Directors Note – “She Leads”

Kavitha Emmanuel, Founder & Director of Women of Worth writes to fill in on some of the advances WOW has seen this year of which WOW’s leadership empowerment campaign takes the spot light. She also shares her experience on being a leader herself on this unfeigned note that we bring to you right from her desk.
 Women of Worth’s latest campaign “She Leads’ is a campaign that hopes to motivate and mentor the next generation of women with leadership potential to stop at nothing and scale with confidence those heights which are rightfully theirs. Through SHE LEADS we hope to smash the barriers that limit women’s potential by nurturing in young women a resilience and conviction to reach the top without holding back.
As the implementing partners of this campaign initiated by the British Deputy High Commission, Chennai and supported by The Madras Chamber for Commerce and Industry, we were invited to participate and present SHE LEADS at the tech summit held in New Delhi on November. The Summit was inaugurated by Narendra Modi, our hon’ble Prime Minister and Teresa May,  Prime Minister of UK. It was a landmark event indeed and I was happy to be there to introduce our new campaign to business owners, politicians, entrepreneurs and students who were at the summit.
At the session on Women In Leadership, an 18 year old student took me by surprise when she asked this one question to the panel of women leaders: “You have all shared about your great moments. But I want to know about your failures and your struggles on your way up here.” My immediate thought was, “here is a leader in the making!’
As leaders, we don’t often talk about our failures and our challenges. We try to hide behind our great moments to escape the shame of those moments we wished we were dead! I have had my share of failures. I still struggle with insecurities of not feeling capable enough to lead. I see people more gifted and talented than I am. I do struggle with feelings of jealousy and sometimes I do give up thinking I am not good enough. I am afraid of crowds. I hate public speaking. I do get depressed when I goof up a speech or when an event falls flat. And then there are those mistakes that have become life lessons.  I am not always confident even if I look that way. I come across to people as a bold and confident person. But on the inside I am often fearful. To me personally what gives me the courage to move on is my faith. My faith in a God-ordained destiny helps me walk through tough and discouraging times.
The secret about being a leader is not that you don’t fail or feel weak. But that you develop in you the resilience and tenacity to overcome all barriers that try to stop you from moving forward. Every experience you go through becomes your teacher. Failures become your stepping stones to success. Your failures make you richer if you will be open to learning from them. And it is not forbidden to talk to a friend about your failures or insecurities. It is normal to feel inadequate or fearful. It is normal to feel like you want to give up half way through a project. But what is crucial is that we don’t stay there in that moment but gather the courage to pick ourselves up and press on towards our goals.

Dec 2015 – Chennai Flood Relief

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Thank you for responding to WOW’s email appeal to support people affected by floods in Chennai. WOW was able to respond to the immediate needs of people in Chennai and Cuddalore, by donating blankets, clean drinking water, donating to flood relief and rescue projects in the city. Through your generous contribution we were able to touch the lives of about 500 people and respond to their urgent needs.

Since our last request, Chennai experienced more devastation through continual torrents of rain for more than a week. The situation in Chennai is unprecedented and people in the city were completely horrified by a disaster of this proportion. Chennai was totally unprepared to deal with rain of this magnitude which has left many low-income families without food, possessions, or any place to call home.

The Focus – Health and Hygiene

We have initiated a process to address the needs of women and children in a few select areas with low-income groups in places like Ramavaram, Perumgudi, Washermapet and Kilpauk. To start with, we have a goal of handing out Hygiene Kits with items like soap, disinfectants, Mosquito Repellent, tooth paste, tooth brush, diapers, sanitary napkins, underwear, first-aid kit etc

Personal Hygiene for Women

  • Soaps
  • Disinfectant (Dettol or Savlon)
  • Tooth brush & paste
  • Underwear
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Energy Drink (Horlicks)

First Aid for the family

  • Electrolyte (to prevent dehydration)
  • Band-aids
  • Odomos (mosquito repellent)
  • Whitefields antibacterial Foot ointment

Additional items for families with kids

  • Diapers
  • Baby sweaters, blankets and clothes

Medical Camp:

We are also rallying a group of specialized doctors to meet the rising need for medical attention at the moment. Flooding and stagnation has left the city’s residents at great risk of contracting air-borne and water-borne diseases. Our priority is to look out for the health of women and children.

We wish to inform those of you who generously responded to our earlier appeal that we will be directing all the relief funds towards these efforts. We will soon be sending you a detailed report on how your money was spent as WOW team is busy responding to the on-going situation in Chennai.

WOW is looking for individual and corporate partnerships for its mission to provide hygiene and health needs for women and children of low-income groups.

Please be assured that all the donations received in kind or cash will be used appropriately. The donors will receive due acknowledgement along with a report on how the donation was used.

Ways To Give

Donate In Kind

To donate in kind by supplying us with materials needed for the hygiene kit please write to

Donate From Within India

Online Transfer Details:

Account Name: Women of Worth – A unit of Provide
Account Number: 50100113961963
Bank: HDFC Bank Ltd, Kottivakkam, HDFC0000500

Donate Via Cheques:
To be drawn in favour of Women of Worth – A Unit of Provide

Donate From Overseas

Please write to

Nov 2015 – WOW’s Chennai Flood Relief


Dear Friends and Supporters,

Many of you have been inquiring about the devastation the monsoon rains have caused here in Chennai. We truly appreciate your concern.

The much awaited monsoon which was expected to cool the city and fill its water reservoirs ended up causing a lot of damage to people and property.

Chennai has received the highest rainfall in the last 10 years. Due to severe flooding people from various parts of the city were evacuated with rescue boats. Though there are many proactive Government and Non-Profit led relief initiatives to help restore the loss, it is somehow never enough at such a time as this.


WOW would like to respond to the situation by doing our bit here by providing blankets, mats, tarpaulin covers to people in some of the badly affected areas surrounding the WOW office and especially in the Home where we run our Rehabilitation project.  Due to severe flooding the Home has been inaccessible to our staff for the last 5 days. This home houses around 300 girls and we are in need of blankets and hygiene kits. We also hope to conduct a couple of medical camps in the weeks to come to respond to expected bouts of Malaria, Dengue and other Viral Flu common during this season.

Here is a quick glance at the immediate needs:
Donate Now
You will receive due acknowledgement and a report with pictures detailing how your contribution was used.

If you would like to donate towards this monsoon relief project, kindly use the following methods:

Local Funds (within India):

Online Transfer Details:
Account Name: Women of Worth – A unit of Provide
Account Number: 50100113961963
Bank: HDFC Bank Ltd, Kottivakkam, HDFC0000500

To be drawn in favour of Women of Worth – A Unit of Provide


Foreign Contributions:

Please write to

Look forward to your generous gesture!

Seen above are images of stagnant water outside the Home.
Donate Now

We Are Unique and We Are Equal

KaviRitikaBy Kavita Emmanuel | Founder and Director, WOW


Happy Women’s Day 2015 to all the women out there!

These wishes come from a heavy heart but with all sincerity that I can muster at a time when India is shocked at her own attitude towards women.

“We have the best culture. In our culture there is no space for a woman,” says ML Sharma.

Do you wonder what goes on in people’s mind when they make such statements? Do they really hold on to such archaic world views? Have we not progressed with all the awareness surrounding us on gender equality?

Should Leslie Udwin’s film be released? – is the hot debate at the moment in the country. Frankly, I am more shocked by what the defense lawyers, ML Sharma and AP Singh, have said.

Can our lawyers use male chauvinism, misogyny, and patriarchy as a legal defense for rape and murder?  How does condoning acts of violence against women and blaming these actions on culture not bring us shame beyond recovery? On the other hand, are these defenses mere excuses to not allow the finer, mature side of human nature to take over one’s baser instincts?

To me, this statement is the essence of a fallen human nature; a human behavior that so vehemently and arrogantly parades its desire to manipulate and oppress fellow humans.

My greatest fear is this: Why isn’t everyone infuriated by these statements or do some people in some sense agree with what is being said?  How long will we continue to hear: “A girl should be home before 6,” or “Boys will be boys,” or “her dress invites trouble.”


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Government schemes for the empowerment of women, new laws to protect women and the campaigns for equality by women for women focus on one half of the gender equation. There is another half that we can no longer ignore. For too long we have ignored the empowerment of men. The truth is that most men today pathetically display their need to be empowered.

We need to send the message of equality to our boys in our schools and colleges who are so accustomed to seeing gender based discrimination play out right before their eyes.

If we do not address gender inequality now, we will continue to raise male leaders and influencers endorsing the same old dehumanizing attitude towards women.

If we do not address gender inequality now, our generation will have a hand in perpetuating the norm that says empowerment is good so as long as it does not challenge gender roles and a man’s place in society.

Our boys need to be taught to question societal norms that limit women. They need to come alongside us women to stand up and say: Men and women, we are equal. Men and women, together we can reclaim the dignity, value and worth that belong to women.

Introducing Our Next Blog Series

By Kavita Emmanuel | Founder and Director of WOW


Natasha Sharma for DisB-01Lately there has been a lot of talk and speculation on the guidelines for advertising fairness products that was introduced by the Advertising Standards Council of  India (ASCI).  So let’s take some time to break it down and see what this means for us.

We grow up with this learned behaviour that clean and bright means white. Or that beauty and success require light skin. We are constantly being bombarded by these messages from the media. This is why the guidelines introduced by ASCI were a breath of fresh air. But regulations are just the beginning to the change we want to see.

Let’s face it! Even if all print and TV advertisements followed the ASCI guidelines we may still see skin colour discrimination endorsed simply because any product recommending ‘fairness’ as an option is in a way continuing to tell us that ‘the fair’ way is the wanted way!  That is the reason our advocacy efforts include seeing more diversity on the silver screen.

We have had conversations with fashion photographers: some want to work with the traditional idea of beauty while others have seen the beauty in all skin colours and would recommend a model based on talent. But often photographers and advertising agencies are caught between what they would like to do and what the client (the brand) wants to see.

When we sit down to chat with owners and directors of brands, they too believe talented models come in many colours but their clientele (we the customers) are more comfortable with the traditional sense of beauty where a model’s skin as white as milk. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps us stagnating in our patriarchal ideologies and perceptions of beauty, success, and self worth. This is where we would like to inspire advertising agencies and brands to take a stand towards ‘responsible advertising’ and not just do what sells.

When we think of change, we want to see the BIG picture and a future where media does not sell discrimination to our children. Do we not want our children outgrowing the iron-maiden-beauty-traps that we have come to believe as something true and real? Do we not want our children to accept themselves for who they are and respect others for being themselves? And do we not want our children to witness a true celebration of all skin colours in the media? We, at Dark is Beautiful, do not just want to see discriminatory advertisements disappear but we want to see people of all skin colours being included and their skin tones celebrated.

This is why we welcomed the story of model  Natasha Sharma. Here is a young Indian-American talking about changing the landscape of visual media by combating skin colour bias in the media. Stay tuned for her story that will be coming out this week. Meanwhile, if you see an ad on television that is discriminatory and derogatory, do your part and report it to ASCI at

Celebrate Diversity. Celebrate All Skin Colours.

By Kavita Emmanuel | Founder and Director of WOW

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India still stands out at as the world’s largest democracy.   But what makes us unique is also the largeness of our diversity. Diversity of cultures, ethnic groups, religions, languages and SKIN COLOUR together make India truly special. As we celebrate our 68th Independence Day, let us be proud of our nation and all 1.2 Billion shades of skin colour it displays.

I noticed that since we began the Dark is Beautiful campaign in 2009 people have become more vocal about sharing their experiences with skin colour discrimination. The stories have begun to get deeper and brutally honest. The most painful are those where skin colour bias has driven people to suicide, ended marriages, increased dowry demands or crippled a child of his/her potential while at school.

Adoption agencies continue to struggle finding homes for dark-skinned children. I know of a family that has adopted a beautiful dark skinned girl whose siblings in the adopted family happen to be light skinned. The mother struggles to hush the comments from neighbours, friends and relatives who are ever so generous to hurl hurtful and wounding remarks at the child.

Battling mind-sets and addressing attitude change is no easy task. What may be disappointing to some of us is that in spite of the fact that campaigns such as ours have taken steps towards getting this toxic belief out of our society, we continue to battle every day struggles with skin colour bias. You may continue to face disappointment every time an advertisement praises ‘fair skin’ over dark skin. Maybe the name-calling and derogatory comments about your skin colour haven’t altogether disappeared. True! We need to learn to live with confidence in the midst of the painful reality that’s surrounds us. Don’t lose heart! Hold on to all that makes you who you are!!

I have said this before and I will continue to say this: Change begins at home, in our neighbourhoods and schools.  Let’s stop pretending that all is well in our contexts. Please do not shy away from talking to your children about the existence of the bias. They would rather hear it from you than face it in the crude form of comments from people or on television screens. Tell every child that they are valuable just as they are, in their own skin!

Join us as we celebrate diversity. Download and use this free Facebook cover for the rest of the week. Give us a shout out by including #dare2bcolourblind in the Add Description box.

skin-cover-SkinColour - PERSONAL COVER

Free DisB Facebook Cover. To download, right click and select the Save File As option