1. What we have done so far illustrates what this series is about:
Our first discussion attended by about fifty women, ”Turning Tables on Tradition’ yielded multiple insights about glass ceilings including the challenge – do they exist or are they self-created excuses that stop women from living up to their full potential. We talked about men being predatory by nature, and about the social conditioning behaviors we’ve had to unlearn on our career journeys. Betty Radier, the Managing Director of McCann Erickson, inspired us to ‘Hop on our Bike’ and to use the power of networking and personal branding. Most of all, she advised that we aggressively focus on the performance of the business as the surest means to reach the top; that focus on profits neutralizes the gender factor.
At the second session, Eva Muraya, CEO Color Creations inspired us to think bigger, to dare to dream. About fifty women attended this session. Using her own life story to illustrate her journey from relative poverty to the extreme occasion where she socialized with Condeleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, Eva challenged us to set stretching life and career goals, to persevere through obstacles, to reject negative influences in our lives, to nourish ourselves spiritually and to believe in our power to change the world…one dream at a time. The discussion revolved around our fears about articulating our dreams, about our fear of seeming too ambitious and the challenges that achievement sometimes brings into our family or romantic relationships, and about our need for mentors and role models.
Our lack of financial power is perhaps why the women’s voice is so often silent or easy to ignore. At our third session, Laila Macharia , Principal Director – Scion Real ( a real estate development and financial structuring company with projects in several African countries) profiled the financial steps that women need to take at various age stages in order to secure their financial future. She took 100 or so women through basic financial terminology, gave us investment advice and challenged us to work smarter. We discussed how many of the constraints women face in the financial arena are self-imposed, while others are a result of tradition and a discriminatory legal framework. Many of the women in the room belonged to ‘chamas’ that spend much of their time socialising, and some of the women had never sought professional financial advice believing that you had to have Ksh 100,000- 500,000 to invest before it made sense to do so. We talked about our fear of being seen to be ‘feminists’, about whether we are prepared to do what it takes to make ‘real’ money.
At the 2008 annual Storymoja Fiesta on 10th August, we held lively sessions on the Work/Life Balance moderated by Irene Kinuthia, a professional trainer, Ivy Mwai led a session on Mentoring, and Muthoni Garland moderated a session titled, ‘What do Women Want?
In November 2008, Storymoja partnered Nyokabi Njuguna, an entrepreneur who was one of the lucky five mentored over a month in the US in the Vital Voices Fortune 500 Series in organising a mentoring walk. Over 300 women took part in the walk at the Nairobi Safari walk, those older in business or corporate life, paired with younger versions of themselves thus providing an opportunity for networking and for sharing experiences and lessons.
2. Why did we perceive need for a Women in Leadership discussion series?
The wisdom being passed on to the next generation about women through media, various imagery, proverbs, and popular sayings (including women telling their young sons ‘stop behaving like a girl!’) is generally negative and will continue negatively stereotyping the role of women unless women take control of shaping their own contemporary history by either by writing it themselves or by raising the alarm when it is distorted by others.
Storymoja intends to take up this challenge by facilitating writers to write about women today in a different way – stories of Kenyan women as achievers, workers, wives and mothers rather than predominantly victims; stories of Kenya women as spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical beings. We cannot do this effectively unless we engage with women, and stimulate them to discuss the issues that affect them. We sprinkle writers in the room to be stimulated by the discussion and to meet women whom we can quote or feature in our writing.
3. Why a monthly discussion forum?
We choose to do this in a down-to-earth practical forum that encourages sharing rather than lecturing. In building a community we hope that over time we’ll earn the trust of those who attend and allow them to feel ‘safe’ enough to open up. By staying connected with these women, we nurture trust and commitment. It also serves our research need. Through this forum, we’ve noticed a deep hunger for discussions that feed our emotional intelligence, for information that allows us financial freedom, and for lifestyle guidance and the validation that comes from knowing how other women deal with similar dilemmas and issues.
4. Whom do we target?
Women aged 25-45years. Many work in the corporate sector, some are entrepreneurs. Our Guests Speakers meet this profile, and must be ‘aspirational’ and able to present material that feeds our imagination and mentally challenges those who attend. The Guest Speaker introduces the topic, and then lays out points for discussion. Muthoni Garland moderates to ensure the widest possible participation.
Storymoja arranges the sessions, invites and briefs the guest speakers, moderates the discussion, arranges for photography and other publicity material, writes up the reports to feature on other media websites. Our writers could generate articles that could feature in any medium/media.
Join us by emailing your name, brief profile and expression of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome your ideas.
Please call to arrange a meeting, or feel free to email any questions or comments.