Preethi Herman

Equipping a new movement of female leaders to engage their communities in addressing India’s toughest problems

The Problem:

Women’s rights in India are crippled by violence, abuse, patriarchy, and unjust laws. At times, the internet only amplifies those imbalances: Digital tools can promote sexism, stereotypes, and on- and offline violence; and they favor men, who make up a full 71% of Indian internet users. But the internet can also give Indian women the platform, community, and courage to start fighting back—if they can get the tools and training to marshall its power.

The Approach:

Previously, as the head of Change.org in India, Herman grew the global petitions company’s local user base to 10 million, empowering a generation of first-time activists who now start more than 20,000 campaigns a month; casting national light on previously undiscussed topics like female genital mutilation; getting top decision-makers to interact with citizens; and changing national policies on everything from road safety and pension taxes to maternal health and rape protections. Along the way, Herman noticed that women campaigners were far fewer than men, but much better at getting results. Now, she is using Change’s platform as a gateway for those women to grow from petitioners to issue advocates and ultimately political leaders. Launched as a pilot last fall in India, “She Creates Change” gives a few hundred women a year intensive experience in campaigning, storytelling, and strategic planning—a first step in seeding an ecosystem for emerging female social change leaders. She plans to build this initiative globally, focusing on countries in the global south that Change.org currently serves.

My civic hero:

Transgender activist Akkai Padmashali

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