Posted by: XL Results Foundation | May 21, 2008

Shall we Ask? Or Shall we Demand?

“What was my biggest takeaway from the inaugural XL Pioneer Club?” asks Dave Rogers,co-founder of XL Results Foundation, after he returned from the trip to India. Dave lets us in on his experiences on the sub-continent and what he got from them.

For me, what I got out of the trip to India with the Pioneer Club was my experience with the Hunger Project. The Hunger Project in India is about Indians for India. The programme is about empowering women so that they can take the next step to empowering themselves and their villages. It is about giving them a political voice in their constituencies.
The intention is to empower 3,000 women leaders which will favourably impact three million people in the next three years.

What’s in a Name?
The controversy of the name was discussed at length during the 12-day adventure through India, which saw our group of 60, including 14 wonderful children, travel through some of the wealthiest and richest places such as Mumbai, Delhi and Rajasthan, and to Agra, the city of romance with the Taj Mahal — then on to some of the poorer rural areas near Satna.

Hunger, as explained by our two alliance partners, Jim and Cathy Burke, is not solely about physical hunger, it is in fact, about hunger for opportunities, hunger for a voice, and hunger for rights to food, clean water, education. This ‘hunger’ was clearly shared in the villages around Satna and the surrounding communities that the inaugural Pioneer
Club visited.

Physical hunger — which one of our honourable guests, the Minister of Transportation, correctly noted — is something that India surpassed around the turn of the century. In fact, the minister proudly stated that India has over two years’ supply of food in its
reserves, two years of food stuff are stored, and India is beyond having to
worry about hunger.

This lead to a healthy debate about having these food stuff delivered and logistics enhanced to enable the poorest of the poor access to it.

Demand and It Might Happen
The Hunger Projects Initiative, which is supported by XL Results Foundation as a component of the Social Entrepreneur Accreditation programme, and in collaboration with the Clinton Global Initiative, is about educating women about available resources, training women about stepping up, and assisting women leaders to allow their voices to
be heard.

At XL, we use the mantra, ‘Show up, Step up, and Give Back’. For the women in the villages, it is about access: access to food, access to clean water, access to education, and access to infrastructure that will connect their village to other villages so that trade, commerce and development can flourish. In Esther Hicks’ wonderful book, Ask and It Is Given, one of Esther’s main messages is to simply ask and it will happen. Esther, along with Abraham, brilliantly shares the power of intention, the power of words, and the power of attraction. In India, it dawned on me that a similar book could be written for women leaders, though perhaps it would be called, Demand and It Might Happen.

Demand,Demand, Demand
When I heard the women leaders from the Team India Hunger Project urge the new batch of inspiring women to DEMAND improved access to water, to DEMAND local education and to
DEMAND road access for the village, my mind, body, and inner voice immediately pulled back from this very powerful directive. ‘How combative’, I thought to myself.

After years of studying words and in fact curiously exploring, practising, and sharing the wisdom and application of ‘Word Medicine’ as a real and practical tool of personal empowerment and transformation, it did not settle well with me that the leaders were encouraging the new aspiring leaders to use such a word as DEMAND — especially with
the power and force that they were encouraging them to use.

I wondered what would happen if they employed Esther’s principle and techniques of ‘Ask and It is Given’, and whether this approach would be more effective.

Abuse and More Abuse
As I listened and pondered, I heard story after story of verbal abuse and sexual abuse, suppression and torment, that the female leaders of this movement were faced with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

The response to these newly- empowered women was not always positive. In fact, quite often the male villagers would respond to the loud voices, the demands and the open
confrontation with the only thing that they knew, and that is violence. Violence
was their core response to the challenge and fear that was being triggered in them.

Many men lashed out and the recipients of their violence were women. The dynamics fascinated me. The women were making demands, demands that they were willing to voice
and demands that they knew would make a positive difference for the village, for the families, for the children, and for themselves. The demands would even make a positive difference for the men whom they were sending a sense of fear, alienation, and in some cases demasculination to.

What Do Westerners Care About?
As I pondered the situation in the villages, something popped, and I wondered what in our lives, what in our Western lives, are we actually willing to demand?

Is there anything that we care about enough to actually step up and demand? Have we been so insensitive to our surroundings that we have become so acclimatised to the
injustices of our societies that we no longer have the power, the drive, or
the voice to make demands? Demands of society, of our government, of ourselves?

As I stepped back and opened my eyes, I smiled and looked up and thanked my Maker.

Thanking Her
Thanked Her for the learning, thanked Her for the lesson and thanked Her for the opportunity to reconnect with a beautiful work — a word that can demand me to step up, demand me to speak up and demand me to make a difference, especially when demanding
is the right action to take!

As for our teachers in the villages of Satna, the women are finding their voice and using it. They are demanding change, and they are experiencing some of the benefits and costs to change. Change will continue and I have a feeling that a louder voice by women will lead to positive changes in rural India. As they move forward, they will include men in the conversation, they will walk a middle road and they will make strides to improve the quality of life for all Indians in rural areas: men, women and children.

From my short experience in Satna, I am optimistic, and it left me wondering: are we witnessing the end of the caste system in India?

Ladies and Gentlemen, shall we ask or demand?

From XL Extra! Issue 4 2008

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