Choose to Challenge
Sivanjana Kathiravel, Head of Partnerships, The Hunger Project Australia tells us how she embraces the theme of International Women’s Day “choose to challenge”.
You know that feeling when you’re in your flow at yoga? There’s a collective, charged energy in the air; it seems everyone in the room is in sync. Well, I’ve felt that feeling multiplied many times over when I’ve been witness to a group of 40 women in a village in Uganda singing and dancing like nobody’s watching. Being in the presence of such strength, power and resilience as it’s unleashed through moving their bodies is electric! Sadly, despite the outward joy, the reality is that they face harsh and difficult circumstances; most of them are living in chronic hunger, some maybe eating one meal - if that - a day.
This is not the reality I want to live in. It's easy for us to continue on this path, but that’s not what I choose; I choose to challenge this status quo.
I choose to be part of creating a world free from hunger.
Can you imagine a world without hunger? What does this look like? Is it even possible? It sounds like a big, bold and crazy idea - but that’s the world I’m working towards. The solution to this seemingly huge problem requires the best minds in the world – whether that be the women and men living this reality of hunger every day or anyone, anywhere who shares this exciting vision.
The Hunger Project has proven strategies - that put women front and centre – to unlock people’s potential to lift themselves out of hunger. So it is possible to bring an end to hunger, and surprisingly it’s not actually about food hand-outs!
We have discovered that the most effective way to bring about an end to hunger is by starting with women as changemakers and influencers, and challenging them to go through a process of shifting their mindsets from “I can’t” to “I can” to “we can”. Ultimately, the women then create a vision for their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Their visions are extraordinary: from a current reality of hunger to visions for farming nutritious crops all year round, or starting a new business to support herself financially, or of their children seeing their school education right through to graduation day.
One amazing woman I met in Uganda – Lydia – told me that her vision went beyond herself and her family, and she really wanted to make a difference to her whole community. She started out as a dairy farmer but was not even allowed to speak up in community decision-making meetings – purely because she was a woman - even when these very decisions impacted her dairy farm. Since then, she had embraced The Hunger Project’s mindset shifting process, and now she has been elected as a chief of her community by the King of Uganda! She told me that partnering with The Hunger Project made her a stronger woman – and she reminded me that anyone is capable of tapping into and unlocking their inner leader. “I am now listened to... If I can, you can,” she said.
Now imagine that kind of impact and influence amplified 15.8 million times! That’s the number of people across Africa, India and Bangladesh who are currently partnering with The Hunger Project to lift themselves out of hunger. So is a world free from hunger looking more and more like a possibility for you?
I see my role at The Hunger Project as a conduit of sorts, linking Australians who are itching to make a difference but simply don’t know where to start, together with local leaders in rural, remote villages who are creating innovative, sustainable, grassroots change on a global scale. Finding the perfect match - between an Australian who shares our vision and is excited to invest in our work, and our village partners who are seeking that partnership - is joyous. I feel fulfilled and it gives me peace of mind that I’m playing a small part in this grand vision.
I truly believe that we have so much to learn from people who face the challenge of hunger every day, and who shift from resignation to empowerment to build their personal and community wellbeing.
Every single Aussie dollar invested in our work is testament to the fact that so many Australians already share my belief in the power of people, and my hope for a world free from hunger.
The theme "Choose to Challenge” means many things to me. At a level of humanity, it’s to push back on a common belief that solving some of the world’s biggest social problems is just not possible. But if not us, then who? And if not now, then when?
One way I connect and challenge myself is through the practice of yoga. It has helped me through tough times, giving me both strength and perspective. Rolling out my mat and practicing even for a few hours a week keeps me grounded and is a personal celebration of life and wellbeing. It connects me to the bigger picture and shows me that anything, including ending hunger, is possible.
For more information or to make a donation, please visit The Hunger Project Australia.