Have you ever walked into a room, all eyes on you, and wondered if you should say a loud hello or shake everyone’s hands?
When I was requested to stand in for columnist Caroline Njung’e, I had flutters. I had these ideas in my head that I kept killing because I didn’t know how to entertain an audience that probably didn’t even like having guests around.
Then something happened — International Women’s Day. What a subject to introduce oneself with to strangers!
As a young girl, I didn’t understand the relevance of this day. I kept wondering why we had a day set aside to celebrate women. For what? Forgive me, I was young and naive.
For decades, women have been fighting. Fighting for suffrage, attention, safe places … fighting for equal representation. And looking back from where we have come from, maybe, we should make it two days!
MY FATHER WARNED ME
When I was ready to leave my parents’ nest to chart my own path, my father sat me down and warned that out there, the world is unfair and I had to learn how to fight for what I believed in if I wanted to survived.
At that moment, I didn’t quite fully understand what he meant. Having been brought up in a family of girls only, I couldn’t put a face to inequality.
On Friday, my employer hosted women for a breakfast meeting and as they walked into the hotel draped in Ankara theme, the excitement was noticeable. See how women laugh heartily in chama meetings? That’s how we laughed out loud. Women like to be celebrated. Sometimes, it’s a kind gesture like making us breakfast that gets us so spirited we could till an acre in three hours.
As I listened to the addresses by the various speakers, it reminded me of a conversation I once overhead between a man and, presumably, his wife.
The two had a small baby, (I gathered from their conversation) and they were at a crossroads. The woman must have had enough with house helps and wanted to quit her job, but the man dissuaded her.
At some point, he even suggested having one of his siblings come to live with them to help her with house chores. She flatly said no.
To have her give in, I overheard him reminding her how much she had always wanted to teach and the many years she had spent gaining experience to work with children with special needs.
Unfortunately, I alighted before they reached a consensus.
In the meeting, as we clapped to every statement that seemed to align with the theme #Balance for Better#, I thought about the men in our lives and how instrumental they are in our journey.
Men who push us to become the best version of ourselves and those that don’t favour us just because we come bearing the name ‘woman’.
Men, who take our advices and instructions without a single pint of disdain. That said, the day isn’t just about women but the society in general.
One of my friends, the only man in a family of two siblings, once told me how they had a dish washing rota. In that home, there were no specific chores for anybody. As he cooked or washed, his sisters could be out there cleaning the family’s car or taking trash out to the garbage collection area.
He further disclosed how the experience taught him independence, respect and has shaped him into the man he is today. He hopes to do the same with his children, should he be a father someday.
I think if we started these conversations at home, maybe we could help bridge the gap? If we raised our children to have both power of strength and subtlety, maybe conversations around having more women in the C-suite and other positions of influence could be less.
The writer is a correspondent with ‘Daily Nation’. Carol Njunge’s column resumes next week