Phenomenal Women – Coretta Scott-King

Most well known for being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, Scott-King was always an activist and a civil rights campaigner, but the spotlight shifted to her talents and achievements after the tragic death of her husband.  Not only did she become a widow and single mother to four children but she also picked up the mantle to fight racial segregation and oppression that her husband had left.

Some of her notable achievements included founding the King Center, campaigning successfully to have a day of commemoration for her husband as a public US holiday and finally winning the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2004.

Up until her sad passing in 2006, she remained a vocal advocate for change and lent her voice to many campaigns including anti-apartheid demonstrations and LGBT+ campaigns.  Her speeches were almost as legendary as her husbands, and one of our favourite quotes by her is:

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”

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Phenomenal Women – Indra Nooyi

Our latest profile is of another formidable businesswoman.  Indra Nooyi is the Chief Executive of PepsiCo.  A worldwide brand and household name, PepsiCo is globally one of the biggest FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies and at its helm is a woman.  A passionate speaker and innovative leader she is trying to push boundaries for the company while retaining its impressive reputation and market share.

Born in India where opportunities for women to be business leaders is limited Indra was always a high achiever, focusing on the sciences in her early education then moving on to business and management.  Most notable for us at WokHQ was an article that was an interview that she did with Huffington post talking about the need for women to work together and help each other more.  She recounts an example to help make her point:

“Many times we’re in a presentation and the guy is giving a presentation, not going so well, so we call a break.  They go to the men’s room. “Hey Bill, that was awful, your presentation.  Fix it, man.  Don’t gesture so much”. Little fist bump, they come back, and Bill’s doing fine.”

Woman does a terrible job and you walk into the women’s room and you go, ‘you know Mary, that was terrible, what were you doing?’ ‘God she’s so bitchy’. No! I’m trying to give you constructive feedback. So what we do is, we assume feedback from women mean something is wrong, if the same feedback came from men, we’d accept it. Or worse still, we don’t give the feedback the way we should.

Even though we know they’re not doing well because we go, ‘good she’s struggling, I can take that position’. I think we have to change our whole approach to supporting each other, taking advice from each other, seeking it out. One thing I feel very badly about is all my mentors in my life have been male. But then I sit back and say maybe I came into the work force at a different time. Let’s figure out how we can help each other way more than we are today.”

Phenomenal Women – Janet Jagan

Irrespective of your political persuasion, no series looking at notable women especially Guyanese women would be complete without mentioning Janet Jagan.  Janet Jagan was the first female president of Guyana which is no easy feat considering that it is an extremely patriarchal society.  It is so patriarchal that she was only able to take the role of President after her husband’s death in 1997.

An avid activist and women’s rights organiser, Janet was dedicated to progressing equal rights for women and founded the Women’s Political and Economic Organisation in 1946.  Born in Chicago to Jewish immigrant parents her dedication to Guyana was even more remarkable because it was her adopted home after her marriage to her Guyanese husband.

In yet another tribute to her adopted homeland, Janet was one of the early and staunch objectors to the British rule in Guyana and along with her husband and many others she actively fought for independence and was subject to house arrest and jail by the British government in their efforts to undermine the challenge to colonialism.

A heroine to some and a bitter political foe to others she received polarised opinions in Guyana, but ultimately she still stands as an example fo what a tenacious woman prepared to challenge stereotypes can achieve.

Phenomenal Women – Diana, Princess of Wales

Today’s profile is may be a controversial choice, but we felt that it was important to look at the awesomeness of women from a range of angles.  The reason that we chose Princess Diana isn’t because she was a princess, but rather she was a symbol of womanhood that so many of us can relate to.  Her well documented failed marriage to Prince Charles and lurid headlines about her subsequent relationships struck a chord with us here because anyone who knows the pain of heartbreak can only imagine having to manage that pain in the public eye.

Being a mother to the future King of England was no mean task and then being ripped away from her children when they were so young is something that any mother can tell you is her worst nightmare.

But in addition to her sons, the true legacy she left behind was her compassion evidenced through her extensive charitable work.  A passionate advocate for AIDs charities long before it was acceptable to even talk about HIV and AIDS and long before legislation was enacted to provide protection from anyone afflicted with this disease she provided comfort and much-needed media attention to the human beings behind the stigma.  Her international charity work was also world-renowned, and it is for these reasons that we recognise her as a phenomenal woman.  Heres a piece of advice from the woman herself:

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”

 

50 Women: 50 Years

In 2016, we published a book about Guyanese women.  Today on International Women’s Day we wanted to celebrate the women who were part of that book.  The thought-process behind the book was that we wanted to showcase ordinary women leading extraordinary lives and use the book as a way to inspire the next generation and force this generation of women to step into their own spotlight and acknowledge their greatness.  To do this, we asked each woman three simple questions:

  1. What is your earliest/most significant memory of Guyana?
  2. What has been your greatest achievement/proudest moment?
  3. What words of advice would you give to other Guyanese women?

To say that we were blown away by the responses would be an understatement.  The inspirational quotes were insightful and uplifting, and the achievements of these women ranged from overcoming adversity, nurturing children, siblings and other family members to developing businesses and achieving academic success.

To build on the success of this book, we are proud to announce that we are opening calls for contributions to our second book which will be entitled “Women of Kaieteur – strength, grace, and endurance.  If you or someone you know want to be profiled in the book, please ask them to send to complete the attached form.

Why not grab a copy of 50 Women: 50 Years from Amazon and help us to continue our good work.  All funds raised are used to help women and girls in Guyana.

Phenomenal Women – Tegla Loroupe

 You may or may not have heard the name Tegla Loroupe.  When we heard about her at WoK HQ, we knew that’s he had to be featured as one of our phenomenal women.  Tegla was born in Kenya in 1973 and is the proud holder of multiple world records with one of her most notable achievements being that she was the first African woman to win the New York Marathon.  An outstanding athlete and fearsome foe in marathons and long distance races she is also a dedicated humanitarian worker advocating for peace through her humanitarian foundation.

On the eve of International Women’s Day it seemed fitting to recognise her due to her international peacekeeping and humanitarian work as well as for her resilience.  Little known facts about her include that she learned to run distances when making her journey to school every day across a distance most of us couldn’t comprehend and then later due to her slight frame she struggled to be permitted to compete as a professional athlete but persisted.

The lesson we think she can teach us all is persistence, resilience, ambition, and humility.  Her actions demonstrate a leader who flourishes through service to others.

Phenomenal Women – Pink

Now for one of my personal favourites, the singer, and songwriter Pink.  Pink or real name Alecia Moore is well known for her outspoken female anthems and for her clear stance on issues such as self-love, self-confidence, and female empowerment.  But in addition to being all of those things and one of my favourite singers it is her role as a mother that has stood out in recent years as we have watched her send powerful messages of hope and inspiration to young girls everywhere through her relationship with her daughter.  One of my favourite moments was when she dedicated her VMA award to her daughter in a moving and emotional speech.

In the speech, she recounted a conversation that she had with her daughter that I want everyone woman and girl to read and that I want every member of Women of Kaieteur to read.  It went like this:

 “‘Do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘No, mama.’ I said, ‘Do you see me changing my body?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?’ ‘Yes, Mama.’ ‘OK! So, baby girl. We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell, and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.’