Leadership in unlikely places

07.12.12 | Posted in General

I’ve been back from Uganda for a week now but am only really feeling ready to write about it now. Coming home to our exquisite lives in Australia has been difficult and I’ve found myself in tears or on the verge of them quite a few times. A lot of people have asked how exactly it’s changed me, and I’m not sure of that yet, but I know I’ll never be the same again.

We were there for the Business Chicks Immersion and Leadership Program, and I couldn’t help but feel on a number of occasions that every single one of the women in the group were meant to be there – they answered the call to a new level of leadership and stepped into the challenge beautifully.

During our time in Uganda we were confronted by chronic hunger and poverty which is just a way of life for too many. We met a woman who had twin babies – both of the children had runny noses and watery eyes and were too weak to swat the flies off their little faces. We asked the woman what she ate each day and she said “I won’t eat today – I may eat tomorrow.” How was this mother meant to breastfeed her two babies when she was so malnourished herself? She had no means to food or income – as she was looking after the children she couldn’t work and her husband was a casual labourer and worked when the work was there. When the work came in he’d receive approximately $1 a day, and on those days, they’d eat.


In one village we asked a man to show us where they got water from and he led us to a small water hole that was bright green (pictured left), completely covered in algae. Half of our group’s hands went to their mouths immediately – surely this couldn’t be where they got water from? Our translator assured us it was, and worse still – a lot of the villagers didn’t like the taste of boiled water, so they used it/drank it as is.

In one hut, a little girl (or boy – you can never be sure because all the children have their heads shaved and usually only have one piece of clothing which doesn’t give you a clue as to their gender) sat on my lap. This little girl weighed less than my 16 month old daughter. I asked the mother how old she was, and she said ‘five and a half.’ That’s years, not months. She was skin and bones, and hers was another family with no income or access to regular food. African children

The stories I’ve told you above were some of the gravest we experienced. There were however, many moments of tremendous hope and stories of resilience and success – and these were of those women and families who were involved with The Hunger Project. These people had learnt how to grow better quality food and more variety (some families live off a diet of only one food, like bananas), store their food and sell the excess to make an income. They’d been trained in health practises (like washing your hands after going to the ‘bathroom’), and building structures out of sticks to air out their pots and pans after cooking etc.

I am incredibly proud of the Business Chicks women that took part in the trip – each and everyone of them stepped up and played full out, and together with the members who went on the first trip to Bangladesh their efforts contributed a total of over $380,000 to The Hunger Project. Bravo girls! And two of the women on the Uganda trip have pledged $1,000,000 to The Hunger Project Uganda over three years as a result of this experience – how extraordinary is that?

We’ll be running more leadership programs next year to Bangladesh and Uganda and if you think you may be up for it, we’d love for you to apply – send an email to and we’ll send you some info.


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  1. Bec Bodman

    I could not encourage you enough to go on one of these trips. My tip – just commit and work out the rest later. It will enrich your life and widen your orbit. There are not enough words to describe the experience.

  2. Tina Tower

    Beautifully put Em. I’ve been trying to write my post about the trip and am finding it so hard to find the right words. It was such a powerful experience and one I’m so glad I got to share with you x

  3. Peggy Radiotis

    Thank you for sharing Emma. Beautifully written. It took me six weeks before I was able to fully write about my transformative experiences in Bangladesh. Ladies, these trips are truly life changing and I can’t recommend them enough. I’m so grateful to have been given this amazing opportunity by Business Chicks and THP. The fundraising amount may seem daunting to start with, but soon you will find yourself achieving things you never thought possible. Thank you again Emma.

  4. Emma

    Thanks for being an awesome leader Bec, and for stepping up to the challenge of the program and trip. I was so proud of you! Still am by the way …

  5. Emma

    I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts gorgeous girl. Loved every moment of sharing the Uganda experience with you.

  6. Emma

    Thanks Peggy – I’m still really distilling it all too. I’m having many moments of self-thought and discovery and loving the discomfort that it brings. Thanks so much for your support of our work at Business Chicks and THP too – you Batch 001s are fantastic! :)

  7. Clare Phelan

    Hi Emma , your article struck so many chords for me ! I too felt a loss for words after I arrived back in Melbourne from my Bangladesh trip! I was so full of images,feelings ands thoughts and have only very recently be able to start to articulate this mammoth transformative experience. I have been blessed with seeing the highest forms of courage, commitment,collective ness from the beautiful women in the villages we met. I was also inspired and humbled to be amongst an amazing group of women from all over Australia who had fundraised their butts off all year to support THe Hunger Project Australia’s fantastic work!
    What a fabulous partnership Business Chicks and The Hunger Project Australia have formed. I would highly recommend stepping up to action, acknowledging that we are a global community and committing to one of these trips in 2013.

  8. Samantha

    What an amazing and life changing experience for you and the people you’ve touched over there. Well done to you Emma and all that went on the mission, truly inspiring!!

  9. Cheryl Leong

    It is incredible how different our lives are from those of people in impoverished countries such as Uganda. And each day we take it for granted the abundance we have – over consumption, waste, complacency, and simply forgetting that our lives would have been very much a different story if we were born into much poorer nations. Thank you Emma for sharing with us what I’m sure is only a small glimpse of your experience. Bec shared some of her stories with me and it just left me with such mixed emotions – and I was only a listener – you ladies were brave and strong enough to be there in person to witness all of this. I commend all of you and would honour the opportunity to be part of future projects like this in the coming years.

  10. Alpha Murgev

    Thank you for writing this Emma. It can’t be easy to put experiences like this into words. What extraordinary program to be part of – being able to really do something to help others who aren’t as fortunate to have the opportunities available to us in Australia.

    I truly admire all the ladies who went on this experience, and you have inspired me to be part of the program next year! Not sure how, but as Bec said above – just commit and figure out the rest later!

  11. Emma

    Alpha – you’re a perfect candidate for this leadership program! In fact, I’m going to be personally recommending you to the THP board here – you’ve always struck me as someone who’s ready for the next step up (you and your gorgeous mum!). Perhaps you and your mum can be the next mother/daughter team for Business Chicks – we had Bec and her mum head to Uganda with us this year and it was bonding and wonderful for them, as it could be for you too. Thanks so much for your comment!

  12. Felicity Waterford

    Amazing post Emma, thank you. So delighted I got to share it with you and all the chicks. I was as inspired by you all, as I was by the courage and resilience of our partners in Uganda.

    Still processing and awed.

  13. Fiona

    Wow Em, I was thinking of you and everyone else that went the entire time. It’s something I really want to do so I will most definetely look into next year. It’s one of those things that you say you will do one day but not sure when the right time is. And as Bec Bodman said I guess you just commit and work out the rest later. I’ll email and find out about next year’s trip. Congrats!