Meet Preethi Herman, who is leading a social revolution in India

Meet the feisty young woman who is the face of Change.org in India

Ayesha Tabassum Published :  20th October 2017 10:05 AM   |   Published :   |  20th October 2017 10:05 AM

Preethi Herman

Like most “obedient” children Preethi Herman too wanted to pursue a regular career path. She wanted to be a doctor. But little did she know that taking a break for a medical entrance exam preparation could change not only her life, but lives of millions of others. Though not a doctor, Preethi has managed to change many lives. The young woman now leads Change.org in India as its Executive Director.

For the uninitiated, Change.org is an open platform (with over 80 lakh registered users) where anyone can start a campaign/petition on any issue. So far, the website has managed to help petitioners achieve success in their campaigns such as ‘Government regulates sale of acid to protect women from attacks’, ‘Karnataka government issues guidelines to make schools safer for children’, ‘TRAI pledges to protect net neutrality’ to ‘Passport rules eased for children of single parents’.

Preethi and her team facilitate and help petition starters with campaigning. On record, about 2,000 petitions are registered and started every month on Change.org and the numbers have been increasing. But before Preethi took on the leadership role at Change.org, it’s interesting to know how she chose a different path to achieve her ambition of serving people.

Preethi Herman (extreme left) with other social activists and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Goalkeepers event

Service by chance
“I was all over the place when I started out. I stumbled into Mass Communication. Like every other good Indian child, I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to serve people, but I didn’t realise whether I had the calibre or capacity for it. Obviously I didn’t do well,” she reveals, and adds, “I took a break, but instead of sitting at home, I enrolled for a Mass Comm course. One month into it and I was like, oh my God, this is amazing. It was life-changing for me.”

From here on, there was no looking back, she went on to do internships at newspapers and at an advocacy and human rights organisation. It was at the latter organisation where Preethi understood ground realities when she spent about 20 days at Harapanahalli town in Davangere and about eight months in South Orissa. “I come from a middle class family which is not the same as being a tribal or a Dalit in India so I spent time with these communities, just to get a sense of what it is like to be one. This changed my world,” she admits. 

Talking about her experience in Orissa, Preethi remembers, “There were no proper roads, there was no hospital. In a matter of seven months, I had malaria twice. But that’s the reality of the place. At least one member had died of malaria in every family. Electricity was a problem. Access to shops was a problem. I remember living on corn for sometime. The place is rich in natural resources but the lack of economy impacts everything else. From there on, I always did things keeping in mind how I could facilitate and be of help to somebody to do something. That’s when my journey began.” 

Connecting with the world
Preethi is now looking at partnering with the government and people’s representatives to get them involved directly in such social change campaigns. In the second week of October, Preethi with her team at Change.org managed to get Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to sign up as a verified Decision Maker on the platform, which means he can directly engage with citizen issues and campaigns. He is the first Chief Minister to partner with the website. Not just in India, Preethi has been able to showcase Change.org’s work to world leaders in September at the Goalkeepers event, a part of the United Nations General Assembly Week in New York. 

She represented India at this event where world leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former US President Barack Obama, Pakistani activist for female education, Malala Yousafzai and Trevor Noah, the comedian, TV anchor and radio host were present. At the heart of all her achievements, one thought keeps her going, “Lasting change can happen only when it comes from people, and therefore I see myself in a place where I can facilitate that change,” she encourages.

Details: change.org

 

Comments(2)

  • Vangala Gopal

    Enlightened Soul who keeps involving with people encouraging them to come out and project what they want and are facing hurdles in life because of factors they cannot handle on their own.
    3 years ago reply
  • Akhil

    Madam I'm from Ongole from a leading amma project I want to talk to you
    3 years ago reply