Informal conversation with a lovely senior female executive…
Me: “What do you wish to see happen for women in the workplace before your retire?”
Woman: “You know I don’t think I’ll give the typical response of saying more women in the workplace or more women at the top. I think those hopes are talked about enough in the media nowadays. I’d say my real desire is to see women stick together and support each other more. I wish to see the day when more women will realize the value that comes from truly helping other female colleagues – juniors, peers or seniors. I want when I recruit younger women and they’re told their direct boss will be a female, that they are excited by that as opposed to being apprehensive in many situations. When we respect and help each other for real – it is easier to then command that respect from men and society in general. We can’t continue to judge and undermine each other a lot of the times, and then turn around and say to the guys – ‘hey you gotta show us respect’. Obviously am not talking about all women…but there tends to be quite a few that fall into that category unfortunately.”
And after a longer debate on this point:
Me: “What’s your best advice to me?”
Woman: “Don’t ever be that kind of woman I am talking about. Trust me – most women don’t realize this until a much older age – nothing is stronger than a woman who surrounds herself with smart, successful women who genuinely mentally and emotionally support each other. When you grow up and face many of life’s problems…work and even personal – you’ll realize that support is crucial to your well-being. Unfortunately too many women at a younger age are seeking validation from men – be it within their families, with their partners or work. I mean I understand that. I was in your shoes too. But as the years pass you realize you spent too much time on that and somehow took for granted building strong ties with the good women who come into your life, whether its friends or co-workers.”
Conversation with Rwandan taxi driver…. #postwartrauma that never goes away…makes me think of all the Syrian stories, not just now, but for decades to come… #randomramblings
Driver: [with a big smile full of pride] How do you find my country?
Me: [I go on enthusiastically listing all the positive impressions I have had of Rwanda]
Driver: Do you speak French? I’m old generation I feel more comfortable speaking French
Me: Yes a little
Driver: [proceeding to speak in French] You know the young generation they don’t want to speak French anymore. It’s a reminder of the old Rwanda, of all the differences and all the struggles. It’s also a reminder of how much we feel France made the situation worse instead of better. English is associated with better times. It is like starting from scratch – has memories of safety and stability…now it is the official language across the board.
Me: How do you feel about the genocide?
Driver: You know when you’ve seen too much blood, when everyone has lost not one person, but several… when children have been taken away from their parents, wives raped and you live in fear every day…actively having thought is difficult…if it is in the past – it is too painful, and if it is to the future – it is too unpredictable and too much of a luxury that many are deprived of. I just get myself so busy with all the different daily things that I have no time to think. Maybe the younger generations because they haven’t seen it all can think of the future – I hope they can.
Me: Do people still define at ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’?
Driver: No!! Well at least not openly….it is almost a crime now. These references have been removed from all government talks, papers- it is illegal now to include it in any document. We only have one reference – Rwandan. Defining ourselves as anything but that is dangerous – because it already cost us so much….nobody wants to remember that – and no body that has seen it all wants to fall back to that.
Me: What do you hope for your kids?
Driver: I worry that even though we’re doing better now, that our neighbors like DRC are still struggling – I fear one day we’ll wake up and be drawn right back into it. Like this safety you see around you is just a dream we wake up from. Sometimes it feels almost too good to be true. Most of all I wish my kids can think of a future – to give them that luxury I couldn’t have.