Tag Archives: Business Chicks

We’ll Make sure you Win, Unopposed!

Sitting cross legged (awkwardly on my part) on thin mattresses on the cold tiled floors of the unheated Hotel Harshikhar, in Bhimtal, Northern India, we heard from 15 Elected Women Representatives or community leaders who traveled many hours to share the issues within their communities and the wins they’d had during the last four+ years of their time in office.

The Business Chicks with me had traveled from all over Australia to hear their stories, and one that stood out for me, was Hema.

“First and foremost,” she said, “women were not taken seriously.  Their voices had not been heard, and this caused fear and anxiety when they wanted to express their opinions.”

She thanked the women of the organisations who partnered with The Hunger Project to teach women their rights, and how to be heard.  She was grateful for the assistance to build her own confidence to fully be her best in her role.

Hema fought for water issues and is now proud that every house in her village has access to water and that tanks have been constructed for families who need them.

She’s received an award from the State Government for having a modern panchayat (village council) where all basic services were covered.  This resulted in an award of 200,000 rupees (AU$4,000) for her village.  She also received an award for cleanliness and sanitation from her district.  This lady is a winner!

In her spare time, she’s chosen to fund education for 2 very poor girls in her village whose parents are unable to meet the costs of schooling.  There was also no land for a creche for the smaller children, so she donated part of her own property for that too.

Hema is also a bit of an entrepreneur and now has 5 women in the village making paper packets that can be sold at market to provide them with an income.  Her passions are teaching others about animal husbandry and ensuring that women understand about savings and being able to provide for themselves.

Domestic violence fueled by alcoholism is also a problem in her area and many women don’t know what their options are but come to her for advice.  Bravely, Hema has confronted the husbands to have a discussion about their behavior prior to escalating matters to the police.  One man objected to her interfering with belting his wife and even went to strike her, but she managed to grab his arm.  Strongly, she stood her ground telling him that she was here for a conversation and if he chose to also abuse her, the matter would go to the authorities.  What a powerhouse!

Some men in the area work away at companies or serve in the army to financially assist their families, but some just choose not to contribute to the financial upkeep of their homes.  This is why Hema is so passionate about ensuring the women can earn a living and put away savings for when needed.  (Sounds like she’s also a part-time financial counselor!)

Hema still has more work to accomplish.  She wants to again contest the elections later this year and be back to serve and make a difference for the next five years.  It’s no wonder the women in her village have assured her this election year, that they’ll make sure she wins again, unopposed.

Exotic India Tripping!

Well, you may know from former blogs, that my trips to Malawi and Uganda with The Business Chicks Leadership & Immersion Program in partnership with The Hunger Project in the past few years have changed me in so many ways.

I’ve learned incredible lessons in resilience, leadership and mindset from possibly, not one of the first places I’d  look.  Yet, seeing the amazing work of providing a hand-up, rather than a hand-out has been inspirational.  I’ve learned new perspectives and totally not to sweat the small stuff.

I’ve loved it so much, that I’ve signed up for Round 3 and will be heading to India with THP in February, 2019 with an amazing and new bunch of ladies.  We all need to raise a minimum of $10,000 each and my latest journey is just beginning.

Having seen firsthand the impact that just small amounts can make, and knowing that over 81% of the funds provided to directly to where they’re needed, rather than funding the CEO’s learjet, I’m reaching out for your support.

If you can please assist in my journey, I’d be amazingly grateful, as I know are those in receipt of the education, literacy classes and micro-finances loans supported by THP.  Please donate here!

India is also ‘in my blood’ so to speak with my grandparents meeting there and my father and uncles all being born there.  A few of us are looking to extend for a couple of days to see Delhi and the Taj Mahal before heading home and I can’t wait to share my adventures of empowerment and success over adversity with you all.

Stay tuned for more!

Book Chapter Teaser! Meet Emma Isaacs!

Just one of the amazing people I’ve interviewed for my new book, Financial Secrets Revealed is the lovely Emma Isaacs, mother extraordinaire and global CEO of the fabulous Business Chicks network.

Amazing Emma shares the stories from her early life that impacted her financial abilities and the role her grandfather played in her financial education.

Her entrepreneurial journey started very early and while her friends were out partying, she was the one working.

Emma discusses her personal financial setbacks candidly along with the best financial advice she’s ever been given and just how she and her husband tackle the family finances.  With five kids and a hectic travel schedule, you’d have to be on top of that!

With a lot of ugly stigma around money, being open and honest with each other works for the Isaacs.

I also love her top financial tip – “it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have, it’s about building a discipline and building your confidence around money and investing.”

If you’d love to learn more about Emma’s financial journey, her favourite form of investment and the advice she’d like her beautiful kids to learn about money, just stay tuned.

Financial Secrets Revealed will be able to be ordered in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to share Emma’s story and so many more with you!

 

Confronting Child Marriage in Malawi

Part of our visit to Majete 5 involved meeting people in the village who were open enough to share their homes and stories with us.

For some background, for many years, their homes and village formed part of the Majete Game Reserve, and naturally enough for people suffering chronic persistent hunger, the wildlife was viewed as a food source and the trees were cut down to burn and sell the charcoal as an income source.  Over time, this decimated the area until the Government finally decided to partner with private enterprise and re-establish the game reserve to entice tourist dollars back to Malawi.  It was pitched as good for the villages to bring money back to the country, but to those starving, made little sense.

Fencing the entire reserve meant that those living in the Park were forcibly relocated outside of the perimeter and much antagonism arose with the local communities cut off from what they once viewed as their own.

To assist in helping villages find their feet again and look for new sources of income, The Hunger Project was asked to partner with communities around the Reserve and assist with mindset change and leadership.  Education assists in helping find new sources of income and building a better life.

Yet for now, some things remain the same in the villages.

Maxwell (32) and his wife Shiveira (28) welcomed us to their home.  Shiveria was very shy and is currently expecting their 5th child.  Their eldest is now 15 (do the math!) was married at 12 and is a mother herself.  Maxwell told us she wanted to be married and wasn’t forced, but they needed the dowry to be able to eat.  We were witnessing firsthand inter-generational child marriage and teen pregnancy… and it was a little confronting.

I found it difficult to suspend judgement and just listen to the story for what it is seeing it’s so different, unacceptable and unusual in my own culture.  Child marriage however has long been considered normal in the area and no-one raises an eyebrow.The legal age for marriage in Malawi is 18 however child marriage still regularly occurs in the village areas with little to no intervention from the village leaders.

Maxwell’s daughter stopped attending school once having the baby and may never have the opportunity for further education… until The Hunger Project bring their literacy classes to the area.

At home, remain 2 sons and another daughter, plus the baby on the way.  Hopefully by the time their existing daughter is a teenager, the mindset training will be complete and her parents will take part in the Vision, Commitment and Action workshops, educating them with alternate options.

Well, here’s hoping anyway!

Time to be Transformational!

It’s so lovely to take time out in our busy lives to reflect, and on the first day of the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion program to Malawi with The Hunger Project, we got to do just that.

To start our day, we reflected on all those things in our lives that we were so grateful for which was very special.  Families featured strongly, along with hot running water and electricity and the gift of being born in a country like Australia.   Now at the conclusion of our fundraising journey and before we head out to visit our Village Partners, we visited what we’re most proud of and the leadership lessons we’ve learned so far.

It’s so great to just stop and think about everything we’ve achieved to be here.  Often when congratulations are offered or people praise us for the work we’ve done, we’re quick to wave them aside and move on… but it has been an epic journey to raise $10,000 for a cause that means something to us and step outside of our usual operating space and into where the magic happens.

Many realised how we’re capable of so much more than we thought possible, others thrived on the importance of collaboration and some shared that Fear was their greatest teacher.  Also, it’s ok to prioritise ourselves and that receiving help can be empowering. So many learnings!  My notebook is bursting already!

We learned how to be more present to take in comprehensively what we’re about to encounter in the villages, and that in being uncomfortable or challenged means we’re ready for growth.

A lesson learnt in Uganda last year was highlighted – that we need to “stop being so transactional and start being transformational” – definitely words from the wise. (Thank you Joel!)

Next was taking on the true understanding of chronic persistent hunger and how the symptoms we’ll see are merely the visual from deep rooted social and mental structures.

“It’s hard to create a vision when you don’t even believe that you’re worthy of having one.”  We identified and confronted our own fears for the coming days and weeks and those we’d face on our return home.

It was then time to learn how The Hunger Project tackles the huge issues of poverty and hunger with 5 seemingly basic steps:

  1. Change in Mindset
  2. Good Leadership
  3. Vision
  4. Commitment
  5. Action

Sounds so simple right?  Yet the mindset training alone takes up to two years!  It also makes us challenge what holds us back?  What are beliefs we have that keep us back from achieving all that we want?  Some deep diving to be done here!

The fabulous country director of The Hunger Project Malawi, Rolands Koatcha then spent a couple of hours explaining his own background in the villages, personally facing poverty and hunger with his eight siblings and how education has transformed his life, and of his passion and purpose in changing the lives of his fellow Malawian brothers.

All in all, a very long, epic day full of sharing, love, laughter and tears and preparation for us to head out into the field tomorrow to see one centre firsthand already at the stage of self-reliance and meet the people whose lives are being changed every day.

A Magical Trip to Uluru

Like most Aussies, I had the amazing Uluru (once known as Ayres Rock) as a place on my bucket list.  But realise too, that few have had the opportunity to visit.  And it is in the middle of our really big country, that’s sometimes a bit tricky, expensive and time consuming to navigate.

When the opportunity arose for me to attend a conference in the amazing spiritual heart of Australia (and hosted by the amazing Business Chicks) I jumped at the chance to go.  For I knew both the content and the location could only be brilliant.

Our first glimpse of both Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru was granted on the plane ride in to Uluru airport, and it’s pretty special.  I’m not sure the size was ever really quite abundantly clear to me, until I saw it rising up from vast flat lands dotted with mulga.  And it’s actually the Olgas site that holds a deeper spiritual significance for the traditional owners, the Anangu people.

For some idea of scale, it’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower and three times that of the Statue of Liberty – that’s 348 metres high!.  It’s 9.6 kilometres around to walk the base.  Yes, it is a really big rock!

My stay was at the Accor run, Sails in the Desert resort and it’s not far to any of the viewing areas available for sunrise and sunset picture opportunities.  The resort is great for singles, couples or families and has a pool onsite, along with a restaurant, bar and conference facilities.

Some said they felt Uluru to be a truly spiritual area and being there affected them deeply.  I was awed by these majestic mounds of sandstone that make up both landmarks, oxidising before our eyes.  Incredibly, both extend for kilometres further underground.

It’s hard to tear your eyes away, and long after we swapped our cameras for champagne glasses, we were dragging them out again as the light and colours constantly changed before our eyes.

A few of us treated ourselves to a sunrise tour with Ayres Rock Helicopters, and it was worth every cent.  Our wonderful Venetian pilot Julio was a fabulous tour guide and took us on a 36 minute extended tour for fabulous photo opportunities and filled us in on fun facts throughout the flight.

Funnily enough, Aboriginal art also made a whole lot more sense from above.  I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of the traditional dots and stripes style of art, but from above, it’s clear that this is exactly what you see.  The dunes of a former inland sea snaked across the landscape and shrubs and bushes literally dotted the remaining space.

On our return from our flight, we headed to the watering hole area at the base of the rock that is a holding pond for water that pours down the sides of the rock during the rains and gathers at its base.  Depending on the heat and the seasons, it can quickly dry out.  Further up exists another collection hole that we couldn’t see, but is said to be up to 10 metres deep.

There’s a painting cave to visit, and a few signs along the clearly marked paths around the base of this amazing landmark.  Getting up close and personal was a fabulous experience that will leave a lasting memory.  It was only when standing at its base and staring up that it’s sheer amazing height and presence was truly felt.

If you ever get the chance to head out please do, or if not, make the opportunity happen.  It shouldn’t be left to just the hordes of European and Asian tourists to make the effort to visit this amazing natural treasure and take home the pics.  You owe it to yourself to see first hand just how spectacular this place really is.

A Visit to a Child Bride in Mbarara

The Mbarara Epicentre was our next stop on our tour with The Hunger Project (THP.)

Set in lush green hills flanked by towering mountains, it’s a spectacular backdrop for the centre.

Daisy, the Country Director of THP told us that this was where God sat when he made the rest of the earth. I’m inclined to agree.

After a winding walk through magnificent country not far from the Epicentre, we found the home of Rosette (now 34) and her husband Christoph (41.)

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Rosette was 15 when she was married to the handsome businessman, then 21. She is a strikingly attractive woman, dressed in a matching blue top and skirt and was obviously quite house proud and not shy to share her story with us. A dowry of 750, 000 shillings changed hands (about USD$250, or the value of a cow.). Her first child Edith, was born when she was 16 followed the next year by Victor.  Asked if she was afraid of marriage so young, she said that she wasn’t really as she viewed it as the end of her childhood and the start of life as a married woman.

The legal age for marriage in Uganda is 18, but child marriages are still common, especially in rural areas.

They now have 6 children, having added Darius, Owen, Jonan and another to the family. Edith is now 16 in P7. She likes maths and wants to be an accountant. Victor wants to be a Doctor.

When asked if she’d like Edith to be married young, she replied that no, she wants her to wait til she’s finished her schooling at 28!

Happily for Rosette, things have turned out well. Christoph sells coffee beans to a factory and can provide a basic lifestyle for his large family. They have a modest but clean home and raise poultry amongst the banana and coffee plantations lining the hills. When asked if Christoph loves his wife, he replied ‘too much’ leaving us to all awwww at his admission.

Another woman seated in the crowd there to welcome our arrival was Caroline. She too was a child bride, married at 14 and is now 24. Her husband is four years older than her. Her first child was born when she was 15 and she was nursing baby Henry, her 4th child, while we spoke. Like Rosette, she too was excited to be a married woman.

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These concepts that seem so foreign to us are ‘just another day’ stories here.

Thankfully THP is in the area now, and providing Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes, a health centre, food bank and Microfinance for those also looking to improve their lot. Rosette and Christoph are thinking of joining soon.

A visit to the Namayumba Epicentre in Uganda

Well, today we started our trip on the road to visit the Namayumba epicentre, a couple of hours west of Kampala.

We jumped on the bus in high spirits ready to finally see firsthand the work that all our fundraising monies have been put towards, and it was really rewarding.

We split into three groups to tour the centre, first visiting the nurse’s quarters and the health centre. These lovely ladies assist with vaccinations, HIV counselling and basic treatments required. The centre itself is equipped with rooms for a children’s wing, male and female wards, treatment wings and counselling rooms. At present, one Dr Paul is on duty and the recruitment process is underway for more healthcare workers.

Our next stop was the nursery school, but many children are currently on holidays. Little Josephine was the only girl amongst all the boys but they were happy to break into song and do an impromptu dance as well. Their friendly faces and curiosity were gorgeous. We sang Twinkle Twinkle little Star for them to say Thank You.

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Tearing ourselves away from their epic cuteness and their 15 year old volunteer teacher, we next stopped at the rural bank to see Microfinance in action.

Four women had arrived at the centre for the first time, and we’re waiting for loans to improve their small businesses. The local branch manager Stella gave us a great tour of their small facility.

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We then met in the epicentre directors office, checked out the clean water facilities, viewed the crops on site and planted our trees, leaving our permanent gift to the Namayumba epicentre – mine was an avocado tree.

Next followed a fabulous welcome to their meeting hall with energetic dancing and music, where many local committee members, animators for The Hunger Project and government officials welcomed the Business Chicks in an official ceremony.

Focus groups were next on the Agenda and I landed Women’s Empowerment – and it was brilliant to see how proud the girls were of their accomplishments; share their hopes and dreams for their children and future and we especially loved how the men were so supportive of their wives efforts.

The other group covered HIV/AIDS and the Ugandans were surprised to learn the disease occurs in Australia too. Much is being done to promote testing, and provide counselling. Health & Sanitation was the focus for the final group which discussed its services in educating the community to hygiene issues, nutrition and maternal health.

Finally, it was time to cuddle some babies, board the bus and say goodbye before the epic ride of six and a half hours to Mbarara, our home for the next few days.

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The Gang’s All Here! Let the Adventures Begin…

Well, yesterday saw the arrival of all the gorgeous girls joining us on our adventure with The Hunger Project.

All have undertaken a personal journey to be here and have had to commit to raising the $10,000 in fundraising… No mean feat.

We shared a lovely welcome dinner last night and settled in for a big sleep prior to kick-off today.  A club over the road however blasted away til about 4 am making a full nights’ sleep a little difficult.

After another great breakfast and gorgeous sky started our day, and we headed off for our leadership program to begin.

Today started with a brilliant dance session by a talented Ugandan group who had us all shaking our tail feathers after receiving our gorgeous gifts of scarves and skirts.

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We then settled in to learn lessons in leadership, forged closer bonds with our fellow travellers, and heard from the local country director, Daisy who inspired us with the work done in the epicentres around the southern part of Uganda, some of those we’ll visit on our travels.

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We’ve been encouraged to dream, confront our fears, be mindful, respectful and challenged as to how we truly listen.

Making the most of this journey will involve being open to the new, letting go of past beliefs and future expectations and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”  Jiddu Krishnamurti

After the confront of yesterday’s paper, today’s ran a 20 page feature focussed on Mother’s Day – reminding some of us of the babies we’ve parted with to be on this journey and restoring faith that motherhood is a gift, and a usually, a universally appreciated one.

And we’re all completely loving the buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It seems so surreal that surrounded by such luxury and comfort that we’re actually here to visit some of the most marginalised people on earth… not that far away…

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A rather grey day in Kampala

I woke up this morning to a slightly grey and drizzly day but figured a lazy wander, a massage and a chill out were well overdue.

After brekky (a generous American style buffet) I headed back to my room to sort through the spa menu and book my relaxing Swedish massage.  That done, settled down to read the local paper… and the confrontation for me began.

I had some giggles at the local celeb news and some lost in translation moments, noted an announcement on page 6 that David Cameron was re-elected in the UK, and read advice from Dear Abby (actually Penny) to a wife put more ‘space, time and aroma’ into her sex life so hubby won’t be so hooked on porn (leaving me a little baffled.)

I then came across the Children section.  This area of the paper is much like we’d use for the loss of our dearly beloved pets, notices of abandoned or found animals, the RSPCA begging for homes for those less fortunate… only with real live people.

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A baby had been abandoned in the rain, a five year old was searching for his folks and thirteen and fifteen year old kids had been turned over to the local police hoping to be reunited with their parents.  A childcare centre in Mbarara (a district we head to on this visit) is seeking good Samaritans to take care of the babies they’re currently housing as their parents are too physically or mentally ill to raise them.  Others are orphaned, many abandoned.

Knowing the steps many friends have gone through to become parents, and not always successfully, it reinforces again how antiquated the Australian adoption laws are and the amazing work some people do everyday to bring a little joy and stability into the lives of others. It’s so easy to take so much for granted.

Even the local classified section runs notices from lost log books to abandoned babies.

imageI confess its left me rather flat and even being basted from head to toe in olive oil for my massage didn’t help me recover.  I feel like I should be stuffed with garlic, covered in spices and baked as ‘the other white meat’ for someone’s dinner.

Anyway, I guess this is just the beginning of what’s ahead for the coming week.

The remaining Trippers all arrive in the coming couple of hours, so it will be great to catch the rest of the crew.  In the meantime, I think a walk through the grounds may just do me some good.