Being a woman is not only about receiving your monthlies and searching frantically for painkillers to ease your cramps. It’s not only about coming of age, getting married, having children and settling into the role of mother and wife. Rather, being a woman is having the knowledge that you are considered the weaker sex but waking up every morning, with a purpose to achieve something while touching lives. It is the ability to radiate that which makes you uniquely beautiful as a woman to others. It is becoming someone whom others can look up to for inspiration and guidance.
To mark the International Women’s Day 2018, I decided to compile a list of 10 women, from around the world, whose stories have touched me and personally inspire me:
1. Amb. Amina Mohammed
The first thing that captures your attention about this particular woman is her gracefulness. Currently, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Education, Wikipedia describes her as a Kenyan-Somali Lawyer, Diplomat and Politician. With an equally impressive CV, Amina’s story is that of a girl of Somali descent, who was born and brought up in Kakamega, Kenya and went on to achieve much more than is expected for a Somali woman.
I love stories of women who did not let cultural perceptions hinder them from pursuing their dreams. I believe she is one such person whom girls from communities, which tend to shun the empowerment and education of the girl child can look up to. I once had dreams of becoming a diplomat so she just happens to be my role model 😉 😉
2. Sheebah Karungi
Of course my list would have been incomplete if this sassy Ugandan musician did not feature. I literally had to look for a photo of hers where she’s not showing too much skin and would be friendly to my readers.
We almost share a birthday with only a 4 day difference in the same year. Guess one of the things that drew me to her in addition to her distinct voice.
And while Sheebah can be unapologetically bold, even raunchy to some, her story is that of a girl who dropped out of school in Senior 2, the Kenyan equivalent of Form 2 because in her words, she just wanted to dance and there was no dancing in school. At the tender age of 15, she joined a dance group to make some money but it was not all rosy for her, often lacking a place to sleep and food. She would later become a part of the Obsessions girl group before going solo as a music artiste.
Hers is a story of a girl with limited education and a dark past, who dared to dream that she would one day make it in the music industry. My personal favorite hits from Sheebah include Nkwatako, Bum Sakata and Weekend where she features Nigerian artiste Runtown.
3. Danielle Steel
I was first alerted to Danielle Steel’s work ethic sometime in 2016. In the past, I had simply read a couple of her books for leisure courtesy of my elder sister who loved her books.
At 70, I discovered, Danielle publishes a total of 7 books every year. That really caught my attention. I was in my 20s and yet struggled then to finish even a short story. Something else I learnt, she has managed to raise 9 children while writing fulltime. And another thing, she still uses a 1947 typewriter to write her books!
I find her consistency and dedication as an author truly amazing. Reading about her inspired me to be more serious with my writing in 2017. So all the way from Kenya, thank you Danielle Steel!
4. Nancy Kacungira
Currently a Presenter and Reporter at BBC News, Nancy a Tanzanian born Journalist to Ugandan parents, is one of those naturally beautiful TV personalities, who are surprisingly, very down to earth. Sister to Radio Personality, Seanice Kacungira, Nancy started out as a Radio Presenter at a Christian Station in her campus days at Makerere University, Kampala. Later on, Kenyans would be introduced to her when she worked as a News Anchor for KTN.
What I like most about Nancy, is the fact that she actually has time for her followers, especially on her Facebook Page. Sometimes, she encourages people to inbox her with their stories for encouragement. At some point when I was getting sort of discouraged with blogging, I reached out to her with a direct message and she took time out of her busy schedule to check my blog. Her advice was for me to keep going with what I do.
Again, another thank you to Nancy Kacungira!
5. Immaculee Llibagiza
When the 1994 Rwandan genocide began, Immaculee was home for the holidays from campus. Her father, in a bid to protect her, sent her to what he believed was safety, at a Hutu Pastor’s home together with a rosary.
For 91 days, Immaculee, together with 7 other Tutsi women hid in a tiny bathroom in the Pastor’s house, the door hidden by a wardrobe. For all those days, Immaculee fervently prayed the rosary. They all survived the genocide but unfortunately, her whole family was killed save for a brother who was away studying in Senegal and did not know of what was happening in his country.
Hers is a story of faith in the midst of chaos, intense fear for your life, immense loss and learning to forgive. It makes you ask the hard questions as horrifying as they sound. How can you forgive people who wiped out your whole family? And yet she did. One of her autobiographies released in 2006 is Left to tell: Discovering God amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.
She currently resides in the United States.
6. Jackie Kennedy
There is a movie based on the hours just after the 35th US President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, together with real life video clips, which I got to watch the trailer of sometime back. When John F. Kennedy got shot, he was riding in an open roof car together with his wife Jackie. The minute he gets shot, she can be seen scrambling to get to the back of the car.
What I learnt is that people have always thought she was trying to get away. In reality, Jackie was trying to get pieces of her husband’s skull that had been blown off, in the hopes that they might need them at the hospital to save his life.
My heart literally broke when I learnt this. What would you do when your husband got shot while you were sitting next to him? Something you don’t even want to imagine and yet this woman, throughout the whole ordeal by some miraculous strength, managed to compose herself. She did not even immediately change the blood stained pink suit she was wearing that day.
Often regarded as a style icon, for me, this particular aspect of her life really touched me.
And of course Celine Dion, one of my all time favorite singers. I began listening to her music at a fairely young age. Basically, my sister simply loved her songs and sometimes made me listen to her. Later on, I began reading about her life and love story with her late husband Rene Angelil and I developed a deep respect for her.
Celine is rarely in the tabloids for the wrong reasons. She’s one celebrity I think has managed to stay grounded amidst the glitz, glamor and fame. Her story with Rene was one I believe of pure love, tenderness and sacrifice.
In high school, our French teacher introduced us to Celine Dion’s French songs to help us learn the language through music. My favorite French song of hers is Sous le Vent featuring musician Garou.
8. Winnie Mandela
You are a young woman, with two toddler daughters. Your husband gets sentenced to 27 years in jail for his fight for freedom. You think that is the toughest thing you have to endure, only for you to begin being a target for the colonial government. You keep getting detained. Taken away from your young children. Tortured sometimes.
Eventually, it gets to you and you end up making some choices that are not so good in the long run. Your husband finally gets released but your marriage won’t last for long. In no time, you are granted a divorce. Such was the life of former wife to former South African President Nelson Mandela.
She may not be a perfect woman but her strength amazes me.
9. Margaret Kenyatta
The current Kenyan First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta is a woman worth celebrating. She has been instrumental in her push towards better maternal health care with her Beyond Zero Campaign. Participating in marathons as a result. With her beautiful smile and quiet gracefulness, she has made Kenyans have faith in her as the perfect first lady. First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, we celebrate you!
10. Edna Makello
And finally, my elder sister Edna Makello. I am not going to put up a photo of hers because she does not really like being in the limelight. Edna, I celebrate you this day. My sister happens to be the mum to a special needs child. It has not been an easy journey for her juggling between being a wife, mother to another child and giving her full attention to the child that really needs it. Nevertheless, she has miraculously managed.
I could go on and on about my sister because at some point, she was like a second mum to me given the large age gap between us. I have always known her to be very responsible. She is such a good cook, efficient, can be strict and often gives you that tough love. My sister will tell you as it is and especially when she wants you to style up.
She is equally talented. Can bake you a very nice cake on a jiko (charcoal stove). When she was younger, she was great at drawing Papa Smurf. The character from the cartoon series The Smurfs. I credit my earlier taste in music to her. So dear sister, hope you read this and realize how much you inspire your younger siz.
It was not easy compiling this list but I believe I have pretty much exhausted on all the women who inspire me and make me feel like I want to be better. Feel free to add others who personally inspire you in the comment section.
Happy International Women’s Day! You are all stronger than you think!