About two months ago I took my first steps outside of the US. And when my boots touched the tarmac in Nairobi I had a plan. Like so many of my plans it was ambitious. I was going to write every single day! I was going to paint a picture of my experiences that would rival the amazing storytelling of my co-founder Sydney, and inspire all of you amazing people with stories of the incredible women you were touching half way around the world.
I even had a journal just for this purpose and right on the first page I wrote the word INSPIRE.
But… I failed.
I wish I could say I lost the journal; I wish I could say it was torn from my hands by monkeys that ambushed me on my way to the farm plots in Kendu Bay. Or, that a guard pocketed it at a check point as our car was searched coming back from Homa Bay County! I even wish I could just say I was just too tired from the 12 hour days as we worked so hard to build more relationships and train the women of Kamrongo, Kendu and Kochia in exactly the skills they needed. I even wish I could just say I was lazy or forgot. But none of those would be the truth and here at Mama Maji we pride ourselves on honesty and transparency.
So, here’s the truth: I was scared. For half of my career I have taught people how to express themselves through the spoken word. I have worked with women to help them find their voice, to overcome their fear of speaking and express their thoughts and refine the art of their rhetoric. Little did I realize that I had a fear just as potent…writing.
For a month my pen was the most terrifying beast I could imagine. I would pick it up and instantly sweat would pop out on my forehead, my hand would shake, and my mind would go absolutely blank. And staring up at me from my journal was one carefully crafted word INSPIRE. I had reams of notes taken from the field, pictures from our workshops, notes from meetings and even a few videos! But here I sat staring at the tip of my pen like it was some kind of viper that was going to snap around and bite me if I dared to touch it to that paper.
And inside I felt terrible, because I wasn’t just failing me. I was failing Olima, Anastasia, Patricia, and Elizabeth and all the other women who were working so hard and doing so much, failing to tell their stories! But, most of all, I was failing you. Because every time I saw a woman step up and tell the stories of her community, I was getting to see the fruit of what you had made possible.
I was failing to share the feeling of awe I had when Olima sat across from a prominent man from her community as the Chairwoman of our meeting and made him promise that he would let all the women speak and always wait his turn, and then made ME promise the same thing! I was failing to share the feeling I had after watching Patricia correct a village elder on the price of water in their community, and the respect she was showed by the other elders for speaking up. I was failing to paint you a picture of the women who stood in front of us and spoke so passionately about their dreams for their communities and how they would use the skills they learned to make them realities. That feeling I had that gave me the energy to work until midnight most nights and wake up every morning excited before the sun was even shining; that wasn’t mine. It was yours, and I was failing to share it with you.
Thankfully, the universe has a way of sorting things like this out. And, as is so often the case, the solution came from a woman. Specifically Winnie. Winnie is a part of the team put together by Seth Godin, and, like me, she had an ambitious plan. She was going to post a blog every day for the month of December. And, like me, she failed. But, Winnie didn’t give up. Instead of giving up Winnie started what she is calling the “Your Turn Challenge” a one week challenge to write a post every day. And she reached out to the world to make this challenge happen. She didn’t hide her failure, she didn’t give up, she took something that was holding her back and turned it into an opportunity for success. Exactly like we do at Mama Maji when we use the enormous challenges of the global water crisis as a platform to train women in the skills they need to build a better world.
But, most of all, Winnie did something I can’t thank her for enough; Winnie inspired me. After listening to her I realized I wrote the wrong word in my journal. Because Inspire was like a command to me; a command for me to inspire you! But it was never about me. It was about women like Olima and Patricia and THEIR amazing stories. It was about being a link through which you could meet them, get to know them, and for a moment feel what they made me feel: inspired.
So this week you will find 7 stories waiting for you; 7 stories about the incredible women who are becoming catalysts in their communities; stories about women who have inspired. And I hope you’ll enjoy meeting them as much as I did.
See you tomorrow.