At Heifer International, we see repeatedly how powerful women become when they have the tools and resources to thrive. Receiving an animal gift is a good first step to economic sustainability, but it’s women’s leadership that’s building up communities around the world. Why? Because successful women help not only themselves, but also their families and other people in their communities. The power of women and community is a global universal. We are thrilled today to introduce you to an amazing, groundbreaking community leader as part of our Women’s Empowerment Community Leader Series.
Asha Dahya is the founder and editor of GirlTalkHQ, the “global headquarters for female empowerment news media.” After hosting and producing TV shows for over a decade in Australia, the UK, and Los Angeles, Dahya wanted to tackle the considerable disparity in how men and women are represented in the media. Dahya is passionate about creating content that informs, entertains and elevates while also encouraging and inspiring millennials to use their voice. Through editorial and speaking engagements, Dahya inspires conversation on feminism, women’s reproductive rights, the representation of women in film and TV, diversity in the media and gender equality measures.
What was the pivotal moment that led you to create your community?
The idea for creating GirlTalkHQ.com and focusing on empowering women to be inspired by one another came after a difficult time in my life. My career in TV was not going so well, and at the same time I was going through a separation. After my divorce was final, I realized even more how valuable the women in my life were, and how important having a supportive community really is. Launching a women’s media platform out of frustration in my lack of career opportunities coincided with my personal struggles, and I found a way to combine my passion for empowering women in both my work and home life.
Can you share an example of a woman in your community who has done something amazing?
After finding a whole new tribe of women post-divorce, I surrounded myself with feminists, filmmakers, activists, writers, directors, entrepreneurs and change-makers. One person who has inspired me a lot is my close friend and Emmy Award-winning director Sarah Moshman. As I started to venture into new territory as a content creator, she inspired me in my burgeoning passion for filmmaking and storytelling. I have seen her persevere through many highs and lows in her filmmaking ventures, and it is a reminder to me that success comes from hard work and never giving up on your dreams. Sarah and I have also partnered up together to create a bi-annual feminist networking event in Los Angeles called ‘The F Word’ where we have gathered a list of amazing speakers and performers around the shared goal of promoting a more inclusive and intersectional definition of feminism today.
There’s a sense that women can be competitive and singularly focused in their work. Can you share a favorite example you have witnessed, inside or outside of your community, of women rising together?
Definitely! My core group of girlfriends are all filmmakers and I am so blessed to be part of such a dedicated and passionate group of women who are as ambitious as they are generous. Being in the entertainment industry, which is known to be difficult for women and minorities to get in the door, it is common to see people close the door behind them once they see success because it feels like it is hard to achieve. But among the women I know, we all share resources, open doors for each other, help each other’s projects come to life and cheer each other on. When one of us succeeds, we all do, and I am lucky enough to see that firsthand in my community.
We would love to hear about a woman who has empowered you! Who is someone who said yes to you or encouraged you to do more/do better for others?
My mom has always been my biggest supporter in life and in my career. Even at times when she may not fully understand the path I am taking, her unwavering desire to see me succeed and champion my efforts has always given me the boost I need to know I am supported no matter what. And I have made many mistakes along the way, yet my mom has been that gentle, loving and firm presence that doesn’t judge, but knows I have the potential to pick myself up and get back on the path. She (and my dad together) have always encouraged me to be a positive presence in the world, a good witness of the faith I hold dear, and that inspires and reminds me to be mindful of how I treat others and what I put out into the world. It has been a good lesson to help keep me grounded, and to be a generous and authentic person in everything I do.
A key way we help empower women is by providing resources and ongoing training to help them grow and then help others. What resources and training have best helped your community thrive?
I always believe in starting small and starting local. We can’t see empowerment and equality on a larger scale if it is not a reality in our day-to-day life. For me that has been a small group of women I meet with on a monthly basis to talk about our careers and how we can navigate the entertainment world. I highly recommend others find a regular group you can connect with, lean on for support, share ideas with and get involved in initiatives together. Mentorship is also something that is invaluable. Finding a mentor is always a good idea, whether it be for career, life, relationships, etc. An easy way to give back to your own community is mentoring someone younger than you. I think about all the lessons I have learned and all the opportunities and experiences I have had, and know that they can be valuable to someone other than just myself.
A big piece of Heifer’s work in women’s empowerment and social capital is gender equity -- teaching women and men that shared decision making and leadership is a good thing -- which can be challenging in patriarchal communities. What do you think is one of our society’s key challenges to help women close the equity gap?
While we see so many initiatives and laws changing in favor of gender equality, it really does start with individual mindsets, and then our culture. I think we are at a point in history where the recognition for equality is greater than ever, and women are certainly seeing more power and opportunities than ever. But we also need to see action steps that can be implemented on a daily basis in an individual’s life, no matter where or who we are.
It can be as simple as encouraging your own parents to understand that girls’ education and careers matter, because it means greater financial freedom in the long run. I think if each of us commits to identifying even one person in our lives that we can have dialog with about equality and why it benefits everyone, we will start to see a much greater understanding on a higher level for legislation change, industry change and more.
We believe the women’s empowerment journey is universal, even if details differ depending on where a woman lives. What do you see as a key universal — a thread that connects all women around the globe — when it comes to women, leadership and/or community?
That each of us has a purpose in this world, each of us is valuable and each of us can use what we have and where we are at to make a change. Leadership and influence comes in all sorts of forms, and we can start with our family, our friends and our communities. Also, raising our voices and taking a stand for what we believe is important. When one person speaks up, it empowers and emboldens others, especially other women and girls, to do the same.
Which of Heifer’s women's empowerment programs is your favorite? Why?
Send A Girl To School! If every girl in the world has the opportunity to get an education, it means the goal of gender equality can become more of a reality. Every additional year of schooling a young girl has increases her chances of financial freedom and a successful career. Educated women are less likely to marry young, have children before they’re ready, and have health problems. Education is the foundation to living an empowered life.