Share What You Learn: Great year for ‘Starting Her Up’ says Elsamarie DSilva

ElsaMarie DSilva

It’s that time of the year when we sit back and take stock of our life — our achievements, failures and aspirations. While I don’t believe in making New Year Resolutions, I do believe in making lists for everything to keep me on track. I have lists for personal goals, professional goals, travel plans and more.

Elsa Marie DSilva

By any standard, my lists have resulted in 2016 being a spectacular year where I pushed my personal and professional boundaries, travelled extensively, made many new friends, reconnected with several old ones, doubled my team at work and received tons of recognition for my efforts at Safecity.

This year validated that Safecity is on the right path with our work to end sexual violence. Not only did we win the prestigious Intercultural Innovation Award by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations & BMW, but I was one of 12 women selected by Niti Aayog as “Women Transforming India”. Apart from that we were one of 10 organisations selected to present at the United Nations General Assembly’s Solutions Summit and at United Nations Habitat 3.

Personally, I expanded my networks and my knowledge as a Rotary Peace Fellow and alumna of The Commonwealth Leadership Programme & The State Department’s Fortune Mentoring Programme. These gave me access to resources, knowledge, networks and perspectives which I used to grow my organisation. I was challenged to think about my work in a deeper and more holistic way and make it sustainable, replicable and scalable. These programs put my own perceptions, biases and cultural intelligence to the test.

But whilst I was learning and transforming, I was also sharing my experiences through my column with SheThePeople called #StartingHerUp. When Shaili Chopra invited me to write about my experiences, on any subject that I wished, I grabbed the opportunity. At first I did wonder if I would do it justice given my hectic schedule, but looking back I am so proud that I wrote up to four articles per month. This allowed me a way to share my learnings and experiences with a large group of people. I hope it has helped the readers. I know writing has certainly helped me.

Some of my learnings from this year are as follows:

  • If you really want something, you will make the time for it. For e.g. despite my hectic schedule, I wrote quite regularly for #StartingHerUp whilst managing all my other responsibilities. A trick I used was to block a time slot in my calendar either late at night or early in the morning.
  • There are many opportunities, fellowships, educational experiences, conferences and learning exchanges out there. You just have to look for them, apply for them and then make time for them.
  • Share what you learn. I saw the benefits of this not only in writing my #StartingHerUp columns, but also when I accepted almost every opportunity to speak to young people or entrepreneurs. I believed they could benefit from my experiences and I felt I learned so much by sharing and gained so much from the feedback I received. This year alone I spoke at 20 events on topics ranging from social media, entrepreneurship, women in non-violent movements and Safecity’s work.
  • Push your boundaries and learn something new. Nothing is impossible. One day I decided to create my own website and I put it together all by myself. I wasn’t sure what it would lead to, but I knew I’d never find out if I didn’t at least try. Today it has become a repository of my entire work – articles I have written or those written about my work and videos of my speaking engagements. It is a comprehensive site for people to access and understand who I am and the work I do.
  • Ask for help. There are so many people who can and want to contribute to projects and causes. Just ask. We at Safecity are thankful for the hundreds of people who have volunteered with us this year. They have contributed their time, skill and effort through blogging, social media, data analysis, graphic design, marketing and much more.
  • Celebrate success. I have learned to look for the positives in every situation. We started a series called “Emerging Leaders” which highlights the journey of a young person volunteering with Safecity either in our community work or on college campuses or in our online campaigns. They have shown exceptional leadership and team management skills in their projects with Safecity and also captures how Safecity has impacted their lives. Each of these stories has been so inspiring and motivates me to work harder at my job.
  • Be grateful. Your journey is your own but it would not be possible without the help, guidance and support of many people. For example, through our partner NGOs on the ground, we have reached out to over 10,000 families and made them aware of the issue of sexual violence and the legislation.
  • Pay it forward. All through your life, look at life as a ladder and reach for the stars. But reach back and help someone else make it to the next rung, especially women.

Of course, whilst I look back with satisfaction and gratitude, I realise that we still have lots of work to do in 2017. It will be my priority to ensure that Safecity reaches more people in India, we do more workshops educating people on the issue of sexual violence and their rights and we work closely with institutions like the police, municipal authorities and urban planners to make public spaces safer.

If you believe, like I do, that every girl and woman deserves a life free of violence and access to equal opportunities, then please do join our movement at Safecity.