Embrace your community responsibility
As we reflect, repurpose, and respond to our individual and collective situation during this global pandemic, many of us are seeking ways to pivot our businesses while making a short-term income—a worthwhile pursuit. An excerpt from my recently released book – Make Your Contribution Count, for you, me, we, offers some perspective on our community responsibility.
I pose a challenge for you. As you assess how to adapt your businesses to this new reality, by going virtual or by repurposing to help meet the unique demands created by this pandemic, ask yourself what role will you and your business play? How will you contribute now to the most vulnerable, and then how will you assist in the recovery?
Social gaps will widen, and each one of us has an opportunity, and frankly, a responsibility, to uplift the life of another. We will need people to work together during this time of flattening the curve, but also while we emotionally, financially, and consciously recover.
Here is a perspective from others who had different challenges but understood their social responsibility. As we reflect on our roles in flattening the curve (beyond washing hands, avoiding our face, staying two meters apart, and staying home), consider your role in the resurgence.
(Excerpt from my recently released book – Make Your Contribution Count, for you me, we.)
me —make your contribution count — maximize your meaning.
Chapter 8: Embrace Your Community Responsibility
Words of Wisdom
I am here. I am working. I am capable to establish what we need in my country along with other women. You just need to be willing to work.
Nigest Haile, founder and executive director, Centre for African Women Economic Empowerment
Pioneer: Founder of the first NGO in Ethiopia, and co-founder of Enat Bank, the first women’s bank
Nigest Haile, founder and executive director of the Centre for African Women Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) in Ethiopia and I were driving to the African Union to propose an international trade initiative — a project I was collaborating on to promote increasing exports.
During our drive, Nigest pointed out several of her clients’ large beautiful homes. She shared that when showing her daughters her clients’ homes, they would ask, “Mom, why are your clients’ homes so big, and ours is so small?” She explained, that her purpose is to help build women’s success; everything is not about making money.
Nigest is passionate about the responsibility of citizens to invest their time and energy for the betterment of the community. Although everything isn’t about money, she feels that citizens have a responsibility to consider the community as they grow their businesses, volunteer their time, and contribute their wisdom.
Claiming your duty
The seventy African women pioneers we interviewed all have one thing in common: a sense of responsibility to take the lead and consciously contribute to society. We spoke to women who were pioneers in politics, education, activism, and business. Some had been beaten, raped, and kidnapped. Some had fewer rights than a two-year-old boy; some had no rights at all. Some were discriminated against from the time they were born, while others had a front-row seat to prejudices and saw people they loved killed before them. Conversely, others were not in their country of birth during civil conflicts, but they felt the need to return and rebuild.
These conscious-contributors realized their aspirations because of their courage, their character, and their choices. Pioneering African women feel a broad sense of responsibility to contribute to their community, country, or continent. Their motivation isn’t fame or fortune, but rather freedom: the liberty to mold a society rich with tradition and culture that will adhere to human rights and capitalize on opportunities.
Taking a salary cut to serve
As the managing director of the Tanzania Women’s Bank Ltd., Margareth Chacha took a salary cut to fulfill her sense of obligation to uplift society. She harnessed her courage and her can-do attitude to lead an essential change. Tanzanians didn’t need to look outside their country for talent to open a bank to meet the requirements of local women. Margareth admits her hesitation to take on the challenge, but she eventually came to a realization:
“I needed to leave something to my society. I left my big salary, which was double what I am making now, but I decided to leave it as the country has been paying for us to get here [to democracy]. I believe the skills we have are the same as international candidates, as many of us have been educated internationally, but we just don’t have the confidence in ourselves. I wanted to show that I had the confidence to take this on for all other women. I feel I will inspire a lot of other women.”
As a woman who has a front-row seat to the complexities of Tanzanian culture and women’s funding limitations, Margareth is an ideal leader for a bank that provides access to financing for women.
Getting your voice heard
Beti Olive Kamya echoes this sense of responsibility in her pursuit of the highest office in Uganda. She was the only woman vying for the presidency in the 2011 election. Beti didn’t win, but this was not a failure. Her aspiration wasn’t to become president but to have her message heard by her fellow citizens. Beti believes the political system needs to change, so she became the first woman to form a political party, The Uganda Federal Alliance. Beti describes its goal:
“Most people who were running were arguing about the chair [presidency]. Who will sit in that chair, and when they sit there what will they do? For me, it was a different argument: was the chair properly designed for the job? I decided since no one running for president was raising this argument, I felt very passionate that this perspective needed to be discussed. If we just continued to argue about the chair, then we were driving the wrong course.”
By pursuing the presidency, Beti was able to utilize media to amplify her mission and challenge how the government is structured, a message ignored when she spoke from the lower levels of government. Beti took the opportunity to start and continue the conversation. She believed someone had to.
Living in a communal situation
Some women feel their duty to their country, so they take on the role of a crusader. Others see their responsibility as innate. Ela Gandhi started the Gandhi Development Trust in South Africa in 2002. The aim was to manifest the values Mahatma Gandhi started in South Africa and promoted over his life — a spirit of reconciliation and a culture of peace and non-violence locally and internationally. Ela continues to spread Mahatma Gandhi’s values, which include having true integrity, living a selfless life, living in a communal situation, giving more attention to what we do and how it affects the community rather than how the community benefits us personally.
As Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela was schooled in selflessly contributing to others, without expectation. This life, as Ela describes it, is not for the easily swayed.
“[Our religious practice is] looking at how we can improve the lives of others rather than ourselves. It is looking at the right thing to do. It sounds simple, but as soon as we get up in the morning, we have challenges, and you have to decide what is right and what is wrong.”
Those who were not born into the values of selflessness or immersed in a culture where complacency is not an option may become numb to the inequalities of society, such as the discrepancy between rich and poor.
Making a difference provides a sense of meaning
More than one’s circumstance, a belief or observing an injustice is often the inspiration for dedication to a cause. It is also motivated by a personal sense of duty, intolerance for the status quo, and a craving to make a difference in the world — ultimately providing us with a sense of meaning. Meaning starts with living our purpose. Our purpose gives us a reason to wake up in the morning and live each day with intention, knowing every action we take is motivated to make our contribution count.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said during the speech in Selma, Alabama on March 8, 1965, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”[i]
To download a chapter, or learn more about the book: Make your contribution count for you, me, we visit: https://youmewe.ca/make-your-contribution-count-book-purchase/