There’s a saying (of somewhat unknown origins) that goes something like this, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This sense of community among women is something that Divya Malar Chandragesan wanted to create when she founded Soulsisters, a network for women with the primary purpose of supporting, empowering and uplifting women from all walks of life.
“We aim to foster a sense of community through hosting exciting events for women to network, as well as share thoughts, ideas, experiences, knowledge and create long-lasting friendships,” she said.
The idea came to her after a trip to London where Divya was introduced to “this giant web of London-based female community groups” that were supporting each other, as well as growing together.
She saw that around the world, these movements were bringing about social change and played a role in building strong communities. She realised that this was something of need in Malaysia.
Although there are already women’s networks in Malaysia, these have been largely career-focused and Soulsisters aims to go beyond that.
Divya began planning the first Soulsisters event right after her trip to London, roping in two of her good friends—Hema Menon and Katriyn Ann.
A Team With Complementary Skills
The three friends may be from different industries but this may be what makes their team more effective as they each handle different parts of Soulsisters.
Having worked with tech startups and now in digital advertising, Divya provides the vision and direction for Soulsisters.
Hema, who is the Head Coordinator at a pre-school, has always been passionate about event planning. At Soulsisters, she takes on the role of Events Coordinator.
Katriyn handles the social media and unsurprisingly, her day job involves social media as well. She’s part of the Communications and Social Media team at a global fitness company.
When they organised their first event in November 2018, they didn’t have any online presence but they managed to get 20 sign-ups through WhatsApp blasts.
“13 turned up, which was great and we have not looked back since,” said Divya.
They started off by booking tables at coffee shops and restaurants and have since moved on to collaborating with venues and businesses to accommodate bigger groups.
Talking About “Taboo” Topics
In 2019, they’ve organised events that range from panel discussions on confidence to workshops on self-love and personal development.
One of their latest series of events is Taboo Talk, which was created to tackle social stigmas surrounding women with its main aim to provide women “a safe and brave space for dialogue”.
“We believe that the only way to tackle taboos is by speaking up and challenging them together,” said Divya.
“Being women, there are so many areas that we are not comfortable discussing or sharing with others, topics ranging from menstruation to sexual harassment and mental health.
“While discussions of these nature are shunned upon in our society, not shedding light on these matters can lead to harmful consequences,” said Divya.
Some of these consequences include worsening of health conditions due to people not being able to discuss discomforts. It could also lead to sexual health as some people may not be educated on safe sex and sexually-transmitted disease.
Social Development Through Community
Through Soulsisters, Divya hopes to create a vibrant online and offline community that facilitates social development in Malaysian society.
“Our aim is to provide women with the necessary tools to build their inner network and support system, experience personal development and growth, actively contribute to social change and share their insights and knowledge with each other,” she said.
At the moment, most of the Soulsisters events are free of charge. However, they do have plans to monetise.
“We will be charging a fee for some of our events, moving forward,” said Divya.
They will also be launching an online community called Soul Society in 2020 where a membership model will be implemented. Members will have access to learning tools and materials, as well as be able to attend events for free or at a discount.
This online community will also give women the opportunity to share their knowledge and work.
“This will include write-ups, shoutouts and events on areas such as women’s lifestyle, social impact, personal and professional development,” said Divya.
- You can find out more about Soulsisters here.
Featured Image Credit: Soulsisters