BUILDING UP THE WOMEN AROUND YOU! BY ANITA ARUMA



I came across a tweet by Madeleine Albright a few weeks’ back
…“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
That sounds harsh right?  I thought so too. I remember thinking ‘haba’ aunty why so angry. But then again I thought, she has so many reasons to be angry. Let’s go back a bit.

From time immemorial, women have been taught to compete with one another, “I need to be prettier”, “I need to be taller’, “my nose is not pointed enough “I need to be smarter”, “I need to get the best man”, “I need to get the better position”. We have always been taught to come from a place of lack, a place of want. This is because unlike men who have always had a number of options to pick from…be it when it comes to their pick of women or their pick of jobs, women have always had limited options.

Fast forward to a couple decades back, out of 10 men in position of power and high level management positions, there was one woman. As such, any other woman who showed up was automatically viewed as a threat because they did not think there could be two, five or ten of them. There was space for only one.
Now, there are a number of women in top level management positions, women in politics, women who are partners in big firms. There’s a place for more of us. This means that as we can climb, we can lift many more people up while still moving up.

The question that follows naturally from that is; how do we do that?

Firstly, communicate!!  In secondary school, my principal used to make us say every morning “a girl is only seen and not heard”. Till date I am not sure what that was meant to achieve but I do know that silence and shame are the things that have stopped most women from reaching out to other women for help. Silence allows myths and ideas like ‘women are own worst enemies’ to go unchallenged. Furthermore, shame ferments when we internalize unchallenged ideas, so the first step is speaking and being unafraid. We should be able to have courageous conversations with other women. We need to be able to express displeasure in a respectful and private way and also compliment, encourage and support each other with reckless abandon.

Secondly, empowerment. We need to empower women to build themselves. It’s not about just carrying other women along because you can only carry so many, but teaching skills so that people can fend for themselves and then those people do the same for others. A ripple effect is created. If we don’t do it no one else will. It’s in our best interest for women to be empowered, period. So if we don’t band together and help ourselves no one else will.

Thirdly, find your “geng”. Personally, I have always sought out powerful, smart and all round amazing women to be friends with because, first, I get to be awesome and amazing by association: people know you by the company you keep. It’s a beautiful feeling knowing that I have a bunch of supportive women in my corner so supportive that when they get a promotion for instance, it’s like a boost for me too because we share a network and don’t need to compete for contacts. Second, it’s super tough out there, the job market, body image pressure and the dating scene, so naturally I want the smartest and happiest women in my corner pushing me to be the best version of myself, pushing me to negotiate for more money, dump men who make me feel bad about myself and respond to my outfit selfies from a place of love and not competition.

In a society where women often feel pressured to tear one another down, our saving grace lies in our willingness to lift one another up. We need to empower more and more women with tools to chip and chip away at all glass ceilings till they no longer exist for any of us. No one woman can do this, we’ll always need each other, one for all and all for one.
So now, what if we decided that there’s a special place in heaven for women who uplift each other, doesn’t that sound better?

Anita Aruma is a Credit control officer, proud feminist, lawyer, book lover and foodie.

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