Living and Giving

Dear Pamela: Whose Approach To Relieving Suffering In The World Has Inspired Or Influenced You The Most And Why?

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Whose approach to relieving suffering in the world has inspired or influenced you the most and why?

​Austin, thank you for your question. How important and wonderful it is for us to learn from leaders all over the world. Therefore for me, it\’s constantly evolving. Here are some incredible people and why I love to learn from them:

Malala Yousafzai is a huge advocate for girls\’ education. That\’s all well and good, but she defended little girls’ rights to education in northwest Pakistan. That\’s where the Taliban tried and did prevent thousands of girls from attending school. In fact, they banned females from school.  Whereas in the U.S. we try to provide better education for girls and young women, Malala is simply trying get the girls access — and safe access. That\’s a lifelong, hard, challenging, and at times dangerous goal.

I admire someone who takes on a challenge that might last their whole life. I admire that she\’s willing to per her life in danger for thousands of girls to be able to read and have a future.


\"ScreenUN Photo/Mark Garten

Chetna Sinha is also a pioneer. I like pioneers — people willing to take the first step! It\’s not the norm and so anytime we have an innovator for good, I\’m keen to follow. Chetna developed India’s first co-operative bank outside any main city. What\’s key is that the bank is owned and led by women. The bank she created is called the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, and gives business loans to women.  So l like that\’s it\’s woman-entrepreneured, women-operated, and women-loaned.


\"ScreenFacebook/Mann Deshi Foundation

Why I especially like to watch her as a leader is that she doesn\’t stop there. One of the most critical things I saw while working in microfinance in India was the lack of financial training. There was microfinance, but most of the women didn\’t know basic addition. So you have these programs, but no one is trained on how to truly operate them.  In those cases it\’s an opportunity and a tragedy, because the opportunity is missed. So Chetna set up not only classes — but also business school — again thinking big — to help women with entrepreneurial, business and financial skills. Now that\’s really listening to the community, and entrepreneuring according to their needs.

So I would follow her alone for those two joint ideas. But you can just see the energy pouring out of her. She sees needs, she launches solutions.

Next she helped organize rural women to take a stand for property rights. Then she created a community-based radio network and station, so women now have a voice, and can receive important information. Then a hotline for financial advice, which goes directly to India\’s Chamber of Commerce! She doesn\’t think small.

So I follow people like that who solve a need — and then another, and another. They are constantly listening, constantly solving.

I hope that helps and thank you for your great question!


If you have a question on leadership, philanthropy, social enterprise or CSR, email Dear Pamela at! We look forward to hearing from you.