Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Welcome To Womanhood: Allysse Shank

Allysee Shank

I had always thought becoming a “woman” meant I was to put childish ways behind me. Womanhood was to be a time when I became serious about life. When I was a woman, I would have a husband and some kids and a house. Maybe I’d have a job, and maybe I’d have brunches with old girlfriends from my childhood…

At 21, I was getting ready to start my last year of college. I was single, living with two roommates in a city five hours from home, and just returning from a study abroad trip I’d taken the previous semester. I was enjoying it all with the usual ups and downs of young-adult life. While I was happy and enjoying life, I still felt like I was “killing time” more than living.

See, at that point in my life, I had so far finished what was expected of me. I had hit all the milestones that everyone is “supposed to” hit at that age. There was just one thing that threw me off, and that was the fact that I was still very much single.

However, that year I read a book.

It was one of those books that I would have never picked up. The cover didn’t look like a style I’d enjoy. It was a devotional-type book, and I never really was able to finish those. This book fell into my hands on Christmas as a gift from my mother. 

The book, Lady in Waiting, by Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, helped give me perspective on my life; and, ultimately, made me realize that I was (at that very moment) already a woman.

In Lady in Waiting, there is a story about a friend of the writer. This friend was the only one of her group of friends to still be single by the time they’d all reached their late twenties. She goes on to explain how her friend finally stopped eating off paper plates and starting eating off her fine china because she realized she had been denying herself simple pleasures in life, chalking it up to her “waiting” for her life to begin. 

This story stuck out to me. It was something similar to an incident that very month where I’d put a plate set back on the shelf at Ross because I wasn’t sure if my “future husband” would care for the color. 

Long story short, this book made me realize it was okay to “eat off the fine china.” I needed to embrace living. I realized I had been waiting for my life to “begin” (cue Tangled song), but, in fact, my life was already in full swing.

This was such a key moment in my life! I’ve never looked back. I’ve never felt incomplete. More to the point, I knew I was a woman, not a girl, just the way I was. An amazingly peaceful feeling came with that realization.

I highly recommend the book. It’s a beautiful picture of how complete any woman or girl can be in pursuing a relationship with God. It taught me to throw aside all my goals of having a career or having a family and just find my own identity. Now, I feel like whenever those things happen in my life, I’m better for it all now. 

Allysse Shank, Founder of I Made Lemonade. San Antonio, TX. Offering a platform for others to give hope to the doubting. http://imadelemonade.com/

Click here to read the next one 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Welcome To Womanhood: Liz Byamugisha

Liz Byamugisha

I can’t quite remember the exact moment when I realized I was a woman, not a girl.

Being the curious child that I was, I always wondered what kind of woman I’d grow up to be. There were many expectations.  “Sit properly! Ladies sit with their legs together and back straight.” “You can’t eat that. Women are not supposed to” “You need to learn how to cook. Every woman should know how to cook.” 

But when did I realize I was no longer a girl, but now a woman?

Was it when I had my first periods? I had all my aunties around me saying I was not a girl anymore. I had become a woman. Also I finally found out what the thingys in the pink Always kavera were used for. Womanhood, ay? 

Or maybe it was after my first heartbreak. “The first cut is the deepest” is a tired line. That first break up is always tough. On one hand, you feel you can never love again & on the other hand, you have to act like nothing’s wrong. You have to be strong. That’s what being a woman is, right? 

No, I think it was when I graduated from University. I mean, it’s the 21st century. Every respectable female adult should have at least one degree. I qualify to be a woman, right?

I actually think the day I became a woman was the day I got married to the love of my life. Such a happy day!  “When you become someone’s wife” was the first thing my mother said to me every time I came home to visit. Lucky for me, I got married at the ‘right’ age, to a man from a wealthy family. Phew!
Nothing says womanhood like giving life. So the day I became a woman was definitely the day I gave birth to my first born son. Greatest day for every woman, so they say.

Women are not made in a single moment! It takes time to build a beautiful & intelligent woman of virtue, some more than others. Truth is, you will find 30 year old girls & 19 year old women. 

“The power of a woman comes not from the strength of her body or the shrewdness of her resolve, but in the beauty of her mind, heart, and her soul. A simple look can brighten the darkest hour. Her touch can warm the coldest of days. Her smile can intoxicate you. Her words can give you wealth that the richest man would covet.” – Troy White

Liz is a digital marketer & content wizard. Passionate about sleep, lipstick, art, coffee & all things to do with African Literature.

Click here to read the next one

Monday, 21 March 2016

Welcome To Womanhood: Sinawo Bukani

Sinawo Bukani

Dear Future Me…

I hope you know that at 27 my peers are writing letters to future spouses and their unborn children while I'm stuck reminiscing with you. But then again, even as a little girl we never dreamt of white weddings or ever imagined the existence of silly little boys who think stealing a heart is a hobby. 

At least for now I can get away with saying "I'm still finding my feet being me and I don't want to lose that trying to be anyone else." Some would still say we are a selfish person but I pray most for those who will never know the fulfilment of being their own first. 

So basically 2016 has already had a weird start, I finally felt the pangs of loneliness for the first time in our life of singlehood. Alone became an unanticipated flame that I was not prepared for and the more I kept trying to put it out, the more it burned furiously. It didn't seem to matter how loud I laughed when I was with our friends or how much my nephew's smile warmed my heart after a long day or how many personal goals I excelled in accomplishing, it still felt like there was a dance my heart yearned to be part of every night I went to bed with myself. But worry not wiser one, like a good soldier I continue to safe guard the empty void I carry so that it's never okay for me to entertain nothingness into our most intimate space. 

I hope you never cringe when you think of me, I was only doing the best I could in the little moments you gifted me with. I have to admit for me it's been the greatest pleasure becoming you, piecing together all the magical fragments that make up all your parts. 

Do you still change your mind as often as I do? Do you still fall in love with the sky every time it hides the sun behind its clouds? Do you still sleep in your underwear? 

This is the week you moved out of home, officially. I hope you always remember the faith, the courage, and the dreams you took with you to HustleBurg, never forgetting the source of your glorious light. I have a feeling we will have many firsts in the big city and I hope this foreign engulfing loneliness is just a passing season. 

I love you even though I haven't met you yet and I am certain you will always look back and remember me with tenderness. I really hope there is always a part of me in you wherever you decide to grow. Keep me enveloped deep inside your hidden heart and I will never mislead you. 

Love our friends okay? I know the world cannot even begin to understand the pleasure those women have given us but trust me they've been there for us in ways only we needed. 

And don't forget, as long as you are still me, mistakes will always be okay. We live and love hopelessly, madly and deeply, sometimes with vague goals and mumbled up plans.

Travel Africa like you've promised me you would and read wonderful books on all your trips ... well I also happen to know you'll be writing a few yourself soon. 

Keep avoiding the sun, it has a bad habit of punishing us for the sins of our forefathers. Swim in the river, so we never get swallowed up by the sea. Talk to your sisters more, they will always need you to hold their hand. Always remember we never run from the rain, so please let it cleanse you on days when you need it the most. Disappear from the crowd a lot, it helps with finding your peace and joy through prayer. 

I know enough about you to expect that you'll most probably fall in love again. It won't be easy, you'll still flinch with a racing heart when he reaches for you. But even then I hope the scars have stopped bleeding, faded enough to give your beautiful soul another chance to lose itself without any certaintities. 

Otherwise I promise we will always be fine. Our name is written on the insides of our Creator's palm, so as long as we are in Him, we are well kept. 

I love you

And I will write to you again soon...

Sinawo Bukani:I am loved by a God who qualifies the disqualified and that is basically the whole story of my existence. I am in awe of His grace and faithfulness every single day...
Here is the link to her personal blog 

Click here to read the next one

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Taking Stock: March 2016

Taking Stock: March 2016 #HappilyFlawed

Making: A series that celebrates some extraordinary ordinary woman called Welcome To Womanhood, please check out some of the guest blog posts, if you'd like to submit something let me know.
Welcome to Womanhood -digital poster
·         Drinking: Coffee lots of Coffee..
·         Reading:  'When a crocodile eats the sun' by Peter Godwin
Currently reading...

·         Looking:  A lovely view before my gym session starts.
The view...

·         Playing: 'Formation' by Beyonce
·         Wasting:  Not wasting anything this month
·         Wishing:  For Easter celebrations to begin, so that I can eat junk food. I gave it up for Jesus.
·         Enjoying: Tae bow class on Friday.
·         Writing:  A story story for submission...shhhh!
·          Loving:  #TeamNewsRoom
#TeamNewsRoom with Patrick Kluivert, FC Barcelona Legend

Eating: Fruits + yogurt+nuts = great combination
cures unhealthy cravings...

·         Marveling: at the wonderful stories, my friends submitted for the Welcome to Womanhood series
·         Needing: To constantly remind myself to be my own person and make my own life choices.
·         Wearing: New shoes and hair accessories from J's accessories....again shhhh....

·         Noticing:  That being assertive is tough, people don't like the word 'NO' 
                         Also that most people have unknown mental issues. 
·         Knowing: That I sometimes enjoy being alone, but not lonely.

·         Thinking: I am grateful
·      ·  Opening: A new drawing tab when customs allows Fedex to deliver it!
· Giggling: Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 4

Welcome To Womanhood: Tania Clarke

Tania Clarka

Growing up, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what being a women meant. Financial independence, resilience, the ability to make your own decisions, despite a man’s influence, were characteristics I grew up observing. I was fortunate to have strong female role models at home and others whom I met through work, school and university.

As I get older and start to understand the complexities of being a woman across the globe, the meaning of it can be difficult to articulate. Each of us live a different set of privileges and life experiences. The life as a woman in Australia is in stark contrast to a life women lead in other parts of the world.What I do know is that we all place importance on different aspects of being a woman. And one common challenge we face is the fight for gender equality, regardless of geography.

Here are 8 realizations I’ve come to about being a woman:

  1. Internal biases will be a force working against you
Being a woman means recognizing the internal biases society projects on us, and our own internal barriers. The voices inside us, courtesy of societies projected norms, are constantly telling us that we are not skilled enough, not smart enough, not confident enough, not pretty enough or not good enough. When our internal voices are being naysayers, you need people beside you telling you you’re worth it, until you can learn to do that for yourself. When I’ve had weak moments, and there have been many, the good company around me has always reminded me of my value.We spend a great deal of our time downplaying our unique assets, but we should be using them to our advantage. We could be capitalizing on our strengths as good listeners, being empathetic and honesty. Find hobbies that give you confidence in your skillset.Volunteering your time for a community organization can provide you with a career boost and a personal development opportunity.

2. Some weaknesses are ascribed from birth
Women face an uphill battle from birth, which we often don’t recognize until later in life. We’ll learn throughout life that men’s voices are stronger and therefore get heard more often. We’ll be told that we need to speak louder, with more authority, and adapt our voices to be deeper in order to be taken seriously. I’m softly spoken and introverted and boy do I need to work hard to be heard. We can work to overcome this though by advocating for other women. As the organizer of a local TEDx event, it’s my personal mission to encourage women to come forward and allow their ideas to be heard. It’s not an easy task when we’re constantly telling ourselves there is someone more deserving of the job.

3. Science says we have more resilience
Women embody resilience. There is no doubt about it. Women need more resilience than men to overcome traditional obstacles placed in our paths in order to advance in society, particularly in business. What I’ve found is that women gravely underestimate the amount of resilience they possess. Research has shown that female concentration camp survivors coped better than men post Second World War. Women are also 14 per cent more likely to survive traumatic injuries after surgery than men with equivalent wounds. The study attributed this difference to estrogen and progesterone. Hormones are on our side for once!?

4. Fear is necessary to understand your limits
Being a woman means understanding fear and going beyond that fear, to define yourself in a society that will make it difficult to understand your purpose and value. Someone once told me  “the only obstacles in life are the one’s you set yourself.” This may not be true in all situations, given woman face unique barriers, but it makes you look within yourself to identify internal barriers. I’ve found the the best opportunities in my life have come from taking opportunities which I’m not sure I’m good enough for.

5. Women are key to economic growth
When we invest in education for young girls, the whole world benefits. Women’s empowerment and gender equality ensures all of us have a better future. Reductions in barriers to labour force participation for women has a direct impact on global GDP. Women also tend to spend more of their income on the health and education of their families. Research has shown that spending $1 on improving women’s economic opportunities creates an amplification effect, creating about $7 in health, poverty-alleviation and education benefits. The World Bank released a report analyzing the legal restrictions placed on women’s employment in 173 countries of the world. It found that 155 of these countries have at least one law impeding women’s economic opportunities and that in 18 of them, husbands can legally prevent their wives from earning an income. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

6. Society will try to mold you,for better or worse
Determining your own self worth is crucial. Society will pressure you to conform to its pillars. A husband by this age, children by this age, is what you will be subconsciously told. I once came across a doctor that used to inform his female employees how much reproductive time they had left. Our own biological clock ticks loudly enough, we don’t need people reminding us. People will pull you in all directions and tell you how to be a better woman, mother, sister or employee. Call people out on their bullshit and focus on who you want to be and when you want to be it.

7.The work is never over
History is a lesson for all of us, we need to be aware of it so we don’t repeat its mistakes. Women have been fighting for centuries for a seat at the table. Let’s never forget where we are today and how far we’ve got to go. We have to fight for women in countries that don’t have a voice. Women’s issues are not just “women’s issues.” We are still plagued by issues worldwide such as child marriage, access to education, domestic violence, lack of women in leadership, corporate management and parliament. In Australia we’re pretty lucky, it’s mandatory to go to school until you’re 15. In other countries this is not the case. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013. Investing in girls is investing in our future.

8. Women are all round badass creatures
The most important lesson I’ve learnt, is that women are truly amazing. What other creature survives for decades after their reproductive cycle ends, as Jane Caro hilariously states here. Science aside, the resilience and strength that women learn to embody is unparalleled. Being a woman means you’ll find strength and will be able to use it like a muscle, getting stronger and stronger each time.

My favorite TED Talks when you need a spurt of confidence in yourself:

  1. Amy Cuddy, The Power of Body Language
  2. Sheryl Sandberg, Why we need more women leaders

Tania Clarke is a 24-year-old TEDx organizer, avid volunteer, writer, and introvert working at a tech startup. 

Click here to read the next one