I was in Uganda this past summer, where I co-facilitated an emotional integration workshop for ten women and then co-chaired a women’s leadership conference for three days. To say that I learned more than I taught is an understatement. There were close to 40 women from Uganda, Rwanda and the United States at the conference.
My job was to create a format that would support dialogue, masterminding, collaboration and forward movement. The women from the US were all amazing, accomplished and they came with open hearts and minds. They also had extraordinary stories of overcoming obstacles that were touching and uplifting.
To me, the women from Africa were the game changers. They came with powerful intentions to grow and expand, then sharing their stories. These women live in a male dominated society where they are seen as housewives and baby producers. Their culture sees no reason why women should want to be educated, lead, be entrepreneurs or have their wisdom heard. The interesting thing is, every woman there had bucked that system. Woman after woman told stories of how they found ways to be educated, created community organizations and took leadership roles in numerous areas. How they did so is what interested me. I want to share with you what I witnessed.
The Courage To Grow. There were some threads revealed from the stories the women told and I want to share them:
Listen to your own inner calling. These women had no idea how to achieve what they heard. They only knew that they had to move. One woman gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome. She didn’t know what it was or how to deal with it. It was challenging and often painful. Soon she discovered there were other mothers that had “children with differing needs” and she knew she had to do something. She started an organization to support other women in extraordinary ways.
One step at a time is all it takes. Hope is passionate about health. She created an organization to educate and support her community. Hope was intentional about bringing awareness and support to the challenge of HIV. Slowly she built successful partnerships and now collaborates with the Global Livingston Institute to test thousands of people in her area.
Stand up for what you believe is right for you. Two women shared how they were shifting their relationships. They were not willing to have many children that they could not care for. They had watched how women had eight, ten or twelve children and were in abject poverty. Both women stood up to their husbands and their family members that pressured them. They were willing to let the relationships go if they could not be heard and supported. The shifts in their marriages are incredible and transformative for all concerned.
Take risks. One woman was married to a man who was degrading her. She finally found the courage to walk away. She was not supported by her family or her community, however, she was clear she had to find a way to know herself. She got a job, didn’t date, completed her education and is now thriving in her career.
Build community. These women were clear that they needed to be with like-minded women. They bonded and created online and in-person ways to stay connected and continue to support each others’ dreams. A What’s App community was created and the sharing is beautiful, insightful and filled with the celebration of life.
The Chancellor of University of Colorado, Denver, Dorothy Horrell shared with me her biggest take-away from the conference. She said ‘No excuses!’ which rang so true to me. Each woman had demonstrated they were unwilling to give themselves an out. Their only focus was on achieving success for themselves, their families and community. They repeatedly said:
- The only way is up
- My history will not define my future
- There is always a way to soar
- My dreams are attainable
- The culture can be changed
- I am here to do great things
- My gifts deserve to be recognized
- I have a voice and deserve to use it
- I trust in me and my inner guidance
I will take these phrases into my daily practice. These women do not have the resources or opportunities that we often take for granted. They have been relentless in the pursuit of their dreams. I am taking up a no excuse! policy for my expansion.
The dreams living inside you can only be manifested through you. You are the place where the universe can express in the originality of you. Please join me in taking bold and courageous steps to bring your voice to the planet. There are men and women boldly stepping forward to create a world where all can thrive – let’s join them.
Love and light,