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Preethi Herman

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Fellow Preethi Herman from 2018 Obama Foundation Fellows.

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.

Previously, as the head of (Opens in a new tab) 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 (Opens in a new tab) 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 currently serves.

Transgender activist Akkai Padmashali

Face to Face with the Fellows: Preethi Herman