Across the globe, March is Women’s History Month, or Women’s Month. This year’s theme is “choose to challenge,” and the organizers are posing this question: “How will you help forge a gender-equal world?”
Here at LeaderStories, we don’t just profile the accomplishments of women’s leaders one month a year. We celebrate and spotlight for-purpose leaders of all genders, all year. For this year’s International Women’s Day, we’re uplifting a few of our favorite 90-second narrative profiles of leaders who have focused on strengthening their leadership as a way to deepen their impact. They are transforming communities and cultures, and have not shied away from challenges in front of them. Here are six videos of women whose work around the world inspires us to tackle obstacles and take action.
Please note: the leaders' titles are at the time of filming and might not match with the current titles.
Sarah Eagle Heart, Native Americans in Philanthropy, USA
Sarah knows the power of a transformative story. She grew up in a poverty-stricken area and went on to become the CEO of a nonprofit organization that is raising awareness and addressing the pressing needs of Native Americans.
The organization’s work includes bringing 1,000 women to the Women’s March in 2017. Leadership, she says, is work anyone can develop. “In Lakota society, we’re really taught that everybody’s a leader and that everybody has the opportunity to help their people.”
Saumya, Cofounder of Kheyti, India
Leadership doesn’t have to happen on a grand scale, with massive fanfare. For social entrepreneur Saumya, success is as simple as one farmer putting their trust in her company’s greenhouse program. “It’s enough if I just see one person getting their life improved because of something that I have helped them with,” she says.
With Kheyti’s “greenhouse-in-a-box,” farmers on small lands can grow more food, earn steady incomes, and get out of poverty. The company’s website describes it as “seeding the smart farmer revolution, one farm at a time.” And it’s proof that what may appear to be a small approach can have a big impact on people’s lives.
Jessica Chen, 9/11 Memorial, USA
Jessica has plenty of experience taking on challenges. She began working at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York as a public programs coordinator before the venue opened, and was tasked with envisioning programs that would be experienced by thousands of people a day, reflecting on and honoring those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. “My job was about rising to the occasion,” she says.
But she met the challenge, and Jessica was promoted three times in four years. She now holds the position of Senior Director of Public and Professional Programs at the museum. As she continues her work, she has found that connecting and learning from other leaders has been a transformative experience. “It really helped me to look at myself as an agent of change,” she says.
Victoria W. Otero, human rights activist, Hong Kong
With xenophobia on the rise, Victoria’s is ensuring a space for voices that are too often silenced. She works with refugees and other minority groups at a time when “there’s growing fear of the outsider,” she says.
Brought up in a bilingual household, Victoria is building empowerment initiatives for marginalized populations in a world that too often ignores their voices and insights. “Certain minority groups are talked about so much in the media, but there are few conversations with them,” she says. Here’s how Victoria is challenging that.
Ashley Chiappano, Garden State Equality, USA
"I just had this feeling the entire [American Express Leadership] Academy of, 'I'm going to leave here and be able to do so much with this.'" Shortly after participating in the Academy, Ashley Chiappano was offered the Safe Schools & Community Education Manager position at Garden State Equality, the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in New Jersey and one of the most successful statewide LGBTQ civil rights organizations in the nation. Here's how she builds inclusive spaces through her work.
Nushelle de Silva, Founder of Building Bridges, Sri Lanka
As a child in Australia, Nushelle endured racism. It was theater that gave her a sense of healing. By starting the nonprofit Building Bridges, she is bringing art to under-served children so they can have a safe space for self-exploration and self-expression.
The program builds empathy, develops resilience, and fosters understanding through visual arts, theater, photojournalism, and design thinking. The organization’s work focuses on serving a small group of children over a long period of time, in order to give children the resources they need. “Giving children the tools to be confident about the lessons we’re teaching them, and confident about sharing those lessons, is really what is key for us,” she says.
There are more inspiring and powerful stories of leaders changing the world in our Stories section. Find 90-second immersive storytelling videos and quick-take insights from driven leaders who “choose to challenge” in all that they do, in order to build lasting solutions to our world’s most pressing issues.
Share your stories of powerful for-purpose work with us! Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.