Power and Playfulness

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:ย  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!

17 thoughts

  1. Marion – as usual you have captured the essence of the messsage with a powerful story. Whether it’s you with your cowgirl chic ( come on you’re French you would look good in a “Carrefour sac”!) or Kah Wallah with her own message. As you say power comes from within and we all need to embrace our own inner strength, regardless of what is happening on the outside.

    1. Thank you Dorothy. At almost midnight, you still make me laugh! “Cowgirl chic” (or maybe Cowgirl Chick???)
      Absolutely, power comes from within and stories are powerful. We both know it, that’s why we tell so many stories, week after week. Can’t wait to read your next one! Take care.

  2. Marion,
    “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.” Beautiful.

    I have noticed that women with great power have great depth and the capacity to laugh and make others laugh and feel at ease as they spread their message. They are fully embodied in their truth, in their body, in their heart. It is a different kind of power, the one we need in these times. Power that disintegrates what doesn’t work and mends the broken.
    To the power of the Feminine!!!

    1. Oh, merci Marjory, reading this early this morning, just before driving in the freezing snowy and icy winter roads warms my heart!
      Amazing comment about the connection of “power and the capacity to laugh and make others laugh and feel at ease as they spread their message”
      “Power that mends the broken”…reminds me of a fairy tale…will tell you very soon in another post!
      Yes, to the power of the feminine and the real masculine too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Lovebug Marion,

    What beautiful awareness of what caused the power and how it was transmitted, as well as where women were holding on in fear of….whatever it is that we fear in those situations. My own personal wish is that I could help women, not as naturally talented or as comfortable and this beautiful lady, Kah, but with the same intent. I would like to help them be more powerful orators, so they can get a hold of their talents that will allow them to spread their thoughts and good deeds.

    And my other wish is that more of us would more often utilize the level of awareness you captured in this situation, that allowed you to spread such power among the readers of your writings. ๐Ÿ™‚ xxoo Laura

    1. hahaha! I love to be called Lovebug, thanks LadyBird Laura!
      Such a wonderful comment, from your heart! Merci beaucoup.
      Yes, I wish that your wishes come true and I can just picture you spreading such power & fun to as many women as possible! ๐Ÿ™‚ Marion

  4. Ah – the confidence to fill your space, laugh and take the power from it needed to change the world! This is a fantastic example! When I was young and talked about wanting the power to make change happen – I was told to be more ladylike – not to use the word ‘power’! There is still so much to do. I am glad the world is changing! But let us truly judge each other less on the slender figure, clothes, shoes, perfumes, handbags and jewels! Here’s to cowgirl chic! Thank you for this Marion!

    1. Thank you Wendy for being so enthusiastic and supportive!
      I can’t imagine anybody telling you to be more Ladylike, for me you’re such an amazing powerful LADY! Yet, I relate completely to what you say and remember too situations when you’re told to be “less” of, because you are “too much” and usually it’s because you are expressing your power and speaking from your center of creative powerhouse!
      A hurray to the cowgirl chic! :-)))

  5. Marion,

    What a great article, you got me clapping first thing in the morning!

    And you hit the nail on the head: were we to generalize, one of the main differences between powerful women and powerful men is that for women, to paraphrase you, power comes from within and is used to effect change for others. It is not a pursuit of power for power’s sake.

    Your story about Kah threw me back several decades to the first Women’s News International conference I’d helped the International Women’s Tribune Centre organize in Washington, DC. For the first time ever, women journalists from all over the developing world gathered to discuss peace, education and development issues often ignored by international media and to find ways to get news out and bring outside news to their countries.

    For many of these women, it was their first trip out of their country. And many of these women took great risks to attend this conference. Not for any personal gain, but to seize an opportunity to effect change in their often war-torn or economically troubled homelands. You write amusingly about power and dress codes, and we took several participants straight from the airport to the mall to get them shoes to cope with cold DC!

    I’d like to squat your real estate to pay tribute to Pauline Onsa, from PNG, who passed away earlier this year. After years with the Red Cross, she had gone on to become Bougainville’s first elected woman provincial MP. Her lifelong generosity and courage touched so many lives and inspired many more still outside PNG.

    What did all these women have in common? The ability to radiate sunshine and share laughter, no matter the trials they faced or the seriousness of what they sought to accomplish. That energy is power, and it does come from within.

    Thanks for Kah’s story and reminding of this. Oh how easily we can forget!

    1. So happy I got you clapping in the morning, Patricia!
      And also so grateful to have made a new friend, thanks to Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen seminar in Paris last week!
      Thank you for sharing your story too and the humbling “ability to radiate sunshine and share laughter, no matter the trials they faced or the seriousness of what they sought to accomplish”.
      Beautifully expressed.
      Merci.

    1. Thanks Sharon!
      Your name evokes passion and joyful determination, your actions too!
      I love the word “Womanhood” Womanhood running in the woods with the wolves and with the horses…What a great programme for 2011! xxx

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