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Annet van de Laak on her visit to Self-Shakti program

During a stay of ten days at the Better Future office in Bangalore I have the privilege to join BUZZ for two days together with the Chief Changemaker of Buzz India, Uthara Narayanan.

After a drive of almost 2 hours outside the city of Bangalore we have a breakfast together in a place where many famous Indian people used to come. People are going in and out, enjoying lovely Indian ‘fast-food’. Uthara explains to me where we are going and what we can expect today. The BUZZ stops today in a village where mainly Muslim women live and work. We will meet the facilitator and the driver near to the restaurant, at the place where they park the BUZZ every evening. The BUZZ is their living room and their bedroom during the week. The office next to the parking place provides the sanitary facilities.

When we change the car of Uthara for the BUZZ bus to travel to the village, and meet Chandrashekaraiah and Suresh it is immediately clear for me how proud these two men are on the work they do. They show me around in the bus and explain about all the specialities: solar power, training materials, chairs, etc. Everything is there to serve the women and let them become better entrepreneurs.

When we arrive in the village and everything is ready to start the training, there are only a few women. The leader of the group explains that there is a funeral in the village. Somebody died this morning and everybody has to share her sympathy to the family. After a while there is a group of about 12 women and the training can start. Around the group of women also some men and children come to watch what is happening. The women are eager to learn what the teacher brings and still a bit shy to share their experiences and participate in the role-plays. But when they take a step full energy and focus is there. Uthara translates a bit what is being said; mostly I enjoy the non-verbal communication of the facilitator and the group.

After the session we sit together with the four of us. Chandrashekaraiah is eager to get feedback. He wants to make the session even better, more interactive and more relevant for the women. On our way back to Bangalore Uthara and me share our purpose in life and conclude that learning will never stop in life.

One week later I join Uthara again to see the same group for their second session. Again we enjoy that lovely breakfast and meet Chandrashekaraiah and Suresh at the BUZZ bus at the same parking place.

When we arrive in the village it is very quite in the streets. We wait and wait and nobody shows up; big disappointment for the whole team. What is it about? Do the husbands of these Muslim women not allow them to go to the training again? Is there a memorial for the person who died last week? Are they not interested? Was the communication about this session not clear? A lot of questions and a hard lesson. But for sure a situation to learn from, so still a great opportunity.

Since there is a lot a time left we visit some business ladies who participated in earlier trainings. A lot of talking starts about how to deal with cultural ceremonies. Those ceremonies cost a lot of money and time, which cannot be spent on the family or business. Is it possible to step out of these ceremonies for a woman in a village? Will she still be part of that community? What is more important, being part of the community or earning money to let the children go to school? It looks like simple choices, but listening to the energy in the discussions it is not.

BUZZ, by providing training and coaching, helps the women to make these kind of choices. What is the right direction to make their dream come through? It is their dream, BUZZ gives them a lot of extra tools to live them!

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