Some of you will remember I was in Bangladesh at the end of last year to do the research on a book Prof Badiul Majumdar and I are writing. It’s about how to build a nation-wide movement for unprecedented social change by unleashing the leadership ability and potential of everyday people, especially women.

Some of the data I collected was from the Women Leaders Convention, where 1200 women attended to share their ideas, experience and vision with each other.  They had come from villages all over the country. What united them was their training to be a Woman Leader, and the activism they then took to overcome the subjugation and discrimination women and girls faced.

More than half of them filled in a 17 question survey, which was a mixture of quantitive and qualitative questions. I then followed up with hour long, in depth, one-one interviews with some of them.

In my writing process I’ve now organised this data and its rich! I think its relevant for us too, because who doesn’t want to rise above their conditioning, discover their ability to be a powerful agent for change, and change the world!

Yes please, I do!!

So for this week’s newsletter, I wanted to share a couple of nuggets and then reflect on what this means for us. Let’s get to it!

One set of data I’ll start with is how the women rated themselves as a leader, prior to being activated by The Hunger Project. This activation includes yard meetings, workshops, and a 4 day training. (I used the scale between 1 and 10, where 1 is not at all a leader, and 10 is a leader, making impact in her community.)

Before activation by THP, 301 women (or 47%) rated themselves between 1 and 3 on a scale of 10. After the training and support, this dropped to only 22 women (or 3%).  

Similarly, before THP, 111 women (or 17%) rated themselves between 8 and 10 as a leader. After activation, this jumped to 492 (or 78%)!

What’s interesting to me about this is the women were facing the same problems and living in the same community where the most common challenges they recorded are child marriage (53%), unemployment (44%) and poverty (37%).

What had shifted was their mindset.

I know this because of this set of data:

Prior to becoming a Woman Leader, the common mindsets women stated they held about their place in society were ‘patriarchal’ (30%), ‘negative’ (20%) and ‘backward’ (19%). Comments like “Women should stay at home and should not give their opinions,” “I felt helpless,” and “backward and not free.”

After stepping into their leadership, their mindsets shifted to ‘I believe change is possible” (60%), “I want to ensure women’s rights” (24%), and “dedicated to changing society” (20%).

Mindset shifts is the precursor to tangible outcomes. The issues were still there. What had changed is their relationship to their own power and ability to make a difference.  This is at the heart of all change initiatives, be it personal, organisational or global.

A last bit of context: these women used their new  leaders mindset as a launch pad to actual breakthrough change! They move from insight to action.
9,000+ village women have been activated as Women Leaders by The Hunger Project in Bangladesh. In the last 2 years they have collectively stopped 3521 child marriages, and ran 17,676 campaigns in their villages for sanitation, education, nutrition and safe delivery of babies. Talk about walking the talk!

I think about the issues facing us and how we often feel unable to make any dent. Perhaps if you were to rate yourself as a leader on a scale of 1 -10 – would you rate yourself low? Do you look out and see the challenges as too much for you?

I totally get it.

What inspires me about this research (and I have so much more to share), is that with the right support and environment, leadership can be activated in us all, and then directed toward solving meaningful challenges. I think this is the key for us as we face pandemics, social upheaval, business uncertainties, organisational disruption and potentially the 6th mass extinction.

What support do you need to get activated? Clue – it starts with mindset.

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