Last night I got the opportunity to attend the book reading of an incredible woman who, with her husband, have created a coffee hub (Buunni Coffee) for community conversation and action here in New York, and the book The CoffeeHouse Resistance talks about her journey. What struck me about Sarina was her passion for community and bringing people together. She lived in Ethiopia with her family before moving to New York 8 years ago, where she experienced the coffee culture of Ethiopia that plays a central role in brining people together. One common Ethiopian coffee saying is "Buna dabo naw" which literally translates to "Coffee is our bread".
Sarina is also the CEO of Water Aid, a non profit organization determined to make clean water, reliable toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. In talking about her work at Water Aid, she made a statement that really had me thinking about how some titles are associated to women, yet women don't actually have control over these roles:
"Women are associated with water, which is what they need to take care of the household"
So it's the women that walk the distances to fetch water, it's the women that fill the pots and barrels with water for use in the home and community, but there are almost no women qualified to even have a say in the development of water and sanitation in these communities.
This really had me thinking about the many industries that face the same situation, including the fashion industry. For an industry highly populated and reliant on women you would assume it would be dominated by them. The issue of gender inequality in the Fashion industry has not been addressed as strongly as in the traditional gendered fields such as technology and services and it is amazing how the most influential fashion houses created by women are now owned by men.
The percentage of women shopping compared to men or brands that cater to women compared to men is mind boggling, yet when it comes to the people that make the actual decisions in the corporate section there are more men than women.
Maybe it's the fear of being in such positions, or the inability to freely occupy such spaces, but here's a word for you from author and one of the leading female thinkers C. JoyBell C. who wrote, “We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better.”
Teaching females to allow themselves to try other things from what is ‘expected’ of them and not let their gender or any other thing discourage them from reaching higher heights in their lives will enable women to be more confident enough to occupy higher positions.
So I want to say a big thank you to women like Sarina, empowering women; going out of their way to build and lift women to occupy spaces and have a say in things that affect them so personally.