Story of the Month Archive
Each month we highlight the story of one woman who is making a difference in the world. We invite you to celebrate these women, learn from and be inspired by their stories. We also invite you to share your stories of women leading the way, so that we might share it here.
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January 2012: Elegant Power ~ Beauty in Action
To see Claudine Zongo is to watch elegant power in action. Whatever she is doing – planting trees or listening to a co-worker, making a formal presentation or engaged in informal dialogue, describing the AProFEn Association Center or supporting the management of the work plans of the Inter country Support Team of the World Health Organization for West Africa (IST/WA) Claudine is the essence of elegant power.
Funny, as we’ve accepted the masculine definition of power, the image that comes to mind when we think of “power” may be big guys physically pushing each other around on the football or soccer field, or the “box” at the top of an organization chart, or the control of a determined father. But ~ what about the feminine understanding of power? It is time for us to step up, sisters, and create our own story, create our own language and meaning from our experience!
The feminine meaning of power may be described as
- the potency of the relationships we create and nurture,
- the richness of projects that emerge from cooperating and collaborating with others,
- the influence we have when we speak and act from our own authority,
- the impact we have when we understand and act on our intuition.
If we realize that “power” is about energy, about getting things done, we can appreciate elegant power. Elegant power is about creating big impact with skill, confidence and grace. Claudine’s story illustrates:
“When I was young I was sent to live with my Grandma,” Claudine tells us. “She was old and needed help and companionship. She taught me that a woman should always walk with her head held high, that I should always be clean and pay attention to my appearance, that if I wanted to be respected, I had to respect myself.”
Claudine’s life and work illustrates how deeply she integrated that lesson from her grandmother. She does pay attention to her appearance and dresses with care. She always looks elegant. AND, she reveals the deeper lesson as well. She holds her head high. She is a very humble person, but with deep self-respect she knows she has important gifts to bring to the world and she does that with great passion, with skill and with grace.
Along with several other professional women in the capital city of Burkina Faso, Claudine founded AProFEn, Action Promo Femme et Enfant, an association that allows these professional women to “give back” to their larger community. These women had the opportunity of education and training, and they, through this association, now provide training to village women who have not had the same educational opportunities. Claudine has been leading this association since 2004. It is an Association, fully recognized by the government.
What makes their work amazingly powerful is that these women created a way to share this training that did not alienate the men of the village, but gained their support as allies. The result is that AProFEn has gained the confidence of the Chief of the Village and the Association has been granted 3 hectares of land. The women envision building a headquarters there which will be a training centre including leadership training for women and education for young girls. The Centre will also provide resources for business capacity building for women to develop production of such products as soap, shea butter, weaving, conservation of fruit, etc. In August (2011) AProFEn members, traditional leaders and invited national leaders visited the land that has been given to the Association.
At this event, which Claudine led, the whole village turned out – women participated in a cycle race, 1,000 trees were planted, a conference on human rights was conducted. A female senator of Burkina Faso spoke, stressing the fact that women are more than 52% of the population in their country and should provide guidance, advice and vision in decision-making. The local mayor urged the gathering to heed the senator’s remarks. He concluded, “When women are empowered, men are not only also empowered, but protected as well, and it is the whole world that benefits from that situation.”
Claudine describes her objective in this way, “My intention is to build worldwide active awareness through sustainable projects and programs led by women for women.” Claudine’s bold vision inspires all of us who are working to create a world that enjoys women’s achievements in all areas of life – political, economic, social and cultural. Yes, she acknowledges that her objective is ambitious, and comments that “Anything that comes from the human mind can be achieved by human beings.” Working for the greater good, and recognizing that her vision and her work is part of the larger network of increased awareness and practical projects led by women for women, Claudine’s vision, creativity, collaboration and perseverance, her elegant power, is a gift to all of us.
AProFEn members are congratulated!
Their contact is as following:
Tel.: +226 71888903