The Fabulous Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky used to be a housewife! Did you know that? So how did her journey into political leadership begin?

I was among 25 Young African Leaders on the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Northwestern University who had the privilege of sitting at the feet of this seasoned woman as she shared stories about her life to inspire us all. Before we met her, I heard at least two Chicagoans describe how she was such a lovely person. And boy were they right! She made us so comfortable, asking us questions and cracking jokes amidst her presentation.

The Representative for the 9th District of Illinois recounted how in the 1960s, she and a group of women advocated for freshness dates to be put on items on shelves in the supermarkets. Her face beamed as she recalled how she insisted then that she would do everything it took except public speaking! The Congresswoman laughed as she asked us ‘do you know there are people who would rather die than to speak in public?’ This certainly got us laughing but the reality of her question hit home. She is an epitome of what can happen when one gets over his/her fears and do what needs to be done to achieve what must be achieved. Now, not only does she speak articulately in public, she advocates for the rights of many including immigrant women. I heaved with excitement when she explained that she did not aim to be the voice of the voiceless, she aimed to help people find their own voices! How powerful!

This is what Congresswoman Schakowsky had to say when I asked her to advise my Fabulous African sisters ‘Know your own power and value your own life experiences since those are the things that have made you wise. You already know how to organise your family and often know how to organise a small business. I know you have been leaders in your communities so I am advising you to have confidence in yourselves, to find your voice and even if you are afraid the first time or the second time, you should just try it and do it. This is because if you really believe in something, people will sense that. They will hear that message from you even if you don’t say it perfectly. Have more confidence in yourself and you can change the world’ As I read and re-read her statement, it dawned on me that she was so right. It really is the experiences we have had in the past that we bring to bear in new roles like leading a team or managing clients.

I can say this for sure, I left her presence feeling absolutely inspired! We need more of such courageous women to help us all find our own voices and speak up. Thank you Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky!

Photo credit/Read more about Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky here

Article by: Ama Duncan, Founder of The Fabulous Woman Network

Twitter: @AmaDuncan2

Facebook/LinkedIn: Ama Duncan

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