On Friday, I had the opportunity to attend a Women’s Leadership Conference and I must say that it was the most empowering atmosphere that I have ever been for the cause of transforming women’s lives. On TV, media and reality TV shows, the most representation that I have seen of women, are the ones that gather to either fight, twerk and or show baby mama drama. It is rare to see a gathering where hundreds of women come because they have an intention to prove the society wrong about its expectations of them. Besides the speakers who shared their stories of how and why they started a journey of empowering women, I knew that these congregation of women had their stories too.
The women who spoke answered questions about situations whereby someone or they were the only woman in a room filled with men. The best response was “you will always be the only something in the room and that should not restrict your voice from being heard. Introduce yourself ahead so that a comeback will be easy when discussions start on that table.” There was another question about how these women have managed their roles as mothers, wives and at the same time, bosses. I was so happy to see that they never denied their intention of catering for the ones they loved and they made that clear. A woman mentioned how she had to state the hours she would be available at her job interview and how having a family was no excuse to being the best that she could possibly be. The other women mentioned that if they had to take their baby carriers into conference rooms, they would. In other words, they said, “make what everybody thinks should be your limitation become your inspiration to get out of that bed every morning.”
These women also mentioned how important it is that women should surround themselves with other successful women and how it is true that “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” (Madeleine Albright) Helping other women could be starting a voice for women whose tone have been lost in the shadows of domestic violence, injustice and inequality in our societies. A survivor of sexual harassment at her work place told her story of how in the late 90’s her boss made sexist comments and advances towards her. She said that she had worn her long hair to the interview and cut it short on her first day of the work (because it was easier to groom in the morning) and he had passed a comment about how she looked sexier with long hair. She told of how she wore longer skirt each time he touched her to show how short the skirts she should wear to work can be. She stated that he had chased her around the office with a pair of scissor when she did not heed to his advances about her long skirts. She mentioned how he will unclip her bra strap when she walked past him and how she told her husband she was done, then filled a lawsuit when he poured water on her head and her shirt as a game. She said she was not the only woman who was treated this way by this same man but the other women had refuse to speak. They were bound by fear and shame that the society imposed on women who had the audacity to fight such patriarchy.
One of my best moments was when another brave woman, a lawyer, started her speech with “Where are the nasty women in the house?” If being nasty means getting things done and putting patriarchy in jail, then we must be nasty and even nastier. She mentioned how women led companies have historically outperformed the companies led by their male counterparts and how our countries will be better off if women had the chance to lead. Her words reminded me of the conclusion in Sojourner Truth’s speech titled “Ain’t I a woman?” Sojourner truth said “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”
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