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I was educated to be a doctor, and look at what I became!

In India, we follow the instructions of our parents. As part of a generation and culture of doing what we are told, I dutifully attended medical school. But I never wanted to practice medicine, so I taught, got married and raised a family, always knowing that my vision for change lay outside the confines of what I had been told was ‘good’ for me.

When I joined Vital Voices’ VVLead Fellowship Program – despite being highly educated – I found a brand new world at my computer screen. Recognising that in order to advance the causes of women, women themselves must connect with, empower, equip and inspire one another at all levels of society. Vital Voices – with support from the UK’s Department for International Development – is committed to helping create a unified response, not just from women’s rights activists but also from a wide range of professionals and practitioners. Often, we don’t know our own potential until others see it in us, and Vital Voices’ partnership with DFID through VVLead has helped me to focus my vision, not just for the Kashmir region, but for my country.

Every woman has the duty to understand her own potential, make herself a success and give it back to others. Through work with over 100 other women leaders around the globe, I now know that women can and are making a tremendous difference – but that 50% of the world’s talent and potential has not been yet realized. This lopsided status is what we have to work together to change.

My leadership journey

Six years ago, I read an article in the local newspaper about male farmers committing suicide due to their inability to pay off their debts. What struck me most about the piece was their wives were left to support their families. And it was here that my calling became clear.

Women often bear the brunt of the work, but lack both voice and agency – the space to make their voices heard. Through economic empowerment and opportunities in addition to shifting cultural norms, we can change that – and the best way to do so is to lead by example. I realised that although I had always appreciated my privileged upbringing and the opportunities that it had afforded me, there was more that I could do to lead a fulfilling life while giving back to my community.

Gazalla Amin addresses VVLead Fellows at peer-to-peer exchange in New Delhi.

Women as a force for change

From the local to the global level, all issues are interconnected. As women, we have to think and work together to ensure that we have a voice and make it heard. This will come through education and addressing basic needs such as health care, maternal and child care and sanitation. We cannot separate social and economic issues as we strive to uplift women. I am not either a business or a political leader. I think about issues in a holistic manner. And as we proceed into the development of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals agenda, we too must look for holistic approaches, together, to tackling problems facing the poorest women, addressing health care, education and economic empowerment. 

VVLead Fellows from Africa and India convene in New Delhi with Vital Voices’ VVLead team. 



Cross-posted from the Department for International Development blog.

Read the Vital Voices blog post: From Online Community to On-the-Ground Training: VVLead Fellowship Program Kicks Off in India