Who is the woman most incarnating playfulness and joy of power for me?
Last november, in Lyon, at the World Entrepreneurship Forum for Women, I had the privilege to meet an amazingly powerful woman.
Who is she?
Kah Wallah is the CEO of STRATEGIES! She has received an award for work done in Women’s Economic Empowerment in Africa from the Clinton Global Initiative. She’s running for the presidency of Cameroun in 2011.
Why is she “amazingly” and positively powerful?
When I first saw her on stage, instead of sitting as the others did, she stood up and came close to us, her audience. She stood proudly and joyfully in front of us, radiating confidence and eagerness to share. She was simply herself, 100 % present, open and her posture was expressing both strength and consideration for others.
She opened her face with a big smile and from her chest, her belly and even her legs, it seemed like we could see the wave of deep and innocent laughters shaking her whole body. She asked us immediately: “Who do you think is more powerful now, you or me? We are going to check this: clap your hands at the same rythm as me.”
We did, slightly intimidated at first, then growing confidence and enjoying the noise we created all together.
She did it once, twice and even three times. Then she paused.
With another big laugh, she asked again:
“Now, who do you think has more power?” We all applauded massively and then she started to speak.
She spoke about women and their fear of power. Especially in the occidental countries. She told us that we need not fear power. We could be proud to be powerful. We could have fun and enjoy power. Power was a beautiful thing to feel and to share.
Several hundreds of women were there with me. Most of them were wearing designers clothes, high heels shoes, precious perfumes, handbags and jewels. Their hair looked like they just spent the afternoon at the most trendy hairdresser in town, they wore invisible but perfect make-up, yet you could see how tired and tensed they were, trying to keep up with everything. Most of them were thin and looking in their late thirties, early forties. They probably all had a quite wealthy profession and also run a family with a husband and young children. When you got closer to their faces, you could observe a little spot in their eyes, reflecting anxiety and either too low or too high self esteem.
You may wonder why I was so sensitive to the way the other women looked. I must confess that, that evening, after a day of work at home, in jeans, striped vest on a relaxed men’s shirt and leather boots, I completely underestimated the time to prepare myself, and chose to be on time, but to keep the same far west look. When I first arrived, I felt like the ugly duckling… I remember keeping my raincoat on, although the room was really hot, because I didn’t want to show my weird outfit. As soon as Kah Walla showed up, I started to relax and the way I looked was no more a problem. I felt completely at ease in my boots, comfortable in my jeans and with my own personal style, very congruent with my company’s name “Geronimo”! I can tell you that I made such an impression during the following networking event, that a Canadian woman even asked me if I had any native american ancestors!
The only person that evening in the room that felt at ease and strong and relaxed in her shoes, her colourful and beautiful African dress, was Kah Walla.
For the first time since many years, I could feel what power really meant in my own body and relate to what she was speaking about. The power to change the world. The power to influence, to make an impact and to do it because you were called to do it, from within, for the others, not for yourself.
After her talk, I went directly to see her and asked her how she came up with this extraordinary idea, of becoming the first female president of Cameroun.
She’s a business and leadership coach, she could have remained a busy and successful CEO and flourished in her company.
She decided one day that nobody was going to do what her country needed, she could not wait for someone else to come because this someone else had to be her.
She was tired and revolted of witnessing her country under the control of corruption and abuse.
She was standing to be that person, saying no to authority, walking her talk and facing adversity.
Listen to the power of her voice, in her declaration: The Time is Now!
“Kah: When is the time to build an economy where every entrepreneur is energized, motivated and assisted to create wealth for the country? When is that time?
Crowd: The TIME is NOW!
Kah: When is the time to show the world that we have the most beautiful country on the globe from the Logone & Chaari to the Moungo, from the forests of the Dja to the rolling hills of the Bamboutos, from the might of the Sanaga to the waterfalls of Kikaikilaiki? When is the time?
Crowd: The TIME is NOW!
Kah: When is the time for each Cameroonian child to sit on a bench in school with textbook in hand, for each university student to have access to a computer, for each hospital to be able to treat malaria with no bribe, for garbage to be collected and roads to be built? When is that time?
Crowd: The TIME is NOW!
The time is now, Cameroonians, the time is now. That is why I stand before you today.”
It moves me to tears, and to laughters!
This is what power means for me!