Murli Meena

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As part of our journey with The Hunger Project Australia and Business Chicks, Amelia and I were fortunate last week to hear Murli Meena talk about life in Rajasthan as a ‘Sarpanch’ or Village President in her marginalised Scheduled Tribe community.

Murli was inspiring. She had grown up the youngest of her four siblings, living off the grass on the side of the road and berries where they could get them.  Her mother was widowed at an early age.  Not only had Murli never been on a plane before, she had never left her village. As she spoke on the 51st floor of 111 Eagle Street you couldn’t help but think what this experience must be like for her? I caught her gazing out the window at the lights often and was dying to know what must be going through her mind.

Whilst physically weak from the longer term effects of malnutrition, her inner strength was apparent to everyone in the room.  Murli is one of more than 120,000 ‘unleashed women’ in India trained by The Hunger Project whose impact stretches to 10,000,000 people.  This is how The Hunger Project achieve self-reliance and true cultural change.

She questioned why we all wore black in Australia when we are all so fair?  Lots of answers were provided – everything from trying to look skinnier, it’s easier, it’s classic etc.  But none of the answers were to Murli’s satisfaction and I had to agree with her, they were pretty weak.  Why do we all conform so quickly or have a desire to ‘hide ourselves away’ and not be noticed?

The one resounding message that Murli left sitting quite uncomfortably in my stomach, was ‘if I were as educated as you all were, I would ensure that there is not a single person in my village that is in need‘.  A simple, blunt statement.

At a recent Business Chicks breakfast with Richard Branson, there was a young woman who spoke of her period as a homeless person in Brisbane – but not in the ‘traditional homeless sense’ but rather the hidden, unspoken sense that we don’t see.  Couch surfing from home to home, which is incredibly risky particularly for younger, vulnerable women.

It has opened my eyes to the fact that as humans we are so good at hiding our pain, and that sometimes we need to be vigilant in our love and support of one another – be it our work colleagues, friends, family or strangers to ensure that we do, in fact, make sure no one in our own village is in need.


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Guest Thursday, 04 June 2020