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Editorial – Time to Raise Our Voices’

During March, the focus of the world was on women but unfortunately not always in a good way. Hearing of horrific physical, and sometimes fatal, assaults against women and reading a barrage of daily verbal attacks against certain women, all against the backdrop of a stressful life lived in lockdown, was incredibly disheartening. There are good men who thankfully use their power and status to elevate and support women, but sadly there are still too many who exploit their public positions as bully pulpits from which to spread negativity and stir up hatred, creating dangerous repercussions for many more women than those they target.

Women are much more than a flavour of the month and while all allies of gender equality and social justice are welcome, the need for women to save ourselves and raise our own voices in support of each other is more vital than ever. In March, speaking at a women’s summit to celebrate International Women’s Day,I talked about the importance of finding our voice. Judging from the responses I’ve received it was a topic that resonated with many women.It is indeed remarkable how we start life as chatty, curious,confident,and vocal girls but then somewhere along the line, we find ourselves rebuked for those very same qualities.

From ‘Cute’ to ‘Aggressive’

As we grow from cute baby to inquisitive teenager and challenging adolescent, we start being told to be quiet, to shush, not to contradict our elders (even when they’re wrong) and to submit our voice to others (often male) who are older, wiser and more expert that us.As young women, the gendered nature of these admonishments caution us to lower our voice so as not to be labelled ‘nagging’, ‘loud’, ‘aggressive’, ‘domineering’. In other words, to shut up.

Finding your voice as you go through education, work and all the places we occupy as women can be a struggle. But the truth is that if we want to become our full selves, we must find and own our voices and recognise that the only permission we need to speak is our own.

False modesty and hiding our talents out of fear serves no-one, least of all ourselves. Without a voice, we cannot be our authentic selves.

As an Executive Coach, I meet many women who are afraid to use their voice, whether at work, at home, to correct people, to champion people, or simply to do what is right. Too many women find their voices are drowned by their fear of being unprepared, unready, unworthy. The devil that is imposter syndrome takes over with its negative self-talk, leaving women underselling themselves for jobs, promotion, and greater responsibility. Far too often, we think we can do it, but we fear we can’t. And so, we let the fear win. Soon the fear of failure transforms into paralysis because if we live in fear, we can’t move.

But false modesty and hiding our talents out of an abundance of fear serves no-one, least of all ourselves. For without a voice, we cannot be our authentic selves. Without a voice, we cannot plan, inspire, influence, or make an impact on this world. Without a voice, we cannot take charge of our hopes and aspirations and become accountable for our own successes.

Telling Our Own Stories

Without a voice, we also cannot tell our own stories. And if we don’t tell our own story, we are inviting someone else to tell their version for us.

Often for women, finding our voice comes after we workout our purpose – which can take a while.In my case, after eventually figuring my purpose, I’ve spent the best part of the past two decades using my voice to help change the narrative about Africa and Africans. Through projects, programmes, and publications, I’ve endeavoured to amplify voices that challenge the absurd single story about a huge and diverse continent, to write stories that crush stereotypes and show the everydayness of African lives, to spotlight living, breathing people who wake up every day, take care of their families, struggle with their careers and relationships, and have the same hopes and aspirations as everyone else on the planet.

It takes courage and strength for women to own their voices in a world where the volume of other voices (usually male) make them so easily presented as truth.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan who became the first Black female president in the history of Tanzania following the death of the late President, John Magufuli, is a staunch supporter of women and has spoken passionately to Tanzanian women and girls about the need to pursue their dreams. It remains to be seen how Hassan fares in her new role, but what is clear is that she is a woman who is not afraid to use her voice in her own way. As she said in 2020, “I may look polite, and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say, and things get done as I say.”

Too often, women’s voices are dismissed, diminished, disbelieved, and disregarded. Our truth creates a defensive knee-jerk reaction from some who spend more energy looking for reasons to disbelieve us than it takes to simply listen and hear us. Only one set of feet can fit into a pair of shoes at a time, and no-one can tell someone’s truth better than the person involved. We become our best selves when we show the same compassion to other women when they raise their voices as we expect for ourselves. Indeed, there is a special place in Heaven for women who support other women.


Founder & Managing Editor, ReConnect Africa

‘Imperfect Arrangements’ ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’
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