Preethi Herman: Bringing social change one online post at a time

Preethi Herman is the Global Executive Director of Change.org Foundation and a 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow. In 2012, she developed Change.org, an online platform that enabled people to push for change through petitions.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • In 2012, Preethi Herman developed Change.org in India, an online platform that enabled the country’s citizens to push change through petitions to government leaders and duty-bearers.
  • Now, more than 12 million in India are using the platform to push social change.
  • Change.org Foundation is now the entity that oversees the push for change through the platform in 20 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Preethi Herman is empowering communities across Asia, Africa, and Latin America one step at a time.

In 2012, she started establishing Change.org in India. Change.org is an online platform that enables the country’s citizens to push change through petitions to government leaders and duty-bearers.

It grew from a few thousand users in India to more than 12 million who are using Change.org to drive positive social change. She now heads the Change.org Foundation, the entity that majority owns the Change.org platform. She specifically oversees the platform in 20 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

She says that at the beginning, majority of users of change.org were men, yet women are more successful in their campaigns.

Persistence

“Women are persistent and they involve the communities around them, that’s why their campaigns last longer,” she says.

Ms Herman is a 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow. She has since rolled out ‘She Creates Change’ programme to empower more women with techniques and strategies for running successful campaigns.

“There are many problems in the world, but real solutions are brought by people impacted by those issues,” she says, reckoning that if more women become leaders, the world would “genuinely become a better place".

“Women are closer to issues [bedevilling society] because of their position in society. They bear the brunt of discrimination and so they know where it hurts the most.”

She draws her strength and motivation from stories of women who have found their agency and authority.

Technology

Her work exemplifies how women can leverage technology to advocate their rights.

Ms Herman says petitions using online technologies such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Zoom, Slack and Signal “build momentum around the issue and get the people in power to take note.”

She, however, says it is challenging for a brown woman to lead such a global organisation.

“Being a brown woman in a space that is predominantly white means that you need to navigate through stereotypes. In many ways you have to create a way for yourself,” she says.

“A lot of white men occupy leadership spaces…in government (and they are also) the funders. You can imagine on one hand it can be inspiring and on the other, it is scary. Sometimes it can get quite lonely.”


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