It was my great privilege to travel to India recently with The Hunger Project – the humble little giant of a not-for-profit that I’m doing some work for.
The group I was travelling with were charged with learning ‘how to do leadership better’. We left Australia hoping to be touched by the experience – but came back with so much more.
For those who don’t know, The Hunger Project utilises existing governmental systems in developing countries to train elected women to read, write and lead so they can build infrastructure such as water wells, basic housing and electricity as well as combat existing social justice issues.
In the state of Odisha, India, where I travelled to recently, those social justice issues include:
- sex selective abortions (because girls are of so little value);
- selling girls as young as 13-years-old into marriages for dowries of approximately $1300;
- domestic violence;
- pensions for the aged; and
- preventing rice allocations being sold on the black market so their children can receive their midday meals in school.
It could’ve been very easy to pity these women for the conditions and traditional mindsets they battle daily in addition to living below the poverty line (less than $1 a day). But I felt nothing but admiration and joy at their resilience, persistence, courage, pride and sheer brilliance.
These women who when they meet you, greet you with flowers and smiles and cuddles and hand holding. Who curl up to you in togetherness and community regardless of not being able to speak each other’s language.
They are truly women to learn from.
They were so touched that we travelled across oceans to be with them, but really, we were truly blessed to be in all their amazingness.
So how does this help you?
Well we posed questions to these women such as, “Just how do you keep going?” and “What keeps you motivated?”
The buiness lessons from their responses were profound:
Response #1: “I have a responsibility to the people who have entrusted me with this position. Why wouldn’t I keep going? They rely on me.”
The lesson: View your offering within your business as a responsibility to your clients/customers – one where they rely on you. Make it a necessity.
Response #2: “I’m able to keep going because I am stronger with these other women behind me, supporting me. My voice is not powerful on its own but together we can achieve anything.”
The lesson: Flying solo can be lonely at times. Surround yourself with likeminded souls who are able to share your perspectives and possible heartaches. AND, seek partnerships where you can. No man is an island and there is power in numbers (cliché anyone?)
Response #3: “They may not listen to me today. But they will listen to me tomorrow.” (This from a woman who has stopped 25 sex selective abortions in her panchayat – akin to our local government.)
The lesson: Steel yourself. Defeat is only temporary. Believe that people will listen to you tomorrow, if not today.
Alongside the above inspirational responses to our questions stood the remarkable demeanours of these women. They seemed to have a steel rod within them – one I feel I don’t possess.
Their resolve, self-worth and belief were so slap-you-in-the-face strong. And it got me thinking, with all my privilege in this beautiful, developed world of ours, how could I be letting small thoughts discourage me from being all that I can be in business?
Which brings me to the final lesson: do not let your self- belief or lack thereof hold you back.
Allow courage to outshine your doubts. These women certainly do.
What’s the best business lesson you’ve ever learned? And where did you get it from?