Tag Archives: India

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.

“May all our Wishes be Granted”

Our field visit on my Business Chicks Leadership & Immersion Program with The Hunger Project, today took us back to Bhimtal where Elected Women Representatives traveled for 6-8 hours stuffed into Jeeps to join us and share the work that they’d accomplished in their local areas during the course of their service.

For some context, the area we’re staying in Nainital, the capital city of Uttarakhand in Northern India is at an altitude of 2,084m.  Australia’s tallest mountain, Kosciusko stands at 2,228m and Everest at 8,848m.

Little Pushpa sat by me cross legged in the unheated hotel room we met in.  And, she may have looked like the quiet retiring type when we first met, but as turns out, she’s hard to keep quiet once you get her started.

She was married at 19 and 31 years later, is still going strong.

She’s currently president of her local panchayat (council/community area) having worked with local self-help groups for 15 years prior.  She’s always been very community aware but was unable to do more before quotas were introduced for women to be elected.  She wanted to take on a political role and make a real and bigger difference.

She’s proud of having constructed a Marriage Hall in her area as there was no facility for weddings, and 7-8 local marriages have already taken place there.

She’s also managed to have water supply brought to her village from over 6 kms away to stop women doing the trek daily.  In the mountainous area she lives, this is incredibly difficult and often extremely cold, as you’d expect in the far north of India by the Himalayas.

Apart from that, she’s lobbied for a local creche and now around 26 children attend daily.

There’s a small river that also runs by her panchayat and she’s worried about flooding in the monsoon season, so she’s determined to have a retainer wall erected to protect the village.

After training with The Hunger Project’s local partners in Uttarakhand, she now has the confidence to head off to her local capital city and petition for help.

Pushpa has been in her role and accomplished much in the past 5 years and is hoping to stand again for re-election later this year.  Her request?  “May all our wishes come true.”

And, if you were worried that she really hadn’t done enough to qualify again, she’s also had 110 toilets constructed, but needs 15 more, along with a safer method of sewerage disposal.  She’d determined to be back to finish her work!

As she beautifully put it, “I will do this work to my dying breath.”

What a beautiful lesson in humble leadership she was for us.

Milk is Meant for Boys

So now all the lovely ladies, Business Chicks representatives and THP Australia team have arrived.

This brilliant opportunity ahead of me, commences with The Hunger Project India and Australia teams welcoming us all to amazing India and to further introduce the work done by the elected women representatives, some of whom we’ll have the privilege of meeting on our travels this coming week as we head to Naini Tal in the Himalayan foothills.  It’s also lovely to have two representatives from the THP Swedish office joining us on this trip.

Firsthand, we will be able to witness the courage of the Elected Women Representatives as they bring about much needed change in their communities in spite of the daily obstacles that arise, and continued resistance from those who fear change.

This visit will be a milestone for us as we witness the work they do, and also for them as they understand that what they’re achieving is amazing and significant and worthy of us learning from them

India remains at number 103 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index behind even Bangladesh and Nepal, yet is the third largest economy in the world following the USA and China.

The India Times yesterday was highlighting the reduction of child marriage and teen pregnancies in India, shaming the areas lagging behind and noting that much work was still to be done.

We sadly heard that infanticide is still practiced against baby girls and is considered acceptable by many.  Child marriage and the rape of girls as young as three continues.  If my blood could curdle, I think it just did.

The expression ‘milk is meant for boys’ crossed my radar and angered and surprised me today.  Even grandmothers won’t nourish their granddaughters as it is so ingrained that the men and boys are worth more and come first in the family, community, and beyond.  Yet, families don’t even let their animals sleep without food…  Over half of all rural women in India are malnourished and anemic,  and 39 crimes against women are committed every hour.

For someone who has grown up in middle class Australia in a family that had enough, and daughters had the same opportunities as sons, it’s a world I understand very little of.

As the horns continue to blast in the streets around me, I’m looking forward to learning from the experiences we’ll all have in the coming days and how for some, the tide is slowly turning.

In the past, I know that the lessons learned can inspire each of us to be a catalyst for change in our own personal and business lives.

Signing off… and eagerly awaiting my latest immersive experience despite, the 3.30 am wakeup call ahead.

A Good Horn, Good Brakes, and Good Luck!

So, it turns out that you go to sleep to the sounds of horns blasting and awake to the same frenetic activity.  It kind of completely set the tone for a dynamic tour of Delhi and an amazing introduction to India.

In Australia, hearing a horn means you’ve done or seen something stupid or seriously upset a fellow traveler.  In India it means, ‘hey, I’m here, look out!’  Or even, ‘I’m just completely in love with this horn that my vehicle has kindly provided for my unlimited use and intend to show my gratitude repeatedly.’  Road markings are a complete joke and aren’t even used as a guideline for motorists, riders or those pushing a cart.

Opting to immediately head out to explore the sights, rather than wallowing in my one night only special upgraded suite with a spa, I did a spot of research, and found a private  all day tour for AU$50 and set off to hit the town… the Old Town to start with.

My driver Rahul told me that you need three things when driving in India:  a good horn, good brakes and good luck! (he may need more luck with the brakes…)

And what an epic day it turned out to be.  Although it felt unhurried and quite relaxed, we managed to visit some amazing places.  Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists all reside in India and its sites and architecture reflect its diverse history.

I met my guide Qayoom when we started at the Jama Masjid, the largest Mosque in Delhi (incredible architecture) and snooped at the view of Old Delhi from all three gates.  Shoes off and swathed in a bright yellow wrap, I wandered the walls of this building that can house 25,000 worshipers at a single time.

Jama Mosque

It was then a bicycle rickshaw ride through the Chandni Chowk area to see some more sights.

Zinat-ul Masjid or the Fatahpuri Mosque, surrounded by homes for those learning, and schools for children, was next.  Koi splashed in the pond set aside for wudu (ceremonial washing before entering a mosque) as plans were underway to set up for Friday worship.

Mosque

This was soon followed by a spot of shopping for the alleged purest spices on earth at the bazaar.  (I may or may not be eating butter chicken and green curry for some time to come!)  Seeing man and beast hauling the goods on carts from the supply areas to the shops made me almost glad of an office job.

Spide

Next up was a wander around the outside of the Red Fort which commenced its life in 1639 and was completed in 1648, taking almost 9 years to finish.  It remained the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for the next 200 years and today houses a number of museums (currently under renovation.)

Red Fort

We reconnected with Rahul here and made our way to Raj Ghat, the final resting place and memorial site for Mahatma Gandhi.  Judging by the number of school groups on site, he’s still as highly revered for brokering a peaceful independence for India as he was back in the day… before being stopped by a bullet.

Raj Ghat (2)

As it turns out, blondes may have more fun and I was accosted by bold, young schoolboys wanting photos with the white lady to mark their time at Raj Ghat, and smiles and waves from the shyer girls.  (Unsure how pics of the granddaughter of a British Indian army officer will fit into their school report on this important excursion in their formative years.)

School boys

Up after that was an authentic Indian lunch at Pindi, with resident snake charmer lurking outside!  I think I could have truly finished my tour right there with a full stomach and great pics, but there was still so much more to accomplish.

Charmer (2)

Isa Khan’s (an Afghan noble who fought against the Mughal’s) garden tomb followed, complete with new puppies, and it felt like I’d entered Dome Appreciation Day by the end of this site visit.  There’s truly some clever people and amazing artisans who helped create these brilliant buildings.  It’s kind of a shame that their residents don’t get to truly enjoy their final resting place.  But then, maybe the traipsing of millions of tourists around their graves would be some consolation in that at least, they are remembered.

Isa Khan

The Bu-Halima gateway then took us through to the real reason for our visit here, Humayun’s Tomb, another great building with extensive use of red sandstone, a final resting place for an Indian Moghul, as commissioned by his first wife and chief consort, and set in spectacular grounds.  It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth a wander – but if you can’t handle seriously steep stairs, it may not be for you!

Humayn Tomb

And last stop, which we just made in the nick of time, was the $10 million, white marble Baha’i Lotus Temple.  Twenty -seven large petals forming nine sides, and nine swimming pools complete this House of Worship that has become a prominent attraction.  The temple is available as a place of reflection regardless of your personal religious affiliation, or lack thereof.  CNN has referred to it as the most visited building in the world.  And with the sun setting behind, it was a fitting end to a big day and wonderful introduction to Delhi.

If you’ve been before, what are some of your highlights and ‘must-do’ things in this incredible city?  Or, if you haven’t been, what’s on your bucket list?  There’s still more to come from me!  I’ve only just begun…

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!