The reason why Japleen applied to SI Leader Lab was to become a more effective leader, able to breed more leaders, creating a domino effect. She is aware of that she needs more people that think like her, that can work in a collaborative ways and that share her vision. That of a feminist society.

What are the main changes that you as a gender advocate want to achieve?

– I would like people to recognize women as autonomous beings, as people who have autonomy over their bodies. If we deconstruct everything that a woman faces, especially violence, it all comes down to her body. In countries like India there is a concept of honour, of how a community´s or a family´s honour lies in the body of a woman. For example, if a woman is raped it directly dishonours the family. I feel that this concept of honour is the biggest problem that women face.  I would like women to achieve agency over their bodies.

Before the onsite assembly in Stockholm Japleen has participated in an online module. She tells us that her module group have become like a family. Even tthough the participants had never met in person they were able to connect, and form bonds.

How have you benefited from the SI Leader Lab network?

– All the participants are amazing and have expertise in their own field. It´s great that we all come from diverse backgrounds, nationalities and ethnicities. I have already booked a meeting with a participant from Pakistan, as she has an expertise in something that I lack. I am very much connecting with people and we are all building personal networks. As we come from different regions, Middle East, Northern Africa and South Asia, it helps you to become more aware of what happens in other countries.

What are the takeaways so far from SI Leader Lab? Can you share some examples?

I liked the exercise on reflection. People, like myself, active in the development field,  tend to just continue to work without stopping and we risk becoming burned out. We don´t stop and reflect. The exercise really forces you to stop and see what you have managed to do and how you’re feeling about it. As an activist you tend to become desensitised, you need to have a strong heart especially when it comes to working with violence against women. We don’t stop and appreciate our colleagues and our teams, so this is something I learned and will apply in my work along with reflection time.

– I also have appreciated the lab on “public narrative”, a kind of storytelling. I tend to get desensitised to my own story and always show a strong face and a strong personality. You don´t stop and reflect what you might have experienced, which in my case was a sexual assault in the metro. To build my own story and find that emotional moment was quite challenging, but I got a lot of support and help from the co-facilitator, a Young Connectors of the Future (YCF) alumni. In the end I managed to tell my story to everyone and that was a huge personal achievement. I really went from 0 to 10!

If you had to choose one thing that you liked about the SI Leader Lab, what would that be?

– It´s difficult to choose one thing but I would say it´s the support that the Swedish Institute is offering us. In terms of the mental, emotional and physical support. The way that the programme is organized and is offering all this support is very special.

Japleen will be back in Sweden in march 2020 togheter with the other participants in SI Leader Lab for the last assembly.

For more information about SI Leader Lab and how to apply.