When preparation meets opportunity
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca
In the past six months or so, each month I kept telling myself that on January 1 2019, I will be the Executive Board President of AWiB Ethiopia. The Association of Women in Boldness, the formidable networking platform for women leaders in Ethiopia. Each month, I felt that sense of being ill at ease, perhaps even panic ebbed away. I have been probed. I have been coached. I have learned in action. I have prepared. I am ready.
It is funny, next to perhaps my marriage and two beautiful children, I have given this transition the most thought in the past year since I accepted my position as president-elect. During this continuous self-reflection, I concluded that I am capable to take on this role but what will my legacy be? What will I use this voice for? As an AWiBer, it is important to internalize that change starts with the self. If you want to change the world or make an impact, you have to spend time on you. Working out the kinks and ensuring that all that is great within you blossoms.
Let me get this out of the way. What we do is not divisive. At least, it has no reason to be. We address those within our reach so they, in turn, can address their niche, those within their reach. It is our multiplier effect. What we do is not an easy task. Each day, we ask ourselves and our members to step out of our comfort zone, to reassess the norms we hold dear and work with an entirely new perspective. That is a difficult order but it is not impossible.
While it would be easier to assume that the world will accept those of us that dare to demand a seat on the table or a voice, it is unfortunately not so. How to perceive the world needs to be based on the understanding and recognition that the way in which power intersects is based on various factors, including our gender. This is something that is drilled into most of us from a young age, whether we are conscious of it or not, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. In the age of #metoo, a 50-50 minstrial cabinet and a woman as president in Ethiopia, supporting this nation to realize its ambitions demands we face the fact that age, class, gender and disability, are mutually constitutive. That Citrus Paribus as economists love to say, does not apply in a complex society simply because oppression is interdependent and choices are not in absolutes.
The multifaceted and crucial roles played by Ethiopian women still remain on the sidelines because of our inability to go the extra mile demanded of us as leaders. This affects roles, responsibilities and access for each and every one. What is more, this is simply not neatly packaged in a gender inequality box. Gender does not exist in silos, it is men and women in different spheres and different backgrounds that are continuously interacting to realize the social fabric we see before us. Their sense of masculinity and femininity, coupled with their culture, class, age and disability status form our social fabric.
This has a determining factor that enables or inhibits women’s political participation and voice; women’s economic empowerment and agency; as well as women’s safety and access to all social, economic and political public goods or otherwise. There is no one clear-cut solution but the presence of women in decision making plays a crucial role. Coaching and mentoring plays a crucial role. Self-development plays a crucial role. We need to have our gender lens at all times to understand that, it is simply not as simple as it seems. So today, I challenge you to move beyond rhetoric, I challenge you to walk an extra mile to make women’s leadership a reality- you can do it because it makes business sense and it does, or you can #WalktheTalk and go beyond participation to make gender justice a reality because it is right. That is up to you. We are here to help you prepare.