Burkina Faso, Part 2

October 28 – November 5, 2014

Using Power – – – Building Global Community

Yes, I’m obsessed, I suppose with the many faces of power as it relates to creating Global Community.    It seems so obvious to me that we are a Global Community – whether or not we want to be  – – – – and that, collectively we have the opportunity to create a community that actually works for all.  We stand on the precipice of creating a new way to “BE TOGETHER.”  It is breathtaking!

In the previous post we saw the power of position – of Blaise Compaore, the (now ex) President of Burkina Faso and his party.  We saw the power of protestors.   And now we will see various faces of power as the work of the transitional government unfolds.  We will see what opportunities for the people to be heard are created – or not – and how creative and courageous citizens will – or will not- step up to express their ideas and lead where they can.

Meanwhile, other faces of power continue to be generated – – without fanfare – -power that is inclusive and expansive. Some of these are what we got to engage on our last day in Burkina Faso.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, We had lunch with Claudine, along with Josephine and Edith.  These three and other professional women founded AProFEn, an NGO that works to improve the health, education and economic conditions for women and children.

There is real power here – available to all of us – BUT – we have to recognize it and use it.    These women recognized that they were privileged.  They had the opportunity for education, training, travel and they wanted to “give back” to their communities.  They now provide training to village women who have not had these opportunities.  They support these village women in creating projects through which they recognize their own power to improve their lives and life in their community.    

In 2009 I met Claudine when she was a Humphrey Fellow at the University of Washington.  This is a way we can increase our power.   Any education or training increases both our competence and confidence, which also increases our credibility with others.

The young woman across from Jim in the picture above, Frankline, was selected in 2013 as one of Africa’s Most Outstanding Emerging Women Leaders, by the MoremI Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa.   Claudine was selected by the US Embassy in Burkina Faso to mentor this young woman. Here is another source of power – both for Frankline, and for Claudine.  Collaborating and supporting one another increases our power exponentially.

Below, Claudine and Frankline stand in front of the building Claudine is having constructed for the future home of AProFEn.  Every month she commits a portion of her salary at the World Health Organization to continue the construction.   The facility will house space for training young women in traditional crafts such as weaving and making soap as well as a room in the front where their products will be sold.  Passion and Vision are major sources of power.

Also on this bountiful last day in Burkina Faso, we visited the Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy.  The Embassy has provided some grant money for the training AProFEn is doing, and the officer was encouraging Claudine to explore other grant possibilities open to alums of the Humphrey Program.  There you go – networking and taking time to build relationships with others is yet another source of power.

Finally, as we enjoyed an amazing sunset on our last day here – yes, it seemed especially symbolic –  we had the opportunity to meet the rest of Claudine’s family:  her son, (another son is away at school)  her two daughters, and her husband.


Angeles Arrien, one of my heroes, taught that there were always two plans for every day – her plan, and God’s plan.  That certainly applies to our experience in Burkina Faso.  I had a plan – Claudine and I.   It was a good one.    However, the plan that played out has brought new understanding, new insight, new perspectives.  The experience intensified my belief that (com)passion and vision are enormous sources of power – – – the kind of power that lights up the room, the kind that is inclusive and expansive.   Consider the power of the AProFEn women in the following story.

Recognizing that if women in the village were to feel free to participate in the training AProFEn could provide, the professional women in Association knew they needed to gain the blessing of the Chief.  They enlisted a young man from the village who was highly regarded and who could coach them on key norms and expectations.  They learned that as guests, they were supposed to be the first to introduce the subject of their visit – but only after drinking water was served which was a sign of acceptance and welcome, and after the Chief authorized that we could speak.

Claudine notes:  “At this time, as the lead of our group, I left my chair to sit down on the ground, a sign of humility and respect to the elders who composed the group of the Chief. This was a very surprising but appreciated action, since none of the group believed that, ‘we, women from the town’ would accept to sit down directly on the ground and to get dirty. But this was the ultimate and fundamental behavior we needed to adopt to immediately mark points, and it was done.”

The group explained their aims, which were to empower the whole village, even though they would be working with women.  They articulated their intention that working with women did not mean working against men, rather “empowering men through women.”  They conveyed their conviction that the entire village would benefit from the training that the village women would receive.

They clearly stated that they sought strong commitment, protection and support of men in the village in order for their work to be successful and concluded, “We seek authorization and recognition of who has the incontestable right and power.  Because like a well-known proverb in our setting:  ‘No stranger should show up without authorization or permission of whom may give it.’ “

These women knew the meaning of interdependence.  They demonstrated inclusive,  expansive power!    They gained the trust of the Chief.  They gained his respect  ~ and he responded by entering into partnership with them by giving them land on which they could construct a building for their training.  They reveal the power of partnership, power that engages others and expands the potential creativity and energy.

Global Community will be created as we weave together the unique strengths of every culture, when we grow beyond current assumptions of “power over” one another, and engage the potential of “power with” one another.  Bill Easterly, economics professor at NYU, challenges us to move beyond the prevailing stereotypes of “wise technocrats from the West and helpless victims from the Rest.”  (The Tyranny of Experts)

Creating Global Community requires embracing new understanding of power and deeper understanding of leadership.  The vision of what this looks like is all around us, as we can see from the examples above.  It is encompassed in Nelson Mandela’s description of how the chief of his village invited all (men) to gather when a decision needed to be made that would affect all.  The chief’s job was to convene, listen, and learn.  (The Long Road to Freedom)

The vision is reflected in the wisdom of the African women in the story above who sought out the tribal chief, and the chief who responded to their initiative.

Arriving in Burkina Faso on the eve of massive resistance to a  “power over” regime,  and concluding our journey at the future home of AProFEn which represents a very different, a very generative sort of power – was an incredible experience for me.  It both challenges and inspires me – – – to continue to nurture “global community.”







Burkina Faso, Part 1

October 28 – November 5, 2014

The many faces of Power 

As we prepared for moving on to Burkina Faso, our final destination on this incredible journey, it was time to focus once again on the purpose of the trip:

. . . . .to contribute to our world an energy and wisdom that seems most needed at this time in our collective experience – feminine energy and feminine leadership, and – to deepen my relationships with three women whom I have come to know and to love – Claudine, Weub and Betty.

I have to say – it took me while to comprehend the irony of this intention – in contrast to the actual events that confronted us as we arrived in Ouagadougou, the capital of this West African country.  You will see what I mean as this story unfolds.  I invite you to reflect on the many meanings and sources of power.

In the photo above Claudine stands beside weaving looms at the site where she is gradually having a building constructed that will house AProFEn, the NGO she and other professional colleagues founded and which she has been leading since 2004.  She describes her objective in this way, “My intention is to build worldwide active awareness through sustainable projects and programs led by women for women.”

However, it was only on the 8th day after we arrived in Ouagadougou that we had the opportunity to spend much time with Claudine as our arrival in Burkina Faso coincided with a revolution in that country.   This BLOG post will focus on our first 7 days in Burkina Faso.   A following post will share our final day.

On Tuesday, October  28th we arrived in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, about 2:00 in the afternoon. Knowing before we made our decision to proceed with our plans – that there was “political unrest” in the country – in no way prepared us for what we were about to experience.    Claudine met us at the airport and drove us directly to her office at the World Health Organization, explaining that this was the only place where she knew she could provide cold water for us to drink. The streets were deserted.  Government offices, schools and universities were closed for the week, as were banks and most other businesses, large and small.   The Marketplace was empty.   Yes, it was tense, almost like everyone was holding their breath.

The Burkina Faso Parliament was scheduled to vote on Thursday, October 30th, on a Constitutional Amendment initiated by President Blaise Compaore that would enable him to be elected to as many as three more five-year terms.  His claim that he needed time to build strong institutions only angered the people in Burkina Faso, who have seen no improvement in their country during the 27 years Compaore has already been president. Burkina Faso is ranked 181st out of 187th on the United Nations Human Development Index.  http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/table-1-human-development-index-and-its-components

Following a drink of cold water (most welcome) and the opportunity to meet Josephine and Edith, who participated in Claudine’s Conversation in the Developing Women’s Leadership Project, https://www.womenleadingtheway.com/womens-leadership-project.html, Claudine took us to our Guest House.

On Wednesday, despite the tensions, Claudine was able to pick us up and take us for lunch – a chance for  “catch up” conversation and thinking through plans for our time in Burkina Faso,  recognizing that flexibility would be  essential and that forces beyond our control would be playing a big part in our lives during this part of the trip.

On Thursday we were advised by both Claudine and the US State Department, as well as the staff at our Guest House – to “stay put.”  The State Department terminology:  “Shelter in Place.”    Thousands marched in the streets protesting the planned Parliamentary vote scheduled for 10 AM.

One of the other travelers staying at the Guest House, Christopher, a videographer from the University of Rome, was in Ouagadougou to document a conference on African Innovations in Agriculture.  The conference was cancelled.  He was there.  He had a press pass.   So at 5:00 on Thursday morning he, and a local professional with whom he contracted went out to see, and record, what was going on in the city.

Around noon they returned, Christopher was quite shaken.  Some protesters had insisted he take his camera and be at the front of the march, which was not what he wanted to do – and did not do.  As he reviewed his videos, however – and shared them with those of us at the Guest House – he settled and continued to go out each morning for several days. One protester he interviewed explained that Compaore had been president ever since he was born and was only interested in expanding his own power, not in helping to address the high prices, low wages, lack of jobs and persistent poverty in their country.  The young man (60% of the population of this country is under 25 years of age.) said, “I am a father.”  We need a new leader.  I do not want to leave this problem to my son’s generation to solve.”    Thousands and thousands of citizens marched to demonstrate their commitment to a change –  a different kind of power.

The picture below, from an article by Penelope Starr, author for UN Dispatch,  reveals the magnitude  of the protest.


Determined to stop the Parliamentary vote, protesters burned the Parliament Building, a hotel where Parliament members were staying, the national assembly building, cars, tires, and other targeted locations.

Friday – “Shelter in Place” – remained the message.  A curfew was imposed:  7 PM – 6 AM.

On Saturday – Claudine, and her daughter, Djamila, came to our Guest House, and, with Djamila driving, took us out to see some parts of the city.  It was relatively quiet, though the damage from Thursday was evident.  We hoped by the next day we could go to the village in Bouslin where Claudine and her colleagues work with the local women providing training on sanitation, health, and economic matters.


However, by Sunday – the question of who would take over the government of this country prompted chaos and more rallies, At one point both a former leader of the Opposition and the former Defense Minister turned up at the state broadcasting headquarters, separately- each to announce that s/he would head the transition government.  Shortly after they arrived, gunfire broke out and both the staff and protesters ran away.  Because there were also rallies at other cities outside of the capital, it was not safe for us to go to the village of Boulsin.  This was a major disappointment for me as Claudine and I had hoped to explore the possibility that women in this village could learn from Alaffia how they formed a Cooperative in Togo.  The folks in that Cooperative provide shea butter that is used by Alaffia in producing a variety of cosmetics in their plant in Olympia.  Though more challenging to do this using email and SKYPE rather than face-to-face, we will continue to examine this possibility.  “Shelter in Place” remained the instructions of the day.

Monday – Jim and I ventured out to visit the Artisan center.  This delightful place houses a vast variety of African crafts – such as metal work, baskets, woven scarves, leather –  with the artists doing their work on site.     Though the curfew had been changed to 10:00 PM – 6:00 AM, the airport remained closed. Turkish Airlines cancelled our flight – – no word to us, the travelers.  Other airlines changed their flights from night arrivals and departures to mid day – because of the curfew.   Turkish Airlines did not.  I will avoid this airline in the future.  We found them completely unresponsive, basically leaving us stranded in Burkina Faso.  A week after we had returned to Seattle, Turkish Airline flights to Burkina Faso were still cancelled.    Jim was able to get a ticket from Ouagadougou to Addis Ababa and then on to Istanbul, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Tuesday was a busy and very meaningful day.  We consolidated many of the activities Claudine had planned for ten days – into this one day:  lunch with Edith and Josephine who were part of the Conversation, and Frankline, a recognized young African leader who Claudine was chosen to mentor, a visit with the Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy, a visit to the future home of AProFEn and a visit to Claudine’s home where we had the pleasure of meeting the rest of her family

Wednesday we left for airport around 9:30 – to begin our long (40 hours from the time we left Burkina Faso until we arrived in Seattle) and, thankfully uneventful trip home.

Look for more about Tuesday’s events and a story of real leadership, and a different form of power, on the next BLOG post.

Uganda, October 27, 2014

Uganda, October 27, 2014

Village Life

“Connecting Ideas . . . The Power of Questions”

The theme emerging for me as I reflect on our experience in Uganda is, for sure, interdependence.    The reality of connection – not just the connections among humans, or the connection between humans and the rest of the natural world – – – but also the connection of ideas, of projects, of action and consequences – – – this theme keeps playing over and over again for me.

As a teacher I have long understood that it is the questions I’ve been able to prompt or evoke in learners that have always produced more learning and deeper learning than any “answers” I might have been able to provide.

We’ve learned that NGOs are prolific in Uganda – and many that we learned about seem to be providing significant positive impact in terms of health, education and environmental awareness.   And – WOW – do they prompt questions for me.  At the same time – my antenna are also highly tuned to notice creative examples that do seem very systemic.  In other words,  I burn with questions about what does work.  How can communities – and countries improve their life – by their own definition? Is it too late for that already – has TV, movies, music, politicians and missionaries already planted western seeds so extensively that appreciation for traditional culture has faded beyond motivation to preserve?

One organization shared that their work had decreased the death rate from Malaria by 80% in one area  by spraying living units and surrounding bush areas every 9 months.  Thank goodness for those folks who probably would have died if this project had not happened. AND – I wondered, “Do the residents not inhale the fumes from that spray?  Do the children who play in the area come in contact with the residue of the spray?  Is anyone researching the soil and water source to determine whether or not the contents of the spray is entering the drinking water?

Pondering these questions with the Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy, her frank comment was that she didn’t believe any one was doing that or had the authority and resources to do that.  She suggested that donors must take responsibility for the impact of their funding.   Later,  in discussion with our Safari guide, Fred, he raised questions of his own:

  • I wonder if the villagers were malnourished?  (For healthy people, with access to appropriate medicine, malaria is usually not a killer.)
  • I wonder if the family and the animals share the same living space?  (Many diseases, deadly to humans, are carried by livestock.)
  • I wonder if their drinking water is contaminated?  (We saw several places where people were bathing, doing laundry, animals were drinking and folks were filling containers of water to take home for drinking – all at the same spot.)

We remembered our visit to Reach Out Mbuya.  This organization, which seems to be doing amazing work with those who are living with HIV/AIDS, had discovered a similar problem.  Their clients who were faithfully taking their antiretrovirals medications were using contaminated drinking water.  This organization demonstrates a systemic / wholistic model of providing their services, continually exploring the impact of actions taken.  When their research revealed the problem of contaminated drinking water, the organization responded by providing what they call Basic Care Kits.  These contain a safe water container, a straining cloth, water purifier, a method for checking the water, mosquito nets and condoms.

Reach Out provides “peer to peer” counseling by engaging (mostly) women who have been able to stabilize their health through medication, education and counseling –  in working with other women who are beginning  that challenging process to learn to live with their disease,  They monitor the children of these individuals and work to help them stay in school while parents are in treatment.  They teach adults vocational skills – for example sewing, tailoring, knitting and crocheting and “market” their work by negotiating contracts with local organizations.  Some of the police uniforms of the Kampala Police Force are made by the Reach Out sewing students.  This provides some income for the people while they are in treatment, as well as marketable skills they can use to sustain themselves when they leave this treatment facility.

They also have helped a number of groups to form what they call Savings and Loan circles.  These groups manage their own process – electing a leader, a secretary, a treasurer, and three folks who have keys to the box where the funds are kept – all of whom must be present with their keys in order for the box to be opened.   One of the members of this group took out a loan and opened a small restaurant.  When she had paid back that loan, she took out another to buy a cow.     The bank rate for loans is very high in Uganda.  The rates in the Savings and Loan groups is quite a bit less.   And, believe me, they hold one another accountable for repayment!

One of my favorite, most useful, question is,  “What is wanting to happen?”  As we embraced our Safari and all we were learning and enjoying regarding the animals and birds, and about the cultures we encountered. . . . . . I felt a bit restless in terms of the purpose of the trip for me.  I wasn’t able to connect directly with any of the women we saw – and awoke one morning asking myself “What is wanting to happen today?”      Whoa!  My experience is that the question usually opens my eyes to what is right before me.   And this day was no exception.

We were tired – our morning had been awesome – connecting with gorillas – in their home!  It was around noon and we had a free afternoon – – an unexpected delight for me! ! !    But – – – our guide said, “If you want to, there s a possibility at 4:00 this afternoon to see some primary school children at the local orphanage dancing and drumming.     Hmmmmm . . . . how I longed for an entire afternoon to sit on the porch and gaze at the magnificence of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a chance to reflect on what we’d experienced, to write, to “be.”  However, we could not turn down the opportunity to see the children and learn more about their experience.

At 4:00 our guide took us to the appointed place.   Oops – an hour early it seems because it is pre-exam time and the students are studying extra long days.  They will assemble at 5:00.  Not to worry – before we’d even learned this we’d wandered into a place that served the Batwa Pygmies and were completely caught up in stories about how these tribes had been cast out of the forest that had been their home for generations – and into a culture about which they knew nothing.  They were nomadic hunter-gatherers, living in shelters they made out of branches – suddenly finding themselves without homes, without food or any way of securing it and in a very strange environment completely foreign to their way of life.

This could be a story in itself, but the gentleman who was describing this work suddenly stopped and called “Barbara!”   I was startled, to say the least, as Barbara is my name.  But a woman stopped and came to the door where we were standing.  As it turned out, Barbara Thomas and her husband (who grew  up in Seattle) were missionaries for the Wycliff Bible Institute, translating the Bible into local languages.   However, Wycliff had “loaned” them – for three  years – to the Kellerman Foundation, an NGO that had established a very good hospital in this village, and Barbara’s work now was writing stories about “what works.”  I think she was seeking out stories behind successes – perhaps that could be used for soliciting funds, and training volunteers.  I was fascinated, of course – my work is seeking out stories of grass-roots women leaders about what worked for them, how they find and step into opportunities for leadership in their communities.

Thus began an intense and stimulating exchange for the two of us.  While I imagine we have very different theological perspectives, we were absolutely united in our search for what “development” means, how communities can become self-sustainable and thrive, based on their own values and desires.  Her gift to me was a recommendation of a book she and her husband were reading, When Helping Hurts.  The authors argue that we are asking the wrong questions.  They propose that all cultures are impoverished in some ways and gifted in some ways – and that rather than focusing on what a culture does not have, we should be exploring with communities what they do have.

Wow!  My own experience is all about how we “can learn from one another – and with one another.”  Here, at the edge of the Impenetrable Forest, I’d encountered a woman brave enough to change the questions she was asking.   She inspired me to return to the “power of questions,” and to assess the kinds of questions I was asking – as I quietly gave thanks for the question that had begun my day,  “What is wanting to happen today?”

The next day we began to make our way back toward Entebbe where we would conclude our visit in Uganda by celebrating with Betty her graduation and receiving her Master’s Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy!  Here was another women who appreciated the value of questions.  Research into how to best communicate information in times of crisis – had revealed that in rural villages that the Mobile Vans with loud speakers that are common – are the preferred process and – not surprising – hearing that information from people they know, and in their common language.  This doesn’t sound like rocket science – – it does, however, sound like practical, elegant, simplicity!

Safari in Ugandan National Parks “On Connection . . . and Disconnect”

Uganda, October 26, 2014

Spending ten days outdoors in the natural environment is a rare treat for me – bringing new sounds, new sights, new pace, a different way of experiencing the air that surrounds us ~ and for sure ~ new awareness and insight into the fundamental interconnectedness of our universe. Being outdoors in the natural environment also brings the absence of some of the sounds, sights and pace that block our awareness of our connection with nature.

Jim and I had the opportunity to take a very short hike with a Ranger at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary where we watched – from about 15 feet – a mother rhino and her daughter, in their home, not our zoo.

We had the good fortune to have a Safari guide / driver who is a trained teacher. He has worked as a research assistant with a Harvard professor who was studying a specific species of antelope, and has worked in in an animal rescue preserve. Fred has deep understanding of wildlife in his home country, Uganda. He is intelligent, curious, reflective, a system thinker, and has great passion for both the wild life and the human life in Uganda. He described how poaching had decimated the rhino population in Uganda during the political chaos of the twenty year period following Ugandan independence.

“Rhinos can only be reintroduced here because they once lived here,” he explained. “It is the ecosystem in which they can thrive.” The Sanctuary received the first two rhinos (from Kenya) in 2001. Later they received two more rhinos from Kenya. The next two came from Orlando, Florida. The female from Orlando was the first to become pregnant. Her first baby was named Obama. She has since given birth to two more babies. The Sanctuary how has 15 rhinos. They are each followed 24/7 by Park Rangers who are learning what they eat, where they wander and are, in the process, getting them used to humans.

This latter, called habituation, is acclimating certain wild animals in some areas of the park to having humans in their territory, to learning that the humans will not harm them and that they (the animals and the humans) can be in the same area and respect each other. This practice is based on the fundamental principle of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) that animals should be free to exist in their natural environment without being stressed by human beings.

Briefings preparing us for a trek into chimpanzee territory in Queen Elizabeth National Park and into gorilla territory in Bwindi National Part focused on our responsibility to NOT teach the animals fear. “If a gorilla comes toward you, stand still. Do not run, or yell or make other sudden sounds or movements,” the Rangers instructed us. What I am sure will become a favorite family video reveals Jim’s experience when a gorilla did indeed walk right beside him, more than close enough to reach out and touch!






Lessons about connection were not limited to our connection with wildlife. Powerful lessons about connection of the human variety – and about disconnect, as well – were an integral part of our journey. One notable one came about mid-way through our Safari when we were taking a boat ride in the Kazinga channel which connects Lake Albert with Lake Edwards in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Thoroughly enveloped in the appreciation of life in the systems view of our guide and the Rangers we had encountered – I was shocked when the operator of the small pontoon boat on which we were riding began harassing the hippos and the Cape Buffalo along the coast of the channel. Thinking I surely must be mistaken, I kept quite – for a few minutes. Then I sought out the Ranger on board. “This is not necessary,” I said. “We can enjoy these hippos without coming upon them and forcing them to submerge.” He seemed surprised, but agreed completely and went downstairs to speak with the operator of the boat. Soon, the same thing behavior began again – and the steam began to rise – – – in me. I sought the Ranger again and we had a good conversation. “It does no good to complain,” he said. This time I went to speak to the operator. I received a “This is OK. It doesn’t hurt the hippos. It entertains the tourists. etc. “ The Ranger and I talked more. He shared his passion for the animals and how strongly he believed they should be able to live as they wished without being stressed by human behavior. He also repeated his resignation that nothing could be done to change the situation.

I should say that the humans were indeed being entertained – laughing as the buffalo stumbled up onto the shore and the hippos stirred the mud at the bottom as they abruptly submerged. This disconnect, lack of awareness of the rights of other beings, was a powerful reminder of how much we have yet to learn as a global community, about how to really be in community.

When the boat docked and we disembarked, and other tourists, chattering away, hurried on to their next adventure, the Ranger held my hand quite awhile as he looked into my eyes and expressed his appreciation that I cared. Though brief, this encounter with the Ranger was powerful and affirming of the connection we have across cultures – both human and animal.

When I expressed my anger to our guide, Fred, he was sympathetic, but also pointed out the power of the tourists. “When groups I am guiding want me to drive off track, they are most impatient and demanding,” he commented, “insisting that ‘I paid my money; drive over there’.”

So – what to do. Clearly we bring our perspectives with us when we travel. And, when we are ready, the teachers will be there. In the mean time, with the assistance of our guide and the tour company we chose, I will express my own thoughts to both the Uganda Wildlife Authority and to the management of the private company that manages the boat tour.

Some Awesome Ugandan Women

Sent October 12, 2014:  Lunch with participants in Betty’s Conversation


Noting that she is 53, Winnie explained that she was “slowing down a bit” from a hectic travel schedule required by her development work. She shared her “retirement plan:”  Starting a Day Care School so that career women can know their children are getting good care.  She sees this as potential income for herself as well.  She has bought 3 blocks of land where she will grow food so that even if she has little income, she will have food to eat.  And she sees that growing food to sell can also be a part of her income generation.

She works in community development, cross-cultural training and adult literacy, is Chair of the Mothers’ Union at her church and is mentoring three young women.


“I’m at the height of my career” she says.  Like Winnie, she is involved in Community Development work.  She’s worked in rural areas – in health issues, adult literacy, empowerment, and with savings groups – always with a focus on sustainability.  She’s focused on teaching capacity-building skills – life skills, savings plans and business skills.

Currently she works with the Finnish Refugee Council – “Very hard work,” she says because the Refugees are constantly being shifted from one place to another.  She also works to help church youth recognize their leadership potential.



“I’ve worked for the UN, helping to resettle people from the Sudan,” Stella says, “and have had to insist to my bosses the importance of helping these people understand the purpose of the resettlement.”  I would describe Stella as a “warrior” leader.  Good at math, her boss wanted her to work in accounting.  Arguing with him that she did not like that work, they agreed to disagree for awhile, and finally, when he would not understand that higher pay was not primary for her, she resigned.  She is now back at the UN working with expats, utilizing her social work skills.  She also has taken on leadership work as an advisor in her church.

Stella’s baby was the center of attention at our lunch and the latest “woman leader” this group has brought into their circle.



The only girl in her village to go to the University, Jackie received her degree in social work and works in gender issues and health.  She works with women’s savings groups in which many of the participants are illiterate.  She explained that many people, especially the men, do not know “why they are saving.”  She works with Betty in TEU, and gives much appreciation to Betty and Stella for helping her, inspiring and encouraging her to believe in herself.




As she described some scenarios from her work life, it was clear that Stella has developed courage to speak up and to stand up for herself.  She described a situation in which her boss was stealing.  When she reported it, an audit was done, and her records verified that her accusation was true.   Another boss liked her work and wanting her to “just keep on working for him forever.”  He was not interested in her career goals.    Now an administrator in the High Court, she also describes with enthusiasm the mentoring group she started and her participation in the life of her church.



Betty spoke about our needing to acknowledge both “what we need to do” and what we “want to do.”  From her own experience she has learned that we must honor the practical realities of our life as well as our vision and passion and learn to set goals and prioritize so that we can accomplish both.  Working full time as a Communication Specialist at the Center for Disease Control, she also finds time to be a good mother, participate in learning opportunities – such as iLEAP, to participate in Developing Women’s Leadership ~ Around the Globe, and to found an NGO – Teen Empowerment Uganda.

Engaging with Uganda

Sent October 10, 2014

Approaching Uganda by air is a forecast of the sensuality of this country.  The rainy season has left the countryside green – trees, bushes, fields, a rich contrast to the vivid orange/rust of the soil itself.  As I sit here now, in the living room of our B & B – which opens to the outdoors – to a verandah (where we have breakfast) and then the yard – the rooster announces morning (for many hours), birds of every size and shape create a symphony to welcome the day, the trees and bushes provide rich color, and in the background the owner/manager of the B & B sings to her 3 month old baby.  It seems that all must surely be right with the world!

Betty met us at the airport, a huge bouquet of roses and a BIG hug!  We felt welcomed indeed.  After dropping us at our B & B she returned to work and her brother, Edgar picked us up later for dinner at her home.  Edgar, and Betty’s daughter, Joanita    (now goes by her middle name, Ruby) age 11 and in fifth grade, live with Betty.  Her son, Jerry, is 15 and goes to Boarding School.  He will be home for Mom’s graduation – see next paragraph – and her mother will also be here.

This is a big month for Betty! ! !    She will graduate with her Master’s Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy on October 25 ! ! ! ! ! ! !  (AND a great time for Jim and me because we will be here to celebrate with her! ! ! !)        AND  she is readying her booklet, Common Questions and Answers about Menstruation, to send for printing! ! ! ! ! ! !    What a gal!

On our first full day here we were able to participate in a Launch of Celebrating Womanhood Program at a special event arranged by Betty and her TEU (Teen Empowerment Uganda – an  NGO she founded) assistants with the leaders of the St. Theresa’s Primary School, with whom they partner.  What a joyous occasion!  There were about 50 (11 – 13) year old boys and girls in fifth grade who participate in TEU.  You will notice that that the boys wore khaki shorts and the girls aqua skirts.  We were told that the schools insist on short hair for everyone so students (girls especially) can spend their time on their school work – and not on their hair!)

The Head Teacher of the school was at this event, two or three additional teachers, the one volunteer TEU adult that currently works with Betty, in addition to the children.  It was so gratifying to see the respect and appreciation shown Betty by both the young people and the teachers.

Those children are SO articulate and spoke so confidently about what they had gained from being a part of TEU: confidence to speak, developing the habit of washing their hands, learning to respect women and girls, learning the importance of recognizing their heroes, learning they can be what they want to be, etc., etc.

There was a HUGE banner announcing the launch of the Celebrating Womanhood  Program.   A ribbon cutting to introduce the booklet was a part of the morning’s event.

YES, Betty has all of the illustrations placed in the booklet.  I believe the medical content has been reviewed for a final time.  There are a few edits I see and she has to complete the glossary.  She is using the money from the distribution of the Developing Women’s Leadership ~ Around the Globe Project funds as part of the cost of printing the first booklets.

October 9th was Uganda’s Independence Day – 52 years of Independence.  Betty had arranged lunch with six women who had participated in her Conversation.   Powerful women!  Professionals who have – and are – dealing with their own challenges of being women in the workplace – and who are passionate about mentoring other women, especially young women.   A few pictures follow.  A note about each of the women will be included in a later post.

Betty and Jim (with a gorgeous shirt the women presented to him) at the B & B where we are staying

Rich Tradition Meets the Future: Ethiopia Part 2

Sent October 10, 2014: Experiences in Ethiopia

But what about my intention for this travel – to amplify the impact of feminine  energy and women’s leadership?    For me, it always comes back to sharing stories of what women ARE doing, how they are contributing to their families and communities.  Three experiences are worthwhile to share.

About ten of us gathered in a training room at the Institute where Weub works.  She selected the room  – because she could set the chairs in a circle.  I selected the focus point – the beautiful replica of “the rug” that Tam made for the Summit

Much of teaching, I believe, is demonstrating our vision through symbol and modeling. Most of the women were young.  All of them had “big” questions:   Tell us about a challenge you faced and how you dealt with it.  How can women make an impact when they are one of two in a management team of 12 – all the others men?   Talk to us about balancing family and work.

Our conversation focused on Competence, Confidence, and Courage ~ Leading with Our Strengths.  The obvious surfaced again:  Women around the globe, at various economic levels and various professional levels and roles – experience similar issues, AND, demonstrate the Competence,Confidence and Courage to contribute their talents!

Weub also arranged for me to meet with Fozia Hussein.  For those of you familiar with the Developing Women’s Leadership Capacity Building Guide, you will recognize her.  (www.developingwomensleadership.com)   She participated in one of Weub’s Conversations and commented that she had dropped out of school to raise her four sisters.  Her story about how she rescued a sister who was kidnapped will be featured as the Story of the Month on my web site (www.womenleadingtheway.com) as soon as I can make the time to complete it and have Fozia review it.

The final experience related to women’s leadership was the wonderful opportunity to meet Dr. Catheriine Hamlin, co-founder of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis.  Recognized by the United Nations agency, UNFPA, for her development of surgical techniques and procedures, she and her husband founded this hospital where more than 34,000 women have been treated for obstetric fistula.  I have seen pictures of her in the operating room at age 89.  She is now 90, a most gracious woman – the glint of steel peeks through, however.

The hospital is amazing! !   Clean, and welcoming.  The grounds are beautiful, filled with flowers and bushes of all kinds.   Stepping inside from the hustle and bustle of the city with its accompanying dust and noise – – is like being transported to a quiet resort.  Even more important, however, is the wholistic and appreciative treatment of the women who come there.

Women needing only simple procedures are placed in wards where they will spend a month to six weeks, receiving not only physical treatment, but also psychological and spiritual counseling.  As the Chaplain said – “They have lost everything  – their baby (usually), their husband, and their mother and father have usually rejected them.”

Women with more complex needs may be with them for several months.  As they heal they are taught handicrafts and have education classes.  For this group, as well as the other two, integration assistance is provided.  Sometimes, with proper assistance, the family will accept the daughter back.

If a woman’s organs and tissue is so badly damaged that she really can’t go back to her village – many have to wear colostomy bags for the rest of their lives – she may be trained as a nurses’ aide and work at this hospital! ! !  Or she may be assisted to set up a small shop to support herself.

Goodbye for now, treasured friends.  We leave soon for Uganda.





Rich Tradition Meets the Future: Ethiopia Part 1

Experiences in Ethiopia  ~  September 25 to October 5, 2014

We were hosted in Ethiopia by the gracious Weub Eshetu and her family.  At Weub’s encouragement, our travel to Addis Ababa was specifically planned to coincide with the Meskel, one of the largest celebrations in Ethiopia.  On our first day in Addis, Weub and her husband, Berham, picked us up at the B&B where we stayed and after a magnificent traditional lunch, took us to the Celebration of the Meskel.

[Of course these are OUR experiences, NOT an objective reporting of the culture or politics of Ethiopia.]

The Ethiopian Meskel celebration has been designated by UNESCO as an  Intangible World Heritage.  It celebrates the Finding of the True Cross.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been preserving this festival for the past 1600 years.  Constantine’s mother, Queen Helena, received a vision that she should make a bonfire and the smoke would show her where the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified had been buried.

The celebration, to this day, is held outside.  A large pyramid (Demera) is constructed of tree branches and the finale of the celebration is the setting afire of this pyramid.  After the bonfire is lit, Priests in full ceremonial dress sing around the bonfire.  All who are around it experience an inner feeling of brightness.  The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church expressed the intent of the celebration In this way:   “Today we celebrate the Meskel with the intent to renew our vows continually to exert efforts to realize the spiritual development and peace missions of the nation.”   From the Official Guide book at the Festival.

The confrontation of cultures ~ What learning is available at these edges!  I’ve long understood that one of the values of travel was gaining a different perspective on one’s own culture.  Two of these experiences were quite powerful.

“Separation of Church and State” a basic building block of our government – is something we learn from some of our earliest social studies classes.  However, being in a culture where religion, Eastern Orthodox Christianity is part of the very fabric of their social structure highlights just how “separate” our government and our religion is and suggests how difficult it is for us to understand those whose culture and religion are inseparable.

The religious pageantry, worship, celebration enfolds all of their life – personal and collective – in a larger spiritual context..  Large churches are everywhere and regular attendance at services is very important to many.  The impact of their involvement seems to be reflected in personal values of respect for others.

The other cultural confrontation that provided insight into my own culture was around machines!  (smile)    I think of our culture as mechanistic, but more in terms of step by step, sequential, thinking, appreciation of reason and logic over intuition.  In Ethiopia I realized how much we actually love machines!   As we drove through Addis, and through the countryside, where pedestrians, cars, donkeys, sheep, horses and huge trucks all shared the road, I realized anew how the only animals we allow into our lives are the cats and dogs we have as pets.

We heard complaints that when machines – whether buses or medical equipment – quite working, no one wanted to fix them.  I sensed a huge difference in the basic relationship to machines!  Yes, I’m glad to have folks in my culture who can fix my car, but I also am aware of the loss when we embrace our machines – whether cars or smart phones or computers – more fully than we do ensuring that we have time to be with friends and family.

Lots of “friends and family time for us in Ethiopia!   Some pix of Weub’s family:










Weub’s family was so welcoming and open.  Her mother presided over the Coffee Ceremony, and then invited me to participate.  On another day we had lunch at Weub’s home with her husband, Berham, and childen, Abrigail and Johannus.

Overall, the angst I feel is around “development.”  How much “we” – all of us – have to learn about how our rich traditions and current technologies can somehow complement one another for the greater good.    I have seen few examples to guide us – – – HOWEVER – – – I have discovered a philosophy of development that warms my heart and brings renewed intention to help create a healthy collective vision of development.  Perhaps some of you already know of this organization, Global Engagement.

From http://global-engagement.org/about-us/the-gei-difference/


While defining development in terms of economic growth is still fashionable, already the Greek philosopher Aristotle acknowledged that “wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else”. At GEI, our understanding of development has been greatly influenced by Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen and his influential thesis Development as Freedom. According to him, development is all about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value, and improving the human condition so that people will get the chance to lead full lives. This understanding of development constitutes the foundation for all of our high-impact programs.”

 More tomorrow…


Anticipation, Intention, Reflection: A Journey with Purpose

Sent September 29, 2014

(This BLOG will bring pictures and stories, not philosophy, and yet this thinking through the purpose of our travel was necessary for me as I prepared for the journey. If you are interested, I share it with you.)

My husband, Jim, and I plan a journey that will begin September 24, 2014 with travel to Ethiopia and meetings with Weub Eshetu. It will include Uganda and meetings with Betty Kagoro as well as Safari to meet the Gorillas and Chimpanzees ( we hope.) And will conclude in Burkina Faso and meetings with Claudine Zongo, returning to Seattle on November 5. Each of these three women participated as Country Conveners in the project, Developing Women’s Leadership ~ Around the Globe. https://www.womenleadingtheway.com/womens-leadership-project.html

As Jim and I moved from creating a basic itinerary and purchasing airline tickets, to the next level of detail – Visas, immunizations, lodging – looking ahead to the amazing journey we were planning, a new level of awareness emerged.

The email conversations with Weub, Betty, and Claudine awakened vivid memories of each of these women as we looked together at how my visit might both support their ongoing work and strengthen the network of relationships we had created through our project, Developing Women’s Leadership ~ Around the Globe. http://developingwomensleadership.com

And, anticipation became a tangible companion. It’s a funny thing – anticipation. It takes me into the future, engages my imagination, arouses emotion. The excitement builds. And some anxiety as well. The admonition to “Be here, now.” keeps bubbling up in my awareness. I recognize a familiar trap. I can become so enamored of my anticipation, my expectations, that I become blind to the assumptions out of which they arise. I set myself up for disappointment, and judgment because the journey will emerge, in ways I can never anticipate. I remember Mark Twain’s comments about travel:

“The tourist is one who sees what she expects to see.”
“The traveler is one who sees what is there.”

So, how to think about “anticipation”?

As I wait – the notion of intention – surfaces in my awareness. Intention – the lazer goal, the fundamental essence, the purpose. Intention brings its own journey into imagination – but with a difference. Imagination here arises out of the deepest part of me, out of that place where “Why am I here?” resides.

Intention manifests! Wow – if I believe that, I’d best be clear about what my intention really is. Not the dreams, the wishes, the trimmings, but the essence.

Buddhist teacher, Madi Nolan, describes how she has eliminated the concept of “how” from her dictionaries, and her thinking. It is not our work to determine how something will happen; our job is to determine the “what”. In other words, my job is to align with my purpose.

The “how” may involve unimaginable processes and events of which we cannot even conceive. Concern over “how” a goal might be achieved has halted many an aspiration.

So what is my “what?”

  • Is it to have an exciting adventure with Jim?
  • to see new places?
  • to engage with new cultures?

Yes, these are all desired, and, that is not the intention.

The intention of the journey for me is to contribute to our world an energy and wisdom that seems most needed at this time in our collective experience – the untapped resource of feminine energy and feminine leadership. Frank Buchner described the key to the choice of our work in the world: identifying that place where our deep gladness intersects with the world’s great need.

The other intention that rings with clarity with me is to deepen my relationships with the three women whom I have come to know and to love Claudine, Weub and Betty.

Engaging with my intention grounds me, lessens anxiety, brings anticipation, and confidence, centered in openness. I am clear now. My job is to be clear about my intention and open to what is wanting to happen.

If Intention manifests . . . . . . so what? Now my job is to notice and to integrate, which means – reflection.

Reflection – to me is absolutely NOT an intellectual analytical process. It is, instead, wholistic, more a process of letting go of the rational mind and allowing the subconscious full participation.

Anthropologist Angeles Arrien loved to challenge those with whom she worked by acknowledging their “business,” their need to multi-task, the pace and intensity of their lives – by affirming that “We can accomplish much in the fast line!”

AND, she insisted, “There are two things we cannot do in the fast lane:”

  • We cannot deepen our experience.
  • We cannot integrate our experience.

In other words, she challenged us to recognize that without time outside the fast lane, we could not really learn from our experience. Instead, we swirl in the stew of the bits and bytes of our reality. We do not see the connections. We do not recognize the interdependencies of events. We cannot anticipate the consequences of action, or thought, that happens here and now on the far away or long term events. We do not see our impact. We are not aware really, of what impacts us.

The task of embracing reflection is to find time for it. Time to wonder . . . . . .

What happened? What thoughts did it prompt? What emotions did it evoke? What surprised me about it? How did it challenge me? Inspire me? What meaning do I make of it? What action does it prompt for me? How does it impact me?

We cannot control ourselves into reflective insight. We can only make space in our minds and our hearts for stillness, or quiet. We can only embrace the questions rather than search frantically for answers.

So where does all of this leave me, as we begin this journey? Well, significantly less stressed by the details, though I know they are important. It leaves me more secure, in a way, as I recognize that the intention that seems clear to me will manifest in ways that I cannot anticipate. It brings humility as I acknowledge that even in my grandest anticipation, I cannot imagine the power and the elegance of what may emerge. It leave me more open to” what wants to happen.”

Again – this BLOG will bring pictures and stories, not philosophy, and yet the philosophy was necessary for me as I prepared for the journey.