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Powerful New Leaders in India

August 29, 2018 | Nikita Wadhwa, Rise Up | Originally posted on Rise Up's blog

When we opened applications for the Collective Impact Partnership (CIP) Advocacy and Leadership Accelerator in Maharashtra, India, more than 75 incredible women applied. After a rigorous selection process, we selected 22 powerful women with a strong drive and vision to advance economic justice.

With diverse backgrounds, these women represent a variety of regions in Maharashtra—from remote, rural regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada, to the well-connected cities of Mumbai and Pune. Coming from various levels of education, ages, castes, and classes, the dynamic group converged for the first time in July to participate in their first CIP Leadership and Advocacy Training. This important gathering of leaders comes at a time and place where women’s rights in India are continually challenged.

The Collective Impact Partnership (CIP) includes Rise Up, How Women LeadPublic Health InstituteGlobal Fund for Women, and World Pulse, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The CIP leaders are developing strategies to advance public policy, advocate for women’s economic justice, and increase access to resources that promote women’s economic empowerment.

In the first CIP training, the women engaged in leadership sessions by How Women Lead, advocacy sessions by Rise Up, and digital literacy sessions by World Pulse. The leaders were inspired by the call to focus on expanding their own leadership, and many reported that CIP is allowing them to stop, reflect, network and create new ways of tackling the issues that have plagued their community for years.

“The training increased my ability to see myself with a very different perspective,” Laila Garda, reflected. “[I was able to] break free from many blind spots and look ahead with broader more beautiful aspirations.”

Through CIP, we are meaningfully engaging with women who are working in their communities to create large-scale change in India and the world. Some of the participating leaders — like Naseem Shaikh — are working with women’s groups and entrepreneurial ventures to increase women’s economic access and support the building or expansion of women-led businesses. Others, like Malti Sagane, are empowering women within local-governance structures to increase their participation in decision making. Many of the women, like Pratibha Ukey and Urmila Salunkhe, are focusing on the linkages between economic opportunity and improving health, preventing violence, and ensuring the safety of women and girls, so that they can step out of their homes and access the economic opportunities they deserve.

In August, CIP is continuing full steam ahead with additional sessions on advocacy and digital literacy. After the training, the leaders will develop women’s economic empowerment project proposals and compete for project funding from the Global Fund for Women.

We are so excited to see this group of powerful leaders advance women’s economic empowerment in their local communities, as well as drive exponential change at the state and national level.

Nikita Wadhwa is Rise Up's Collective Impact Partners Program Coordinator, India