After two days of sanding, plastering, and painting modest classrooms and offices in the Kaloleni School in Tanzania, I needed a break.
I wandered over to the kitchen that we were in the process of rebuilding, and watched with pride as the kids and parents unloaded a truck full of 40-pound cinderblocks, to construct the walls. I headed to the entrance, where another gang of kids and parents were pouring cement into a wooden frame to prepare for the installation of the new iron gate. We were working at Kaloleni for five days, helping to improve the school, which serves 850 children. (This was not my first volunteer excursion to Africa. You can read all about my journey last year across the Sahara, here.)
While at the front gate, one of the other parents introduced me to a few of the teachers from the school, who had gathered to watch us work. He told them about my work and The School of Womanly Arts. He explained that I teach women how to be empowered. They were on me like a flash.
“Will you please empower us?” asks Peggy, a beautiful African teacher, with sparkling eyes and a generous smile, who comes from the town of Moshi, at the foot of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“Empower you?” I thought to myself. “Where to begin? What is your life even like here? What do you need? How can I be of service?”
Peggy, Happy, and Anna gave me the download.
“The women, here, we have no voice. The men are in charge of everything. A woman is afraid to say what she thinks because then, her husband will leave her and go find another woman, because there are more women than men in East Africa.” The other teachers concurred. They said that many of the men do not work — they just drink — and it is up to the women to make money.
Later that day, one of the teachers took me on a tour of Kaloleni. I saw several tiny stands, with a woman — usually with her baby strapped to her back — selling a handful of avocados, bananas, tomatoes, and tiny dried and fried fish to earn her small living. The country is now primarily Moslem and Christian, with many of the women in town covering their heads and faces.
Here I was, in Tanzania — the cradle of mankind.
This was where human life began, 1.9 million years ago.
Life began in this place.
This cradle wasn’t rocking—it was teetering dangerously.
The beauty of being at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro was overpowering.
And what was almost more overpowering was the pollution — the smell of burning garbage was pervasive. And the poverty. Over 20% of the students at Kaloleni have been orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic.
And there was no trace, no shred of the Divine Feminine in this culture. Here, she was stomped out and flattened, her power usurped.
But Peggy’s eyes were glittering with interest and curiosity.
“Empower us,” she said.
Never one to turn down a challenge, I dove right in.
I asked them what religion they practiced. Two Lutheran, two Catholic. I said, “There was a time, over 1,000 years ago, and for many thousands and thousands of years prior to that, before Islam and the Catholic Church came and invaded your country, that your ancestors had a very different spiritual practice. They worshipped Mother Earth. They worshipped the Feminine. Do you know why?”
“No,” they replied.
“Well, where does life come from?”
“Yes, but how?”
“Through the body of a woman.”
“Yes, exactly. You create life. No man can do that. You are the creatrix of life — every man, every woman comes to this life through the body of a woman.
And our ancestors valued that, honored that, and worshipped that.
In New York City, I have a school, with thousands and thousands of students, who all call one another ‘Sister Goddess.’ Why? Because you are my sister, and I am yours. Every woman in this world is sister to one another. And Goddess? Because women create life. Because women are divine.”
They loved this, and for the next few days, every time we saw each other, we called each other “Sister Goddess.”
“Your voice is important. Your thoughts, your viewpoints, your ideas, your perspective, your insight, your opinions all contain your divinity, and must be shared. Yes — even with your husbands. The future of the world depends on the voice of woman.”
“But how do we speak to him so he does not leave us?”
“Men leave women who don’t speak their truth. Women who have stepped into their power and live their truth are irresistible to men — in fact; men count on it to become the heroes that they were meant to be. It is only a strong woman that makes a strong man.”
I told them about that line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “The man may be the head of the family, but the woman is the neck. And the neck can turn the head in any direction it wants.”
They loved that.
And then I taught them the *man-training cycle.
For the next few days, I got many reports on the progress that each of my new Sister Goddesses was making with her man.
I promised to send them my books, so their education could continue after I was gone.
The voice of woman. The single greatest untapped natural resource on this planet.
I know that if the voice of woman was stood for — and heard — more loudly, more proudly, with more strength, more conviction, more power — the wobbly cradle of mankind in Tanzania would right itself. If an un-empowered woman can figure out how to support her family selling a handful of vegetables and fried fish, while caring for her children, then I know with my whole heart and soul that women, empowered, can stop the AIDS epidemic, poverty, and pollution in our mother Africa.
In our lifetime.
How are you using YOUR voice, today?
How can you use your perspective, your point of view, your insight, to take everyone around you higher?
Right now, it is the responsibility of women to lead. Where are you holding back — and how could you let loose in communicating your perspectives to the people you work with, live with, and love?
Post here, below this blog and tell me how you are letting your voice loose in the world — and where you want to amp it up even more.
And if you want to empower another woman in your life, please tweet, Facebook, or email this post.
With so much love and pleasure,
P.S. Did you catch last week’s debut of my brand new, free video series? In this first installment, I’ll show you how I started with nothing but the raw power of my voice and created a global revolution. And if you want to go even deeper with this material, check out Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp.
*For more on the man-training cycle, read chapter eight of my first book, Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts.