Phenomenal Women – Mellody Hobson

Everyone at WoK HQ was excited to share this profile because we know that depending on the industry you work in you may have missed her.  Mellody Hobson is a formidable American businesswoman.  Her accomplishments include being the President of a large investment company  (Ariel Investments)as well as being Chair of the Board of the DreamWorks Animation company.  Just one of these jobs would be enough for one person, but the Mellody takes them both in her stride.

Her story is all the more important and poignant because she joined Ariel as an intern proving that it is possible to learn and rise through the ranks.  She also serves on various boards and gives her time to raise awareness about the issues that are important to her in a range of ways including fronting a television show about money management in 2009.

The final thing we will say about Mellody, because it is interesting, but by no means, an achievement or an accolade, is that she is also Mrs. George Lucas!

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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 – Rita Williams & Ramona Nedd

Today it is Mother’s Day in the UK, and it is also the 17th anniversary of the passing of my grandmother.  I only ever had one grandmother, so it was heartwrenching when she passed.  Her story is one of strength and resilience she was a domestic for rich plantation owners in Guyana and was descended from the indentured East Indian labourers who were duped into moving to Guyana after the abolition of slavery.  A single mother to 6 children she made immense sacrifices for the good of her family including sending my mom and her sister’s to live in a Catholic orphanage giving them the opportunity to have a good education and raise their aspirations.

My mother obviously got her work ethic from her mom, and she took the opportunities given to her through being placed in the Orphanage a focused student and avid athlete she balanced school work with netball, swimming, and cycling.  As soon as she could start working she sacrificed higher education to begin working to support her younger siblings and to enable her mother to stop working in other people’s houses.

So today I wanted to honour both these women who set the blueprint for the other women in our family, as one of my favourite quotes says,

“Here’s to all the strong women, may we know them, may we be them and may we raise them!”

 

Phenomenal Women – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Women’s History Month would be incomplete without mention of our latest phenomenal woman.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria and is a successful and award-winning poet and author and outspoken advocate for feminism.  Her stories have had the impact of highlighting different cultures and bringing together men and women to understand multiple cultures as well as the concept of feminism.

Her popular article and book “We should all be feminists” is a call to action for everyone to embrace the concept of feminism and to accept that men and women together can achieve equality for all. As she said:

Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

 

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.”

 

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.’