We’re raised to believe the lie that “women are their own worst enemies.” That a woman will never support another woman; that jealousy courses so strongly through our veins that we are incapable of cheering each other on. We’re taught to be suspicious of any other woman outside our trusted circle of sisters, because “these women are only out to get your man or steal your dream.”
It’s easy to believe the lie if all you do is spend time on social media, where trolls thrive behind the anonymity provided by screens; where women tear each other down and post pictures “for other women to see.”
But once in a while you meet a remarkable woman who proves that we’ve been lied to all along. A woman whose passion for helping other women succeed burns so bright it lights up her eyes when she speaks.
I met her in a coffee shop after work. One of these new ones with the chic modern industrial décor, all solid wood and dark metals, highly styled but still fantastically welcoming.
I was a few minutes late, nervous because I thought I was making a bad impression. I strode in determined to charm her and her partner into forgetting my tardiness, my profuse apologies spilling out only to be met with warm dismissal. It was no big deal she said, she knew I was coming from work, and you know how employment goes sometimes.
She had a vanilla milkshake; I ordered a soy latte. I’m not posh, dairy just refuses to love me back. Though if I were posh I’d own that too.
She sipped her milkshake slowly, almost with reverence. Then she began speaking about her baby.
It all began when she attended a workshop. She wanted to know how she could turn her desire to help women into something tangible. Hers was much deeper than hosting career women to a swanky networking event where wine would flow freely, loosening lips freshly kissed by mouth-watering canapés. She wasn’t looking to spend money hiring and decorating a room in a hotel, where power women could glide in, all freshly made up faces, tight skirts and high heels. Not that there’s anything wrong with these kinds of events, but she wanted to get her hands dirty. Do something that nobody she knew of was doing.
She wanted to support women in business, to give single moms, stay at home moms and women with small businesses a space to meet other women like them, to share ideas, stories and make some money. She wanted to create a community where women would help each other, where they would find support, laughter and a solid coin.
She didn’t think she could pull it off, but a friend of hers wouldn’t let her give up on this dream, and gave her the idea of a flea market. So she put the word out, got together some willing vendors, relied on friends and family to turn her idea into a small event.
She named her baby Asenka, Hebrew for “grace.”
That first event was held on a Sunday in March. It was also the same day the good Lord decided to open up the heavens and let the rain pour down on Nairobi. It was muddy, it was messy, she had to borrow tents to salvage the event, she didn’t make the money she expected to and had to placate vendors who had invested time and money to display their wares, only to make less than expected because you know, nobody likes being out in the rain. Especially not in Nairobi, where rain equals the chance that you could be carried away in a flash flood. Noah 3.0. Only in a Japanese model instead of an ark…the only things coming in two by two being the headlights of your fellow drivers trying to find refuge from the rain.
But even the downpour wasn’t enough to put out her fire. So on Sunday, 29th April 2018, she’ll be back at The Venue in Lavington for the Asenka Community Market, giving it another go.
And that’s why she asked to meet me. To see whether I’d be interested in working with her to spread the word, so that she could follow this dream of hers.
She drew me in with her sincerity, with that raspy voice punctuated often with a wide smile, a hearty laugh, and that reverent sip of her vanilla milkshake, which she refused me to pay for as my way of apologising for being late.
I left that meeting wondering what my purpose in life was. Hers is to help women: to tear down this nonsense notion that women don’t support women.
Her name is Ruth, and she’s determined to grow a community of strong, ambitious female entrepreneurs. And she’s going to do it, because she’s got you, and your circle of women – and men – to support her.
See you at Asenka!