I absolutely love this episode, partly because I have such affection for Carla – her optimism and energy and her commitment to equality and access in elections. But also because we go into details about how you do advocacy around elections and fight fake news and misinformation, a burning topic in the world today. This episode is rich with information and nuggets of wisdom – about what behavioral campaigns are, grassroots activism around elections, and why “hell yes” she’s a feminist. Carla also talks openly about the difficulties that sometimes come with motherhood in a multi-cultural context.
This is a perfect photo that sums up Carla and what she does best – listens deeply and intently. The process of listening (with sincerity and deep interest in whomever she is talking to) is what enables her to build inclusion into all of her work – through civic engagement projects, with election management bodies, and through digital media campaigns.
What do we mean by inclusion? You will have to listen to the show to find out!
Many of the wonderful women I have had the privilege to work with are often behind the scenes, quietly and deligently supporting young people, other women, and helping form the building blocks of politics in their communities. Part of my goal is to take the ‘behind the scenes’ women and put a spotlight on who they are and how they go about their work. We all have a story to tell. Thanks Carla for sharing yours!
But it does beg the question, why are so many women behind the scenes?
It’s part of the inequality equation, unfortunately. For several reasons:
1. If an interview is on TV, women have to look a way that society will accept us as experts. We may not have the time, energy or interest in doing this. I conduct media trainings for women. In these trainings we spend a lot of time on what not to wear. It’s unfortunate, but it comes with the territory.
2. A lot of change makers are simply too busy to pause and reflect publicly about their work. Let’s be real, even in the most gender-balanced marriages, a lot of the unpaid, household work, falls on the shoulders of women, who are often mothers. Liberian peace activist Leymah Gboweeworked with men in her country to get them to account for the unpaid work of their wives, by putting a price tag on everyday duties. It was transformative for the men. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 after turning a grassroots women’s movement into the force that ended her country’s civil war and eventually led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president on the African continent. Gbowee also has a brilliant idea for demonstrating the value of unpaid housework. Here’s a calculator that puts a dollar figure on the value of unpaid work. Every country and currency should have one!
3. The “lean in” factor. I have too many thoughts about Lean In for one blog post. To keep it brief: Sheryl Sandberg brought some important truths forward. Women’s assertiveness, or lack thereof, can be part of the problem. For sure ladies, we have to step up and be in the spaces where we are sometimes pushed from. But we have to also ask, why are we being pushed from those places to begin with? And how do we deal with the conditions that require women to lean in — be better, be smarter, and strive for perfection? This is also part of the gender inequality equation. I love what Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University and the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009 to 2011 had to say about it, Recline, don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg).
So that’s my rant for the day!
We are the sum of our parts – for many women that means part advocate, part wife, mother, leader, listener. Some days we lean in. Some days we recline. I am so appreciative of Carla’s honesty in this episode, and willingness to engage with me on this journey of mine in Kenya, and with this podcast, and share a bit of her story.
As for what’s next with the podcast…I’m out of Africa these days (with a less dramatic exit than Karen Blixen), but it doesn’t stop me from continuing to engage with the many women I met along that path and try to tell a bit of the stories from this region of the world.
Moving back to Istanbul after a year in Kenya, jumping into new countries and clients, and launching this podcast, puts me smack in the middle of a crazy amount of change. This week I conducted a strategy session with Syrians working on building community and dialogue, last week I was in Macedonia, and next week I’m off to Ukraine to help support campaigns for women’s participation in politics. I still have more stories to share from Africa, so check back here for new content and the chance to meet other change makers along the way!