharing your journey with us

Urmila Chanam
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

Dear Judy,

I am so happy to hear from you that my journey was understood by you to have been not an easy one. The best thing that came out of this phase is the connect I developed with y soul and that led me to deeper understanding of others. Thanks for reading and be in touch.

Love,
Urmila Chanam,
India
urmila.chanam@yahoo.com

QueenVirtuous
May 14, 2018
May 14, 2018

Dearest Urmila Chanan,

Oh, you're a wonderful writer. I can feel your energy from behind the screen. It's contagious!

Permit me to say that your divorce was a blessing in disguise. Look how much depth and warmth and purity it has brought out in your personality! Without that experience, we probably would never have known you as we know you today. I love what you have transformed into.

I love writing. I'm currently designing my own blog now, and reading this makes me want to finish building the blog today already and start writing! Writing truly is cathartic.

“No matter how great the work has been, if it has not been captured in writing it has no meaning because its impact remains limited to the few beneficiaries of that intervention while writing and sharing about it, would have led to the possibility of replication and scale"......this resonated with me so much! It isn't for glory that we must share our intervention in the lives of the vulnerable, but to create that ripple effect that will cause the spirits of others to soar and join in the intervention.

Writing truly is eternal. Well, I better head on to your blog and soak up your wisdom then! I've already bookmarked it.

One love, hugs and all the best in your social work. Oh, there's so much to learn from you!

Urmila Chanam
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

Thank you Queen for connecting to my story at different levels especially personally. My well wishers do tell me that my divorce is a blessing in disguise for what happened after it but I still do not like to say that divorce can be a blessing for anyone because the hurt and pain is something no one can understand till you face it yourself. I encourage you to complete your blog and share it on World Pulse for all of us to read and enjoy.

Hugs
Urmila Chanam
India

Queen Sheba D Cisse
May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018

Greetings Urmila, this is a very important work you are doing.
This mission you are on is what the world needs especially in many developing countries and remote villages in countries where the subject matter is "hush hush"!

I also enjoyed the website, very informative.
Keep empowering women worldwide!
Truly,
Queen Sheba Cisse
QSV, Inc

Urmila Chanam
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

Dear Queen, You are right its a 'hush hush' alright in India and what bothers me more than the silence is the underlying gender inequality. Thanks for reading.

Much love
Urmila Chanam
India

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Jun 07, 2018
Jun 07, 2018

Hello, Sister Urmila,

This piece moved me so much. It is like your spirit is directly speaking to my spirit, encouraging me to live the dream as a writer/author. There are so many quotable sentences on this piece that I already saved this post. This is something I want to read over and over again.

Thank you for sharing your resilience that has been founded by writing. This post is like a mining field full of gems of wisdom!

If it took you 11 years to be where you are today, then I will be writing for the next 11 years to reach that dream of becoming a writer-changemaker. You inspire me so much!

Thank you for being generous with your journey!

Urmila Chanam
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

Dear Karen,

I know you will fulfill all your aspirations my sister. I know about you because I read some of your stories . Its just a matter of time and situations change the major thing is utilizing your time in preparation for that special phase when nothing will come in your way.

All the best
Urmila Chanam

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Jul 11, 2018
Jul 11, 2018

Thank you, sister Urmila! I treasure your words. It is my heart's desire to see you face to face and just to hug you. You are an inspiration.

Olubee
Jun 30, 2018
Jun 30, 2018

Y
Dear sis,
You are such a gift to the world.I admire your writing skills and i am inspired to start writing again.Thanks so much for sharing this amazing piece.
love
bukola

Urmila Chanam
Jul 01, 2018
Jul 01, 2018

So are you my sister. I can't wait to read your stories.

Hugs
Urmila Chanam
India

Rahel Ngoh
Dec 27, 2018
Dec 27, 2018

You inspire me.