We were at Brienne’s this past week working to raise money for a loan scheme we conceived. Twelve of us, in our late-thirties to early-forties, had decided to move from desire to action, and use our available privileges, however big or small, to be angels and knights of women with empty nests, who wish to venture after something they are deeply passionate about.
As full nesters with children who are growing rapidly like a time-lapse picture, we get it. After the children leave home, what next? If our life-long dreams of doing our forever passion comes next, how will we finance them? It is already an extreme sport for young professional women, who are active in their industries and have admirable levels of accomplishments in their chosen fields, to obtain funding for their entrepreneurial projects. Talk more of women with less than adequate, or “bygone”, professional experiences, who invested most of their youth in care and nurture of their families but have lived everyday with the burning hope of being able to someday manifest their core capabilities to the world.
We thought, the woman with a quiet house and lots of time in her hands who is intrigued by technology, needs us. And the woman whose last child just moved out, who has ideas on ways in which efficiency might be improved throughout, or at any point of, the food production value chain, will appreciate our offers. We also see ourselves as valuable to older women who always wanted to sing, or act, on big stages. We thought, we can be their literal and financial cheerleaders, now that caring for their families is no longer in their way.
To us, no woman should pass without exploring her dreams. And older women, who still have certain dreams gnawing at them after years of domestic work, should receive support and sponsorships they need to actualize those dreams.
But we are just twelve women living the daily realities of African women. We are highly skilled but grossly underpaid. We are talented but systematically denied access to leadership. And none of us was born into power.
Be that as it may, we couldn’t continue to sit and wail about our limitations. We thought, why don’t we put up an offensive for this goal? So, we turned to our closets, and the closets of women with years and years of fashion assets. And gathered at Brienne’s pool to model, and shoot, our inaugural collection for our Facebook shop.
It was a sunny day. NiMET predicted that it will ⁷rain, mildly, late in the afternoon, and we were ready to work with the day’s weather to achieve great marketing materials.
When most of us arrived, Sylvia was already in poolside comportment, listening to an e-book narration of the life of a powerful woman. We fell in line and stretched out on the loungers for a listen, too. The story was moving and had many lessons and funny exchanges. Still, the arrival of the photographer and her crew replaced it with upbeat music, and we began to work in between pockets of conversations, canapes, and drinks.
Everything went as expected and we were at the last leg of the shoot, when an airplane flew over us and someone shouted, “who do you think is flying that? A woman or a man?”. That singular question changed the atmosphere of our gathering.
One minute we were bright, and drinks, and colorful bikinis and garbs, the next we were contemplative and stressed out with the burden of the knowledge that it could be a woman but was most likely a man.
“I say it is a woman, because life gives us what we profess”. Someone responded.
“Yes! Me too! But only because of the smoothness of that transition. In my experience, women seem to do it that good.” Another said and we laughed. Sylvia waited for the thrill to dissipate, then inserted,
“You know what I am curious about? I want to know how much of that aircraft did a woman build. Be it its assembly, production of parts, or software development, what is the contribution of women to that final product?” She echoed. True to her form.
No one answered, because with Sylvia, you should only engage when you have deep and accurate knowledge of what she’s talking about. Or when your energy level is high and you’re looking for ways to expend it. Plus, what most of us wanted at that moment was to feast, take cute photos, and wear our nice clothes, one last time, before boxing and storing them away for their new owners.
Agreed, gender inequality needs urgent and continuous action until equality and equity is attained, but there was a pool in front of us and bikinis in our bags. There were drinks we wanted to sample and coolers some women brought, that needed to be enjoyed.
Surely, we can talk about this later. Right now, can we laugh about Bridget’s attempt at gardening, and the love-letters she’s been receiving from a father figure who made a move at her the moment her husband moved out? Can we happy-feet? And compete in the water?
A few of us looked among ourselves and confirmed what our priority was, at the moment. Then someone said, “I guess we shouldn’t expect up to thirty percent participation. Did anyone bring wings? I want chicken wings!”
“I want to build cars!” Bridget retorted. “I want to create beautiful car designs and use new technology to upgrade the usefulness of cars to humans.”
“Well, go ahead and do that.” Brienne stepped in. “…And don’t let anything stop you. You have our full support. Whatever you need, someone here knows someone who knows someone. And the internet has someone who is a DM or an email away. You know, there is good out there. If you search for it, you’ll find it. If you push hard enough, you’ll get in. Just don’t turn around and leave because of the challenges of being a woman in that space. Stay and insist. We’ll be cheering you on. For now, this big girl wants to have fun.”
“Let girls have fun and build cars.” Someone shouted.
“…because girls want work-life balance and the opportunity to grow professionally.” Brienne rejoined.
“I don’t think there’s more to be said. Our host have spoken!” Another said.
“Yes. Brienne has spoken!”
And you don’t tell Brienne what to do in her own house.