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Nurturing women leadership at the grassroots for gender-equitable communities

Updated: May 14

Uthara Narayanan I Co-founder and Chief Change-maker, Buzz Women

At Buzz, we started our journey with the question, “How can women live the life they craft for themselves?”  We began with our financial literacy programme so women could begin envisioning a life of their choice through achieving financial freedom. But after enabling thousands of women through this programme over a few years, there was another question that arose, but this time from the community women, “Could you give us more?” The women were looking at us for direction, because for the first time someone was actually listening to them. 

While discussing and exploring, we slowly but steadily understood that these women had the answers to their own questions and problems. Research shows “women are more likely to lead through inspiration, transforming people’s attitudes and beliefs, and aligning people with meaning and purpose (rather than through carrots and sticks), than men are.” (Chamorro-Premuzic and Gallop, 2020)

So we answered their question with this -  they would find the “more” they wanted by themselves and Buzz would simply stand by them! One woman per village would be nurtured as a local change agent and serve as a bridge between Buzz and the community. This way, we also stayed in touch with the communities through one community representative. 

Who is this woman? A Buzz Gelathi (‘friend’ in Kannada). A Community Anchor. 

Buzz Gelathi envisions a future for herself as a leader

We were and continue to be determined to catalyse local change-agents for the following reasons. These women understand the issues and their experiences far better - the lived realities of women shape their perspectives on the requirements of other vulnerable groups. Hence, the agency of taking action and making decisions should be in the hands of the community women. Also, when women mobilise and assume leadership roles, they challenge norms that restrict women. A gender-equitable and just world can only be achieved when women’s agency is expressed and their voices heard. 

True change towards progress cannot be attained if the grassroots approach is top-down, it has to be bottoms-up. If we wanted to answer the question we began our journey with, then our path needed to be (i) intersectional, which means that our community women’s voices are inputs for the decisions on our scale and depth and (ii) we needed to build a mindset of recognising women as active change agents. 

Keeping the two in mind, we developed the ‘Inspiration Fellowship’ eight years ago, where women’s leadership skills and confidence is nurtured. We are constantly taking inputs from the community women on how we can strengthen our programme, how we can support them better and what more we can do.  

From the women we heard that they loved attending the Fellowship together and having people to share their thoughts and life experiences with. My own experience of having

Buzz Inspiration/Spoorthi Fellowship

solidarity networks has helped me thrive and therefore, we realised pretty quicklythat we needed to build support ecosystems for our women so they could problem-solve together and have each other to lean on. Similar to how the change agents had their networks, we wanted every woman in a village to have a solidarity group. With the principles of ‘solidarity’ and ‘collective action’, we began the Buzz Beehive initiative. 

The village-level Beehive meetings are led and organised by the Community Anchor/Gelathi of that village. She continuously drives change into the lives of the women in her village by coaching the women to build on the financial literacy knowledge and skills they learnt in the first level training and imparting what she learnt during the fellowship. . The Gelathis initiate dialogues and conversations and build the community around her to focus on being able to make decisions and problem solve for themselves. This helps the women become more self-aware and take control of their circumstances. 

Over the years, Buzz Women has witnessed this transformation that our rural community anchors have achieved - facilitating water for their villages, education for children and women, transport facilities for their villages, strengthening the Self-Help Group systems in the communities so women can experience financial freedom and so much more! This could not have been achieved if we delivered textbook answers to them, it just wouldn’t have worked. Our 2023 impact assessment report for the Inspiration Fellowship shows that 80% women are more confident, 60% women have leadership skills, 49% of women have helped their community solve public issues and 47% women experience an increase in their social capital because of Buzz Beehive. We now have a network of 10,000 Community Anchors! Every time we hear a story of change, we’re always amazed!  

Buzz Gelathis/Community Anchors

I see Buzz Women as a movement of women, for women, and by women. My dream is to witness these Gelathis take full ownership of the Buzz Movement. 

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