Re-Igniting Dreams through the Power of the Sisterhood

A Book review on “The Awakened Woman” by Dr Tererai Trent (Published 2017 by Simon & Shuster, 253 pp)

“Other women’s successful actions are not your competition; they are your inspiration and your opportunities. Sometimes the best way to overcome your own silencing is to see how others are rising above theirs”.

(Dr Trent, The Awakened Woman)

She sits on sofas of every well-known talkback show and laughs, ululates and even cries as she shares her personal journey. This woman is authenticity personified and her story is that of the power of sisterhood. This is the story of Dr Tererai Trent, a lady born in a village called Zvipani in Zimbabwe and dared to dream big.

In her book, The Awakened Woman, she recounts how by the age of 18 she had had three children and was suffering regular abuse at the hands of her husband. Eight years later, with no formal education, she sat next to Jo Luck from Heifer International in her village and shared her dream to get a degree, a masters and then a PhD. 

How did she know about getting a masters and a PhD? She had heard American and British women who undertook projects in her country who, “… opened and closed notebooks full of information that was inaccessible to me”. It is quite telling that with new developments going on around her in post-colonial Zimbabwe, this is what got her attention. Not the rising materialism around her but the need to get educated. If glimpses of people lives have the power to influence our dreams then this passage in her book is a good reminder for us to be deliberate about what we choose to be attentive to as they have the ability to shape our vision of the world.

Throughout the book, Trent keeps espousing the power of the sisterhood because she has benefited from it. From her mother and grandmother who helped keep her dreams alive, to the Director of Heifer International, an NGO that works to end hunger and poverty in the world, the members of her sisterhood told her that her dreams were Tinogona (It is achievable)

For her they truly were as she went on to earn her Bachelors in 2001, her Masters in 2003 and then a PhD in 2009.  However, her story makes quite harrowing reading at times. For instance when she was flung outside their hut by her violent husband and her young daughter had to attend to her as their neighbours gawked on. She writes of her longing to embrace her daughter in this instance giving way to her fear that this would further infuriate her husband. She added, “Shame and isolation made its way to the pit of my stomach and settled there”.

This may have been a significant moment for her as she realised that her eight-year-old daughter was three years away from what was considered an acceptable marriageable age in their community, and this was a baton Trent was not prepared to pass on to her. Trent talks about inter-generational wounds and how we inadvertently pass on our traumas to our offspring’s. These ‘Souls wounds’ or epigenetic inheritance may explain why some are predisposed to certain addictive behaviours than others. In page 27 of her book, Trent asks us what our soul wounds are and if we can afford to be passing this on to our next generation.

There is quite a lot to unpack in this book and the takeaways are many, however, I have summarised a few which were quite important to me:

1. Develop strong female friendships:

We need to dismantle the stereotype that women’s groups/friendships are “toxic, competitive and bitchy”. Find individuals or groups whose life mission align with yours and recognise that their success is yours too. Female relationships will help us navigate the ‘invisible stretch of road’- the space between our ideas and its results.

We must also honour women who have gone before us, women in our family tree, our social circles and in our communities who have “…worked hard not to pass down their soul wounds…instead giv(ing) you a passion and a purpose, a better world” (pg 173)

2. Show up for yourself.

We need to realise that when we become part of a connected sisterhood, we are part of a greater whole. Dr Trent mentions, “My sisters, there are so many ways-big and small- that we can be a source of opportunity for others, and it is just as important that we are prepared to receive opportunities when they come to us” (pg 154).

Lisa Nichols, motivational speaker and CEO of Motivating the Masses puts it bluntly, ‘Commit to yourself first’. It sounds harsh however the sad truth is that we can keep commitments we make to others while easily disrupting those we make to ourselves. However, when you show up for yourself you realise that you need to fulfil your dreams first so that your shoulders can be strong enough for others to stand on.

3. Find your great hunger -then feed it.

Little hungers are those that seek immediate gratification, great hungers are callings. We will only ever be truly satisfied when we are working towards our great hunger or calling and being connected to a powerful sisterhood helps keep our dreams alive.

What are you being called to do and what will it take for you to get there? What skills will you need to build or strengthen in order to achieve this dream or calling? What beliefs will ground you and help you achieve your dream.

Trent, 2019

This is just a short overview of the beautiful book by Dr Trent. Every page has a quotable sentence and while her struggles may be far removed from ours, one thing is clear, there is power in the sisterhood and there is a dream in all of us that is waiting to be reawakened.

Our sister reviewer, Leonora Sinclair, of Marama Alliance UK has also offered her perspective on this book and you may read the nuggets she has to share here. We encourage you to also discuss on their Talanoa page and share your stories about empowering female relationships and how you have benefited from them.

4 Comments

  1. Great review Miriama! There’s power in our relationships and sisterhood, empowered women empower women. Looking forward to the next book 📚🤓

    1. MiriamaSuraki says:

      Leonora, its been so lovely working with you with Our Shared Shelf. Once again thank you for putting this on the reading list!

  2. Filo Tuivanualevu says:

    Loved this review, and what a great book to start off the book club with. So much yes to the first point about debunking the stereotype that all women’s circles and friendships are toxic and competitive. How beautiful are the circles of sistahood, where the great hunger is a mutual one, and when we help each other in the pursuit of that.

    I was so happy to see that Dr. Tererai had dedicated a whole chapter to Validating our bodies way of knowing, and sensuality. With a culture and norms like ours around sexuality and sensuality, I think our sistahood circles are important for this topic in particular because its where we can begin to find voice and articulate our ‘knowing’, our questions and our concerns about our bodies in a space that is safe.

    Thank you again, for such a great book choice and a fitting review. I’ve really enjoyed both.

    1. MiriamaSuraki says:

      Bula Filo,

      It was like this book was written with Our Shared Shelf in mind!

      How hard would it be to debunk that myth (re: women’s circles are toxic) though? Its sadly pervasive and believed by women ourselves so the responsibility is on us to show instances of when they do work.

      Also, that chapter you mention on knowing our bodies was pretty hard for the inner prude in me, misshapen from years of cultural submission. Oh I can imagine a short story in the vernacular on this topic and the aunties giving their input in the safety of the sisterhood! yes its extremely important to talk about our concerns, body hangups and our fears in a safe space and I hope in time as we grow we can do just that. Also, in our reading list we have “This Mournable Body” which may cover this in details.

      Thanks for the thumbs up and happy reading.

      x
      Miri

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