Rupa Dash, co-founder and CEO of World Woman Foundation, wants to inspire 1 billion girls and women worldwide with World Woman Hour.

Growing up in rural eastern India, Rupa Dash would be the first girl in her family to get an education.

The biggest dream girls would ever see about what she deserves is to find somebody, or your parents find somebody, who would own a truck and you would get married,” says Dash, co-founder and CEO of the World Woman Foundation, with the mission, “Equality for women is progress for all.”

That is an audacious success for someone who as a young girl explains, “I literally never got out of my home and played outside.”  

Read more in Take The Lead on Rupa Dash

“I didn’t get married to a truck owner. I wanted to get married and own my own truck,” says Dash, now based in Los Angeles as partner in Dash Global Media, a consulting company that explores the complexity of the emergent future and the shifting dichotomy between innovation and evolution to prepare start-up companies for the global reset in Asia and Central Africa.

Without role models to mentor her, Dash says in her teens the chance to watch community television was her only way to see the outside world. Daily she would go to watch the TV show, “Udaan,” at her mother’s urging.

The meaning of the word, she says, “is taking flight,” or “having the wings to fly.” Dash explains the main character was a girl who became a police officer.

“I was not so fascinated by being a police officer, but I liked her temperament; she was gentle and powerful in her own right,” Dash says.

What interested Dash was the behind the scenes making of the television show, so she developed a dream about being in the entertainment world. “It gave me the idea that a woman could be a role model in her community making powerful impact.”

Dash is making powerful impact and paying it forward with the inaugural “World Woman Hour” a series of 60 one-minute stories told by 60 women from around the world, sharing their stories of the heroes who inspired them.

Dash says the goal is to reach 1 billion people after International Girls’ Day October 11. To date, 700,000 people have viewed the video, with 1 million expected soon, and 1 billion on all digital platforms within 90 days.

The event premieres on Facebook LIVE and on the World Woman Foundation YouTube page. World Woman Hour is available on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and viewers are asked to share the #ShesMyHero hashtag.

The goal of each minute is for all women to tell their personal stories that include wisdom, advice, confidence boosters, real-life learning, and lessons about overcoming anything. Through World Woman Hour, these 60 hero stories of women changing the world  will continue to drive awareness on critical issues currently faced by women and girls globally,” Dash says.

“The hour is significant because every hour, somewhere in the world, members of national parliaments or legislatures are making decisions on important issues, and worldwide only 24.3% of these key people are women,” according to the website.

In the lineup of 60 powerful women, Dash has included 20 celebrities such as actress Cynthia Erivo; 20 women known for their work, including primatologist Jane Goodall; and 20 women who are silent heroes including Tatyana McFadden, a Russian-American Paralympic athlete.

“If women see other women doing great things, 45% will do something similar,” Dash says.

Moving to New Delhi in 2005 to attend university, Dash says she was working on a shared computer. She began working in Mumbai 2007-2008 in advertising. In 2009, she met her husband, and they were married in 2010. She moved to be with him at the University of Southern California-Los Angeles in 2012, where she studied entrepreneurship at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Dash was seven months pregnant with her daughter, Aayati, when she arrived in the U.S. Watching the news of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2012 prompted Dash to “do something,” she says. So she co-founded World Woman Foundation “from my bedroom” in 2013.

With no family help, access to funding or experience forming a 501 C-3, Dash launched after asking for help from a musician she met and the first fundraiser raised $10,000.

“I feel it’s important for women to have mentorship and skillsets in order to make stronger families, communities and countries with access to education and opportunities,” Dash says.  

WWF, “a non-profit arts organization creating meaningful experiences throughbusiness, technology, social entrepreneurship andentertainment designed for women all over the world” has the global initiative of mentoring one million women by 2030.

These mentorships are addressing “humanity’s grand challenges,” Dash says.

Read more in Take The Lead on Rupa Dash

The WWF intention is to elevate “the socioeconomic milieu of 2 million women across the globe to celebrate the spirit of womanhood.” So far, Dash says, her foundation has mentored 50,000 women. Dash is the first Indian American managing director of the world’s largest women’s entrepreneurship network recognized by the White House.

WWF, “a non-profit arts organization creating meaningful experiences throughbusiness, technology, social entrepreneurship andentertainment designed for women all over the world” has the global initiative of mentoring one million women by 2030.

These mentorships are addressing “humanity’s grand challenges,” Dash says.

Read more in Take The Lead on Rupa Dash

“The 30,000 foot overview and why it is important is that the whole world is in crisis,” Dash says. “A pandemic and leadership crisis. The important numbers to focus on are why as of 193 nations, only 13 have women heads of states. We have a long way to go,” says Dash, who was the first woman to receive the UN’s International Telecom Union Award for her work to bring mobile entertainment content to Indian farmers across 40,000 villages.

Dash has worked with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on India’s prominent investor meeting and Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit and Chief Minister Nitesh Kumar on a collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development to bring useful resources to the most underdeveloped states in India.

“Whether a woman is at a kitchen table or a table at the UN, women matter every hour,” Dash says. The world cannot change, she says, “without giving access to young girls to a wide range of role models.”

As the mother of a 7-year-old daughter, this mission is personal as well as professional, Dash says. “Our goal is to expand the playbook of role models for young girls. They can become a farmer, an astronaut, that’s my goal,” says Dash, who is active with UN Women, Harvard Business School, Davos Forum, and Hollywood Film Festival, advocating for gender equality in film and entertainment.

“We are creating the world’s largest virtual playbook for young girls. Their heroes are right here.”

This post ran initially in Take The Lead.


  • Michele Weldon

    Author 6 books; journalist; NU emerita faculty; The OpEd Project leader; editorial director Take The Lead, mother of 3 sons.

    MICHELE WELDON is an author, journalist, senior leader with The OpEd Project, directing the Public Voices Fellowship initiative at Northwestern University since 2012. She has led OpEd Project initiatives at Stanford, Princeton, Brown, DePaul and Loyola universities, Ms. Foundation, Rush University Medical Center, Center for Global Policy Solutions, Boone Family Foundation, Youth Narrating Our World through The McCormick Foundation,  Urgent Fund Africa  and more. She is an award-winning journalist and author with nearly four decades of experience on staff and contributing positions at North Shore Magazine, ADWEEK, Fairchild Publications, Dallas Times Herald and Chicago Tribune. She is emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School where she taught for 18 years. She was co-director of TEDxNorthwesternU 2014. She is the author of six nonfiction books including her latest, Act Like You're Having A Good Time (2020), Escape Points: A Memoir (2015) and chapters in seven other books; has delivered more than 200 keynotes and appeared on scores of TV and radio outlets globally. A frequent contributor on issues of gender, media and popular culture, her work appears in hundreds of sites including New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, TIME, Christian Science Monitor, Guardian, Slate, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and more. She is editorial director of Take The Lead, a global women's leadership initiative. She serves on the advisory boards of Life Matters Media, Global Girl Media Chicago, Sarah's Inn, Between Friends and Beat The Streets. She is a former member of the board of directors of Journalism & Women Symposium.