My mom is the type of person that can have friends and relations for a very very I mean very long time. Over the years I have definitely become more of an introvert, and begun to realize how much of an extrovert she is. I can vividly remember many times I went to new places for work, and mom would always have a connection there, whether it was some Aunty, or Uncle, a long lost family friend they were a phone call away. I always say my moms relationship as a teacher is what saved us during the 10 year civil war in Sierra Leone(another story for another day). One day on our usual family chats, my brother mentioned "Mom you have a gift of networking and you do it so effortlessly" I realized this was true. There were many a time I benefitted from my mothers network and took it for granted. The more introverted I become the less I care to be around people, or more energy I need to conserve. Thanks to my mom I am learning to balance this whilst still maintaining positive relationships. I asked her to share some of her thoughts on my blog and she was thrilled. See her post below
Relationships can be defined as friends, school, college, neighborhood, family etc. It is a small world and there are different ways we get connected to people. People with different characteristics, pleasant, caring, friendly etc. On the other side not everyone has good intentions. Some people may have jealous feelings about you, some may be unfriendly and have competitive spirits etc.
As the world rolls around, we move either close to them in the diaspora and far away because of un-controllable circumstances. Here are my 3 tips for building long lasting relationships with people.
1. Reach out to people once you form relationships: Depending on your character if you are a loving or caring person, reach out no matter where the person lives. Now the technological world has made it feasible to find out about friends and relatives who live far away.
2. Reach out when fundamental things happen in a person's life: Whenever something happens as far as a life event and you find out through someone else or directly from the person you should reach out! Whether it is a happy or sad situation in life.
3. Develop the gift of giving or sharing: Remember it is not about what you give but the thought of giving. In our culture in Sierra Leone we have a phrase we call "adjoe" which in a sense is showing concern for someone by showing a token of appreciation, concern or love for e.g. send a hand written note, sending a bag of rice before the Christmas holidays, etc. The idea of Adjoe is not about the quantity but the fact that the person knows you are thinking about them.
This week I will teach about the various feminist movements in the United States to my undergraduate students. One of the interesting things I always take away from the movement is how much solidarity there was; well to a certain extent. In some cases, the “American” feminist movement was heavily situated on white women and their ideals and needs and completely disregarded any other women outside of that context. Ultimately black women, latina, lesbian women created their own spaces in order to thrive and address the issues they faced which was in a sense very different from what white women faced.
I reflected on a recent talk I watched by Tiffany Dufu called Mentorship Matters-Send the Elevator Back Down. The clip by Dufu talks about the importance of women mentoring other women and ensuring that there is room to bring other women into the spaces they occupy so they aren’t the only woman in that space for obvious reasons.
Due to my own hurtful incidences with women I have experienced in the past, I have been wondering about spaces that women have occupied in history and to present within my own spaces. As someone who continuously tries to practice the concept of opening spaces or sending the elevator down, I always find it quite jarring when I see a particular woman in one space, in essence a space of privilege, preaching everything about women’s empowerment work but will do everything to ensure no one else enters into that very space. Whilst they continue to be hailed as the only person in that space, one has to wonder where are the women who can be mentored to take the mantle once she is no longer working in her role? A concept I call "The only me syndrome" is the idea that people love to be in spaces alone, for glory or due to fear of the "shine" being dimmed from them. The concept of sisterhood is something I write quite a lot about www.africanfeministforum.com/sisterhood-is-my-political-weapon-and-feminist-tool-2/.
Some women have openly confessed to me that they have been so “hurt” by other women that the thought of allowing another woman in their space scares them. Some have stated that they have worked hard to "climb the ladder" and other women should as well. The lack of trust in self or other women however shouldn’t stop us from opening spaces for other women to thrive. I see this a lot in my line of work in development in various women’s rights spaces.
For so many years I have met many of the women in many of the spaces I have worked in who have not left the door open and it does have consequences. One of which is replication of similar challenges. What is beginning to happen is younger women are creating their own spaces, organizations, companies etc.. and replicating the same mistakes due to this lack of mentorship that doesn’t exist. The other is slower upward mobility wherein women aren't moving up as fast as they should or accessing opportunities that they very well qualify for due to this lack of sharing or sending the elevator back down as Dufu will call it.
I started to think of my own experiences and how black women have been the key people who have been my angels to open doors for me in my career. My first job I got because of a referral by a mentor of mine who knew my work in college and hired me to work as an orientation coordinator, my grad school process was reviewed by all black women, my opportunity to go to Senegal for a life changing conference and the list goes on and even current opportunities I get now are because of black women. For these women who opened the door I will always be grateful. I use and practice the concept of opening doors, sending the elevator down a lot in my work, both with women and girls. With my work with my organization GESL www.girlsempowermentsummitsl.org, we encourage a lot of sisterhood and peer mentorship as well as standard mentorship relationships, the idea of sharing ideas of what the girls have learnt with peers who may not have access to our programming is strongly encouraged. I believe I have done my due diligence of bringing women into spaces I am a part of and linking them to opportunities within those spaces.
For those women who continue to stay in that space for too long without mentoring other women into the space, look around you are you content with just you being in that space? Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to work with others who are just as qualified as you who can challenge you to be your best self? Now this is not to say that women HAVE to help other women as this burden sometimes is not placed on men as women place on each other. At a recent gathering hosted by Kimberly Forster of For Harriet www.forharrietonline.com one of the topics of discussions was around trust and black womanhood, to be precise the question was “Do black women trust other black women?”. The discussions were intriguing, some members of the audience refuted the question completely, some mentioned that solidarity is important with black womanhood, and I found myself grappling with this notion of false sisterhood that we sometimes create without actually doing the work.
Doing the work means building authentic and none agenda driven relationships with other women. I am a firm believer of sisterhood but over the years I have come to realize the right types of sisterhood as well are just as critical. One of the biggest road blocks of sisterhood is “The only Me” syndrome.
In what ways are we serving other women or doing a disservice to other women in the name of “The only me” syndrome. This syndrome suggests a mentality of lack, when we have a mind set of abundance that there is more to grow and more to learn we can begin to think of letting other women into our space for purposes of building and working together, being challenged, and most importantly growing together. Think of ways to support women around you, they can be something as small as reviewing their application for college, referring them to an opportunity etc..
If we don’t challenge the notions of patriarchy that confront us on a daily basis, and find ways to trick the system, we will continue to move in lateral positions instead of in an upward manner.
A few days ago from August 29-31, I facilitated a workshop for over 120 young secondary scholars who are part of the Mastercard Foundation's Boabab Scholarship program held in Accra Ghana at the Labadi Beach Hotel. I was tasked to deliver a leadership workshop titled "Storytelling finding my voice". This was a space I was familiar with- working with young people and building effective leaders and change agents is my thing, yet even in this space I felt vulnerable and began to have doubts about my workshop. Who was I to do these workshops? I had done many leadership workshops for young people but none quite like this, I was trying something very new and I was afraid! I mean we were talking about the Mastercard Foundation! Were my participants going to engage? would they understand the subject matter? Needless to say I launched the workshop with my first group of students and indeed my doubts permeated. I found myself looking more at my facilitator's guide than I usually do and in general not enjoying the session. It felt very scripted and very "un-Moiyattu'". After the first session I decided to do things without even looking at the guide or using my power point guide. I vividly remember saying a prayer and asking God to give me the boldness I needed, and in that moment I relaxed, gave myself a few talk sessions and continued! Those sessions happened to be the best session, the students were into it, I enjoyed myself and learning happened naturally. In that moment and through several messages I received during the few days, I realized I should never doubt my divine gifts. Divine gifts are God given, we can't do anything to enhance them, they just are. However the most important thing I have learnt is we must never take them for granted or doubt them. Embracing my gifts is an ongoing journey, but I realize it is necessary for us to show up as leaders in the truest of ourselves.
Written by Moiyattu Banya .
Welcome to my lifestyle segment of my brand. Here I will share my writings, heartwork, wisdom and life happenings as it relates to my work.