International Women’s Day (celebrated on March 8th) commemorates the movement for women's right and is a day to celebrate and share stories of the women in our lives that inspire us. Among those stories was one shared by Njeri about her mother. After seeing Njeri’s photo and comments about her mother’s example, we wanted to know so much more about her mother and her journey from Kenya to the USA.
Tell us the story behind this photo.
My mom vividly remembers the day this picture was taken. Imagine this story as told in a Kenyan accent: "I was in Nairobi coming out of design class for the day. It was beautiful outside and I passed by some people taking photos on the street and thought why not pose for a picture? Why not? In those days no one had their own camera and I thought it would be good to remember a good day. I came back a few days later, found my picture and smiled again." I picked this photo because my mom is my age and although looking forward to the future, she took a moment to revel in the present.
How did your mother make it to the U.S.? And what type of business did she start?
My dad was in the states finishing school so when the time came, my mom packed two suitcases, left behind every single family member and familiar place and braced for the scariest experience: 17 hours of flying with a 4 year old. We made it to Pennsylvania and my mom never looked back. In the early days, her main goal was making sure I made it to school and back and was assimilating well. In her downtime, she explored Penn State and started to build a community around us. A few years in, my parents started selling African art at local markets. Twenty-plus years later and they've grown their business to include travel tours to Africa, opening their first hotel/lodge in Kenya and running a successful African art store at the King of Prussia Mall (largest mall in the US!)
How has your mother's example shaped you as a woman?
My mother's example, oh my word — where to even begin. She guides me every single day. She is a brilliant and strong woman of faith, love and hands gifted from the culinary gods. One particular lesson I carry in my heart is her saying: "Njeri, no person is better than you and you are better than no person." I find immense confidence and resilience in that statement especially working in a field that is 98.9999999% male dominated. Too often, for fear of coming off "soft," women put up a tough exterior and my mother has always pushed us to embrace all facets of our personalities. As a result, almost everyone who knows me describes me as "the sweetest person that they wouldn't dare cross." I love unconditionally, take my work very seriously, bake cakes and play rugby because NEWS FLASH: it's 2017 and I can do all the things.
What are you seeing around you now that inspires you and gives you hope for women around the world?
I am inspired by women starting to tackle the awkward conversations amongst themselves that start with 'what is your experience as a ______ woman and why am I so removed from your struggle'. We cant move forward as a strong unit without first listening, truly listening, to what other women around the world have mourned and celebrated.
Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?
As I write this to you, I am three days away from taking a huge financial licensing exam (send all the prayers, PLEASE) so I've been updating it with funny, encouraging, motivational quotes. This week I'm bribing myself to study so I've got my reward on the board: GUCCI SOHO DISCO BAG. So far, the motivation is working.
If you or someone you know have a story you would like to be featured, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.