We are all tired...

How many of us wake up in the morning feeling exhausted but yet we put on a brave face and go about our day?

How many of us go to the gym to keep our bodies fit even though our minds are exhausted?

How many of us go to work because we have to pay the bills yet we would rather be elsewhere doing what we truly love? How many of us look up to give a weary smile in order to encourage others yet we are dying inside?

How many of us go home to lonely beds wishing we had someone to hold on to and pretend that it will all be okay? How many of us go home to our families depleted of all emotions but yet hold it together because we have to?

How many of us pray and we hope with all our hearts that our prayers are heard because we do not know how much more we can take?

How many of us wonder what it is we are really all racing towards when the only absolute destination is death?

How many of us lay awake at night wondering how we can manage it all?

How many of us know we have do not have it together even though the world thinks we have it all?

How many of us do not know what tomorrow may bring but yet, for now, we must prepare for it? Smile even when you think you have nothing left because the truth is

We Are All Tired…

 

- Chisom Ike

 Women, what no one has ever dared to tell you ...

Speech By Patrick D. Grahouan*

Abidjan March 13, 2017

Launch of the Women Leadership Initiative (WLI) GSK West Africa

‘’ Femmes, ce qu’on a jamais osé vous dire…’’, 

Patrick D. Grahouan*

Abidjan le 13 Mars 2017

Lancement du Women Leadership Initiative (WLI) GSK West Africa

*Women in Crisis Response Writer's Hub publishes this translated English speech on an as-is basis as provided by the writer, but individual names  discarded for their privacy. The original French version is also provided in the adjacent column for those who would like to read it! 

 

*The original French-language version as provided by the writer.

I rise today to speak, not as General Counsel but as Motivational Speaker.  It is an honour for me to speak on this important topic of female leadership on the occasion of the historic launch of the Women Leadership Initiative (WLI).

 

Instead of the usual speeches, I decided to write all women a letter that I titled: Femmes ’Women, What we never dared to tell you ...’ 

 

Since the dawn of time, we have tried by all means to extinguish your glow. 

 

We first used physical strength to declare ourselves superior;  then we used religion to place some of the most demeaning obligations on you. 

 

After that, we fell back on civil rights by denying your ability to take part in the political game.

 

But steadily, without violence or haste, you were able to bring down one after the other, these infamous barriers that we were erecting.  A long struggle, often noisy but never violent.

 

In the entire history of mankind, you are the only beings who have brought about revolutions without taking the lives of your opponents.

 

Let me confess to you here the truth that has been hidden from you for millennia: We do not know you.

 

You may well have brought us into the world, have fostered us, have carried us every day of our life, have educated us;  We still do not know you!

 

We fail to understand how a being declared weak can have so much courage, determination and foresight.  Your words know how to penetrate us more than any sword can ever.

 

Having failed to contain you during all these millennia, we have undertaken to exclude you from the decision-making bodies.

 

In the workspace, we have invented all the means to harass you, but here again, you have succeeded in having this infamy recognized as illegal.

 

Never mind, our latest find is to make you believe that having ambition is wrong.  While you see us spreading our ambitions all day long.

 

This latest lie is to this day our lethal weapon to stifle your leadership.

 

Because what is leadership if not the ability that a person develops to propose solutions, ideas or simple attitudes that inspire others and show them the path to collective and individual success.

 

We have succeeded in relieving you of the highest positions.  We have managed to make you believe that you just have to do your job and come back and take care of our children or us.

 

Understand that I am not telling you all this out of altruism or out of compassion but because the truth cannot be hidden any longer.

 

I invite you to feel free to have ambition: To work on your image and your professional interactions. 

 

Do not hesitate to take initiatives or generate projects to solve business problems.  To put yourself first ... feel responsible for the entire company.  Do not accept the unacceptable!

 

The leader gives direction, inspires, communicates energy and works across barriers.

 

You have the power and this initiative is a powerful tool to accelerate your ascent.

 

Of course, we will invent other ways to slow you down, but we won't succeed without your own complicity.

 

If you don't do anything with an opportunity it turns into an obstacle ... If you don't embrace the WLI program, we'll use it as a pretext as we've always been able to do for millennia:

 

Take charge of your careers!  And we will be happy to celebrate your victories...

 

Women, assemble!

 

Excellent day ---

Je prends la parole aujourd’hui, non pas en qualité de directeur juridique mais entant que Motivational Speaker. C’est un honneur qui m’est fait d’intervenir sur cet important sujet qui est le leadership féminin à l’occasion du lancement historique du Women Leadership Initiative (WLI).

En lieu et place des speechs habituels, J’ai décidé d’écrire à toutes les femmes, une lettre que j’ai intitulé : ‘’Femmes, Ce qu’on n’a jamais osé vous dire...’’ 

Depuis la nuit des temps nous avons tenté par tous les moyens d'éteindre votre éclat. Nous avons tout d'abord utilisé la force physique pour nous déclarer supérieurs; ensuite nous avons mis à contribution la religion pour faire peser sur vous certaines des obligations les plus avilissantes.

 

Après cela, nous nous sommes rabattus sur les droits civiques en niant votre capacité à prendre part au jeu politique. .

Mais de façon constante, sans violence ni précipitation, vous avez su faire tomber les unes après les autres, ces barrières infâmes que nous érigions. Une longue lutte souvent bruyante mais jamais violente.

 

De toute l’histoire de l’humanité, vous êtes les seules êtres à avoir porté des révolutions sans ôter la vie à vos opposants.

Laissez-moi vous avouer ici la vérité qu’on vous cache depuis des millénaires : Nous ne vous connaissons pas.

Vous avez beau nous avoir mis au monde, nous avoir couvé, nous avoir porté tous les jours de notre vie, nous avoir éduqué ; Nous ne vous connaissons pas !

Nous n’arrivons pas à comprendre comment un être déclaré faible puisse avoir autant de courage, de détermination et de clairvoyance.

 

Vos paroles savent nous pénétrer plus qu'aucune épée ne pourra jamais.

Ayant échoué à vous contenir durant tous ces millénaires, nous avons entrepris de vous exclure des organes de décisions.

 

Dans l'espace de travail, nous avons inventé tous les moyens de vous harceler mais là encore vous êtes arrivés à faire reconnaître l'illégalité de cette infamie.

Qu'à cela ne tienne, notre dernière trouvaille est de vous faire croire qu'avoir de l'ambition est mal. Tandis que vous nous voyez étaler nos ambitions à longueur de journée.

Ce dernier mensonge est à ce jour notre arme fatale pour étouffer votre leadership.

 

Car qu'est-ce que le leadership sinon l'aptitude qu'une personne développe pour proposer des solutions, des idées ou de simples attitudes qui inspirent les autres et leurs montrent le chemin du succès collectif et individuel.

Nous avons réussi à vous désintéresser des postes les plus élevés. Nous avons réussi à vous faire croire qu'il vous suffit de faire votre travail et rentrer vous occupez de nos enfants ou de nous.

Comprenez que je ne vous dis pas tout ceci par altruisme ni par compassion mais parce que la vérité ne peut pas être cachée plus longtemps.

Je vous invite à vous sentir libre d'avoir de l'ambition : A travailler votre image et vos interactions professionnelles.

 

À ne pas hésiter à prendre des initiatives ni à susciter des projets pour régler les problèmes de l'entreprise. À vous mettre en avant... sentez-vous responsable de l'entreprise tout entière. N'acceptez pas l'inacceptable !

Le leader donne la direction, inspire, communique de l'énergie et travail au-delà des barrières.

 

Vous en avez le pouvoir et cette initiative est un outil puissant pour accélérer votre ascension.

C'est sûr que nous inventerons d'autres façons de vous freiner mais nous n'y parviendrons pas sans votre propre complicité.

Si vous ne faites rien d'une opportunité elle se transforme en obstacle ... nous l'utiliserons comme un prétexte comme nous avons toujours su le faire depuis des millénaires : Prenez vos carrières en main ! Et nous serons heureux de célébrer vos victoires...

Femmes, unissez-vous !

Excellente journée ---

“A feminist is a man or a woman who says yes there is a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it.” This is how Chimamanda defined the word ‘feminist.’ This book has given me an insight of what feminism means. The author pointed out several things I had never given some thoughts to due to how normal I believed they were. On the very last paragraph on page ten, she had mentioned how a man had found a packing spot for her and her good friend Louis. When they had returned, she handed him some money, but he went ahead said thanks to Louis instead. This particular scenario has occurred times without number in my presence. Growing up in Sierra Leone, I got acquainted watching my dad receive all the praises for virtually everything including a cooked meal when he has never stepped an inch into the kitchen. However, in the eyes of others he is automatically the bread winner who obviously provides the funds to have every meal cooked.

Looking back at it all, I see how us women have been deemed to not do much on our own except we have some form of push by men. A woman will not even be free to take herself on a treat in a hotel without having people think she is some form of sex worker (Adichie 12). This shows that we are limited as to what to say or do. We have constant fear as to how society will interpret every move we make. In 1878 when the “right for women to vote” amendment was first introduced into Congress and took about 10 years for it to be ratified, we had hoped for better ways we could be seen and appreciated in today’s society. Clearly, not a lot has changed, therefore, we as feminists have every right to strive for a change. Men have failed to realize the amount of peace women bring in today’s society, but rather see us machines in human form to clean up all their messes.

 

Organizations such as UNSCR play a vital role in reaffirming the importance of women in peace making. It is a fact that involving more women in peace processes has been beneficial over the years. An average of 35 percent probability that a peace agreement will last 15 years or more if women were included, which has been proven. Therefore, there has been more push on having more women participate in the United Nation’s Peace and Security Sector. UNSCR strives to have women and girls from any form of gender-based violence, sexual abuse during wars etc., well protected and seen as the people that we are rather than just our gender.

In addition to all she expressed in her book she made emphasis on how society makes it a norm for women to be impressed when men do certain activities.  She spoke about her friend who has the same job as her husband, however, she always says “thank you” whenever he changed their baby’s nappy (Adichie 21). It is so because women have refused to see it as something normal for men to do. This is what society has done to us; forced us to believe that it is the duty of us women to do everything regarding children, cooking, cleaning etc. We then succumb to it and do all we can to fit.

 

This illustrates how our mindsets have been built and molded to feel belonged. We want to be liked, we hide our anger, we refrain from disagreeing loudly just to look “ladylike.” This whole issue of ‘doing too much is not acceptable in order to not intimidate men’ is complete blather. Why would I have to suppress myself because of fear of intimidating suitors/men interested in me. This just shows that they were never for me. This same society will frown at an unmarried woman in her mid-30’s but will hold girls back from going out to interact with friends at odd hours because it’s “unladylike”. However, men are praised are referred to as “big man” (commonly said in Krio) when they do it.

Hence, if me standing against all these makes me a feminist, then I would happily have that name tag plastered on my back. When women of color speak up, we are told to not add stress to our men because of the “system of oppression” they themselves undergo on a daily. This line aims at silencing us women from speaking up. This should never be the case; we must be given the chance to voice out how we are affected by all these. I am happy to say what I thought was “normal” years back is no longer called “normal.”

- Nahawa Ada Sesay on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "We should all Feminists"

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