An encounter with a phenomenal woman

This story is about one woman who by a single act of daring to step out and confidently rise to the occasion, ingrained in a little girl those invaluable values that tend to make the difference between success and mediocrity later in life. I have had interesting encounters with phenomenal women and men. These women and men have inspired me in various ways.

Today, I want to talk about one of them, the very first of them. I want to talk about how one woman helped to instill in me the values of confidence, boldness, the spirit of voluntarism, leadership and the belief that I can, in one instant in her interaction with a crowd of people.

By sharing this story, I hope to tell all young women and men that each of us must exercise leadership and be good role models to those younger than us, because we just cannot know which child will be influenced, inspired or encouraged by our actions and inaction. The translator

It was a Roman Catholic priestly ordination or something like that. I do not now remember, for it is over two decades ago. But the image of the woman still remains imprinted in my memory, as clearly as if it happened only yesterday. The homilist was giving a sermon in English. Since the audience included non-English speakers, there was the need for a translator, and they seemed to be conferring on who to do a translation into the various local languages.

Then this woman stepped out from the crowd. She was tall. She glided. Each step exuded confidence. She was so sure of herself, and it was evident in her step. She was very beautiful and very well dressed. She had my full attention, even before she opened her mouth. She stood by the altar, facing the crowd. So tall. So confident. With authority and a beautiful smile. What a woman!

The preacher paused occasionally for the translation. The woman would, with huge confidence, fluence, vivacity and clarity translate the sermon into at least five different local languages. I was stunned. She did it to perfection. I know because I speak English in addition to two of the local languages. I was excited. I had a rush of emotions I cannot explain.

This was a woman who was obviously brilliant, confident, fluent, etc. I focused on her till the end of the sermon. She had made her impression on me, my world, and my reality.

I went home and told my dad about my encounter. I said “Daddy, I saw a woman today, and described her to him.” My dad looked at me with his usual smile. He must have been wondering about the absurdity of my first statement. But he did not say a word, just smiled. I narrated what she did, the fact that she stepped forward, confidently and fluently spoke about five different languages. I asked my dad if he knew who this woman was. He told me “that must have been Madam Melanie Kasise”. He was right.

The image of this phenomenal woman stayed with me. I knew from then that there was nothing wrong with a woman stepping forward. Mama Kasise, as she is affectionately called, did that. I had had my share of translations of church sermons. This was the first time I was seeing and hearing a woman do the translation. And hers was the best I had ever heard. So I learnt also that it is all right for a woman to be brilliant. By her act of stepping forward and rising to the occasion, she showed me that it is all righty for a woman to shine and have authority. Example of ambition

From then on, I knew for a fact that there was nothing wrong in a woman being ambitious. I don’t know if Mama Kasise set out to teach me this lesson but in that encounter, I came face to face with ambition. I looked into the eyes of ambition. Its eyes were beautiful.

It had the eyes of Mama Melanie Kasise, that day, on that occasion. For she seemed to have whispered to all that day that, “it is okay to be ambitious; it is okay to step forward; it is okay for a woman to lead; it is okay to be confident; it is okay to exude confidence; it is okay to believe in your abilities; it is okay to volunteer and it is okay to shine”. She symbolised permission for me and all other girls.

This demonstrates that our sons and daughters will be free to be who they are; not because we tell them that they can, but because we show them by our actions that they can.

It is our collective challenge to be agents of positive change in the lives of our sons and daughters, and to give them leadership. Inspiration; belief in themselves and their abilities. The right to live on their own terms. That is what leadership is about. The ability to inspire. The ability to sacrifice.

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