On This Day I Stood Up for my Position

Sophie Ngassa
Posted January 20, 2017 from Cameroon
Women in leadership and decision making meeting
How women can influence social change in their own communities.

One Sunday morning during church service, the pastor of our church congregation had a very important announcement for the Christians. The church was silent and everyone was eager to hear the persons that had been appointed as members of the church project committee.

Our congregation had a project to construct the vestries of the church house. It was the responsibility of the session to choose those to lead the project committee. The previous day, the pastors and all elders of the church held a meeting to select this team, theyhad to look keenly at the criteria of the persons needed to coordinate thisconstruction work.

On this, the day the pastor announced the new team of the project committee members. He read the team of members which was composed of 6 members, 2 women and 4 men. I was one of the chosen female project committee members and the other lady was my friend, we were both in the women’s fellowship group. The church members were very satisfied and they applauded with joy as we received words of congratulations and encouragement. The other lady committee member was a business woman who owned a building material shop, so she had a good mastery of the quality of items and material needed for the work. I am a Civil engineer and I have to be in charge of technical supervision of this project. Our task was to manage the building team, recruit workers, supervise the work and present a bi -weekly report on the work progress.

Later on, the project started and we noticed that one of the men was not happy, he behaved in strange ways but he would not speak out. He was not satisfied with the choices made. He felt that women could not handle the task we had. He opposed everything that was said by women. This pushed us to do some investigation and found out that, this man tried to team up with other men to work against our position as leaders. He wanted to be the leader of the project committee for some reasons that we discovered latter. His behavior was very strange and he was arrogant. During one of our meetings he said “women cannot be leaders for a construction project, more to that in a team made up of men.”

One day during my routine visits, I noticed that some building materials had disappeared from the site and the work progress was slow. When I questioned him, He bullied me saying that “It was church property and belongs to no one, he had the right to do whatever he wanted, and adding that “a women`s place should be in the kitchen”. I was very angry and picked up a quarrel with him. I was embraced because this man knew me as a community member and had visited me once at my workshop. I did not expect such a behavior from him. That is how we discovered that his intention in being a leader was to use his powers to mismanage church property for his selfish interest. We also remembered that during the recruitment process he insisted and wanted some particular persons to be recruited.

My female colleague and I decided to report the matter to the Pastor. The issue was resolved and this man went through serious counseling. He wanted to leave the projected committee, but the pastor handled the matter carefully and privately. Things went back to normal and work went on properly with lots of lessons learnt.

Normally as atypicalAfrican woman, we are trained to be very submissive to men and to stay quiet even when hurt. Standing up is regarded as a taboo even if it is for the benefit of the community. In a normal situation we as women would have no say. The work as well should have been poorly executed causing blame and damage on us.

As women, we need stand up, speak out and take appropriate action. As a result of my struggle in this male dominated field, I have developed the capacity to withstand hard times and struggles in my professional career and family life.

This story was submitted in response to Standing Up.

Comments 3

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Feb 11, 2017
Feb 11, 2017

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm sorry for your challenges with this man, but it sounds like you handled it in a very thoughtful way that will hopefully help him, and the whole community, grow.  I hope the project is going well now!

Sophie Ngassa
Feb 23, 2017
Feb 23, 2017

Dear Dneal,

Yes the challenges always come, but we need to tactful in the way we handle them.The project went on well right up to the end. Thanks for the great comment.

Anne McCaw
Sep 17, 2017
Sep 17, 2017

Sophie:  I am so impressed with the way you handled this dynamic with someone who is likely frightened of any change to status quo.  I applaud your determination, your confidence, and your strength.  And I applaud the leadership you are providing for your community.  Know that you have support there and from us in the United States.  We may seem progressive, but you would be surprised at how we, too, get trapped into thinking we are best when we are submissive.  Women are seen as aggressive, while men are seen as strong.  Please set a new standard for us all!