Tag Archives: The Hunger Project

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.

Indian Adventures Ahead!

So, the time has finally arrived and it’s just a little bit exciting!

I’m currently in transit between Singapore and Delhi and off on my  latest adventure – the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion Program with The Hunger Project (THP.)

An amazing group of ladies have applied, been selected and raised at least $10,000 each for this great charity.  So first, a huuuge thank you to those who supported my fundraising efforts, (again!) and massive kudos to The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) Foundation for coming through with a fabulous grant of US$5,000.  There’s still time to donate, so if you feel the urge, head to Amanda’s Fundraising Page.

I’ve seen the work of THP now in Uganda and Malawi in Africa and can’t wait to see the difference that THP has made in the lives of the villagers in India also.  It’s a completely different program in India, tailored to the needs of each region.

Knowing a little about more what to expect this time, I’m looking forward to meeting the women who’ve stepped up and are now making a difference in their communities, assisting in providing sanitation so women and girls can go the toilet in safety, ensuring children stay in education and stopping child marriage.

Often, these women are illiterate and uneducated themselves and it’s a huge leap to put their hand up and become elected representatives and considered as leaders in their local panchayat (council.)

We start in Delhi before heading up to Naini Tal in the foothills of the Himalayas.  The thermals are packed, alongside the immodium and I’m getting ready to curry it up with the best of them.

Anyone who has ever been to India tells me you either love it or hate it!  The chaos, the smells and the busyness and noises can be completely overwhelming… So, here’s me, open to an experience bigger than the rumored smells of armpit and curry.  I can’t wait for the dust, the spice, the colour and bustle of it all.

After spending much time on Ancestry in the past few months it feels as if India is in my blood.  In the mid-1700’s my Greek ancestors headed from Philippopolis to Dhaka and Kolkata to engage in trade and were there as Ralli Brothers and the East India Company plied their trade. For generations, they lived and worked on the sub-continent with my great-grandmother and great-grandfather finally settling in Melbourne before returning to entertain the British troops stationed in India in WWII.  My grandparents met there and my father and  uncles all started life in this amazing country.

I won’t be able to explore their old stomping grounds this trip, but I’m very much looking forward to learning more about the people and culture my ancestors have been immersed in for over two centuries.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

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!

Kicking Goals!

It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s already been a year (this week) since my trip to Malawi with The Hunger Project and 15 amazing women.

Learning firsthand the magic of mindset and what a difference it’s made as people become empowered to take charge of their own futures was a powerful lesson and made me think carefully about my own limiting beliefs.  And although I’ve kicked a few to the curb, there’s always more to add to that list!

Meeting the amazing villagers who had all lived in abject poverty and yet were stepping up into leadership positions to empower their communities was incredible to be part of.

Transformational Leadership isn’t just about fearless leaders rocking social media but everyday people making a difference in the lives of others – they’re the true rockstars.  And it certainly put the privilege I’d been born into, into stark relief.

I remember thinking that certain awards were ‘out of my league’ or that ‘I’d never be as amazing as that person’ or that ‘I couldn’t do what they’re doing!’  So I chose to question all of that and set some goals of my own.

I wanted to travel more, write a book, do more public speaking, stay involved with The Hunger Project and have an award winning financial planning practice, and what’s really cool… is in the last 12 months, I ticked all those boxes.  It’s only now that the memories are coming up in my Facebook feed that I’ve realised how far I’ve come… and what I still have to go!

Time to set some more Big Hairy Audacious Goals and get kicking!

What are you planning to set up for yourself in 2018?

 

Huge Thanks to MDRT Foundation!

MEDIA RELEASE:

The Hunger Project Australia Receives Grant from Million Dollar Round Table Foundation

 16 August — The MDRT Foundation has awarded a USD 1,000 grant to The Hunger Project Australia via Amanda Cassar’s fundraising efforts for the Unleashed Women movement.

Through its global grants programs, the MDRT Foundation is committed to building stronger families and communities around the globe. This year, the MDRT Foundation will award over

$1 million in MDRT member-endorsed grants to more than 200 charitable organizations worldwide.

Amanda Cassar is an Unleashed Woman and has also visited The Hunger Project’s work in Uganda and Malawi. The USD 1,000 grant provides for example 16 women with a microfinance loan and financial literacy training so they can start a small business, earn an income and support their families. During her visit to Malawi, Amanda met women who have been empowered by The Hunger Project in this way.

Unleashed Women is a powerful global movement empowering women to end hunger. For more, visit www.unleashedwomen.org.au For more on The Hunger Project Australia, visit www.thp.org.au

 

About the MDRT Foundation:

The MDRT Foundation was created in 1959 to provide MDRT members with a means to give back to their communities. Since its inception, the Foundation has donated more than $30 million in more than 70 countries throughout the world and in all 50 U.S. states. These funds were raised by MDRT members and industry partners. For more information, visit mdrtfoundation.org.

About MDRT:

Founded in 1927, the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), The Premier Association of Financial Professionals®, is a global, independent association of more than 49,500 of the world’s leading life insurance and financial services professionals from more than 500 companies in 70 countries. MDRT members demonstrate exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct and outstanding client service. MDRT membership is recognized internationally as the standard of excellence in the life insurance and financial services business.  For more information, visit mdrt.org.