It's not the wakin', it's the risin' – Tedx Barcelona Women.

This was my 03rd Tedx Barcelona Women attendance (all of them were gifts from me to myself for my birthday and I like this developing tradition, there is no better gift than investing in your mind, right?) and maybe I was just a little bit self-absorbed in a way that I was sure that I already knew the team, the script, the ideas, sort of speaking. And yes, some of the team members now look familiar, the catering was as yummy as last year and there were some administrative things that repeated, but I have to admit I thought I knew, but I had no idea. For me, this edition truly raised to its motto: Share your Power. It oozed power, sorority, respect and a general vibe of togetherness that deeply touched me and inspired me even more.

Now, power is a powerful word 🙂 It frequently seemed to me that power was somewhat wrong, that we should not aim to have power, but meaning, that people who have the most power are generally not to be trusted etc. Clichés, I know, but I never considered myself a specialist in everything so I recognize my illiteracy in the power department.

I realized I was like that when I stumbled upon a wonderful Ted Talk documenting another article. It really opened my eyes on this topic and I highly recommend you to invest some minutes of your life in checking it out. If you don’t wish to, I’ll sum up: we find power scary and even evil, but we truly are ignorant, because the power within us is something majestic, which can turn slogans into movements and can implement big changes. Sounds like science fiction to many, I know, but if you stop and think a little about it, the power truly is a resource we should democratize.

Leaving that aside, power was generally masculine and somehow restricted to doubtful official situations, but there is power everywhere. Predominantly masculine, that is still true, but at least we are progressing in terms of diversity, complexity and democracy and that is truly something. This is what was explored during Tedx Barcelona Women and, if you ask me, the result was mind-blowing.

I’ll, of course, get back to more details on that, but first I would like to explain the title and hence motto of my article. The titles of my articles always have meaning, this you might have discovered if you read my blog for a little while. I also like to choose some music for you to enjoy while reading these sequences of letters on your screen 🙂 It was of utmost importance to choose wisely the title and the soundtrack for this very special article, but I think I found just the right thing. This:

This speaks volumes, just listen, listen and feel, listen and think. I cannot over-analyze the lyrics here, because this article would end up even more novel-like in length, but as you can easily notice, it honors the legacy of music activists and the power of adding action to words. It is a narrative about appreciation. This song is meant to share and acknowledge power, indeed. For more details on it, I found this very useful.

It’s not the wakin’, it’s the risin’
It is the groundin’ of a foot uncompromisin’
It’s not forgoin’ of the lie
It’s not the openin’ of eyes
It’s not the wakin’, it’s the risin’

It’s not the shade we should be cast in
It’s the light and it’s the obstacle that casts it
It’s the heat that drives the light
It’s the fire it ignites
It’s not the wakin’, it’s the risin’

It’s not the song, it is the singin’
It’s the heaven of the human spirit ringin’
It is the bringin’ of the line
It is the bearin’ of the lie
It’s not the wakin’, it’s the risin’

Hozier – Nina cried power

Finally getting to the point, this year edition was again sold out and took place at the Auditorio Imagina Mediapro, which I think is a good place for such a conference, because it keeps people close, but it is also sort of official. I like it. The team, including volunteers, are truly amazing, so very nice.

I have to say that I enjoy the goodies bag every participant receives, because, well, who does not and also 1. it has stickers which I always use for my planner or laptop and 2. it has a small notebook where I like to write the main ideas of the talks, making for a nice memory afterwards. It includes other nice stuff, mainly the bag itself 😀 which is also a great reminder of that special day.

First, they streamed 3 Ted Talks from the main event happening under the keywords Bold and Brilliant in Palm Springs, as follows:

Noeline Kirabo

Who: She is a family therapist by profession and a social entrepreneur by passion. Over all, she is an amazing human being. She founded Kyusa, an organization meant to restore hope to vulnerable young people, who could thus develop passion-driven careers. She does many other things, just check out her site for more information.

What: Her speech was warm and beautiful. She talked about passion vs. career, about how passion seemed for a long time to be meant only for the rich people and about how the official educational system is not a place for misfits. In her organization, when she tries to pin point the passion for each individual, she asks 2 questions, who might seem easy, but at least for me were truly impossible to answer just like that:

  1. What makes you happy?
  2. If you had all the money and all the time in the world, what would you do?

She underlined that passion plus skills should equal a good career and she also described the stories of 2 young people from her native Uganda who stepped up from living to thriving, by finding their passion. They were so sure that if they failed in the traditional education system, they would be doomed, but they were not. Not at all, because with the right assistance and the right mindset they succeeded.

Take home message: Looking inwards can be scary, but it is then when we truly start to live a life from which we don’t need or wish to retire or resign. Like that, we can truly become unstoppable.

I, for one, still have no idea which is my passion, which in itself does make me feel like a misfit sometimes, but I think that the search must continue and maybe this search is even more powerful than the result itself (or maybe I am just saying that to myself to make me feel better, guess I’ll find out, eventually 🙂 ).

Joel Leon

Joel Leon speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, December 4-6, 2019, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Jasmina Tomic / TED

Who: He is a storyteller and a performer. Details on his work, here.

What: He talked about co-parenting and how in an ideal world both parents would be co-parents. The challenge of a co-parent is to always ask: “How can I show up for you in a way that benefits our family?” He said that being a father is an opportunity, albeit there are inevitably sacrifices involved. Co-parenting might seem like something invented for Netflix dramas, but it refers to parents showing up for each other, while generally the view assumes that the father is absent. #shareyourpower

Take home message: Create space for compassion and communication. Reject stigmas of fatherhood and stereotypes on motherhood.

It is work, beautifully hard work, dismantling the systems that would have us believe a women’s role is in the kitchen tending to all things domestic, while the hapless dad fumbles over himself whenever he has to spend a weekend alone with the kids. It is work that needs to happen. Now.

I have no experience as a parent, obviously, but I do have experience as a child of an absent father and I can truly say it impacts one’s life on virtually all levels. So, I have to agree with the ideas Joel shared, I think parents are eventually going to make a mistake or more, but let it be other than you not being there.

Cara E. Yar Khan

Who: She is truly inspiring. She talked in the Wayfinders section and it did suit her and her story perfectly. She is humanitarian and a disability activist. At age 30, in the first decade of her humanitarian career with the United Nations, Cara was diagnosed with a rare muscle wasting disease that leads to quadriplegia (Hereditary inclusion body myopathy), a condition for which there is no cure. Rather than letting it quiet her, Cara became even more powerful.

In her ten years working around the world with United Nations (in Ecuador, Panama, China, Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Thailand, Haiti – I mean…wow!), Cara was the first person with a severe physical impairment to serve in an UNICEF Emergency Operation when stationed in Haiti for two years after the devastating 2010 earthquake. In summary, she is awesome and has done a lot of amazing things in her career and life in general.

What: She talked about fear and bravery and how the magic lies in the balance of these both. She was repeatedly told to limit her career ambitions and to silence her dreams, but she did not listen. Instead, she followed her dreams. One of those dreams was to descend the Grand Canyon and it was not an easy path to follow. There were 12 days, 4 via horseback, then 8 rafting the Colorado River. It was not glamorous, but she shared her power and this trip showed her the amount of courage she had inside herself without even knowing.

Take home message: Courage does not appear as an instantaneous fairy, it comes from fear. Without fear, one does foolish things. Without courage, we’ll never know the unknown. There is magic in between, so let’s follow that magic.

I have seen my share of powerful moments in this life, but this story and her peaceful, but so powerful persona were out of this world. She is inspiring. She is the definition of what inspiring means. I loved her speech and without knowing her I adore her for what she has accomplished.


After these talks (which you’ll soon be able to see online, so my text will become obsolete, but I figured it would still be important in a way or another), there was time for sharing the power through music. Art is powerful, maybe one of the most powerful forms of standing up for a cause you believe in.

Ahyvin Bruno, Ahylin Bruno and Frank Pereira

The Bruno sisters are passionate about Cuban music and they founded a musical group called Karamba. I loved the sparkle in their eyes and in their voice. And also enjoyed the explanations about the songs and their fight. Because there is a fight 🙂 Their songs have message and meaning. I have found this article about Ahyvin, it is in Spanish but it is a very nice read. However, their music is the most powerful form of expression, so enjoy!

I am finally getting to the live speakers. It was a complex event, so my story is alike. I’ll get to details about the talks, but I want to underline the power of trust. The beautiful touch of imperfectness. The great feeling of seeing someone struggle a bit, but standing firm. The inspiration I felt when the voice of a speaker was trembling, but the entire theater supported that voice, which in the end could be heard loud and crystal clear.

This is to say that yes, the speakers were not perfect in the way the norms require them to be, meaning that they forgot parts of the speech or they were confused at times etc. But how they acted and reacted and how the crowd was there for them is pure power. Power was shared, my friends. It was, indeed, an awesome feeling. Loved it more than anything from all the event!

Back at it, the speakers:

Olaya Aramo“Dancing until we change the world”

Who: She is a dancer, researcher and activist. She is delicate, but exhales power. Graduated in philosophy and with a PhD in sociology of gender, Olaya is, as simple as that, highly intelligent. You can find some of her research here.

What: She talked about the political side of dancing. How tango seems to be about obeying and guiding and these 2 roles are classically attributed by default to men and women. She has explained her work, the notion of queer tango. She also danced, together with other artists, for us to see and feel and understand.

She aims to teach a tango for everybody, where the power can be shared. She created a no-role dancing technique, connecting practices and identities. Like this, she challenges stereotypes.

Take home message: We can change the world with each dance step.

I liked how she created emotion around her moment. It was different. It was powerful.

Esther Borao – “We should all be inventors

Who: She is an engineer specialized in robotics. She is recognized for her inventions, but still is what she calls a “secret inventor” – secret because women, unfortunately still remain in the shadows in this field, as pointed out also by an exercise she suggested: close your eyes and think about 3 inventors – none was a woman, right?

She created “The Ifs”, an educational robots family meant to teach children how to be programmers and is a co-founder of “Academia de Inventores”. She is an advocate for female presence in the tech field. She is the first female director of the Technological Institute of Aragon. She is as smart as they come, you get it 🙂

What: She talked about other “secret” inventors as herself, such as Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz who invented the coffee filter, Hedy Lamarr who sort of imagined the wifi or Stephanie Kwolek who invented a very strong fiber poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide.

There are many more female inventors out there. And in here. Everywhere. Her point is that we can all invent things and this is our power, but we are limited by the educational system in more ways than one, especially through the lack of female models. She firmly stated that inventing makes us equals in a way.

Take home message: Some tips for becoming inventors – Be free!, Own your curiosity – put your 3-year-old mask on, Let’s invent things together!

Blanca Valdivia“Designing feminist cities” 

Who: Blanca is an activist, sociologist and specialist in urban management. She is a partner of Col·lectiu Punt 6, which is a cooperative of arhitects, urbanists and sociologists who plan to transform the city by implementing a feminist perspective to it (I have written about them around here before).

What: I liked the flow and the vibe of her presentation, because it was so articulate that even a cat passing by would have been able to understand the main points :). She provided examples regarding the linear design of Barcelona, a city meant to increase productivity and centered on roads to work and back home, ignoring the circular nature of the daily trajectory of (especially) women, who before work leave their children at the school and then after work they have to buy stuff for dinner or maybe visit their parents in some hospital (women are the main caregivers, there is no doubt about that).

She also detailed the lack of logic in the design of the city when it comes to very simple items, such as benches – for instance, his father, with Parkinson’s disease, can not manage the road to the clinic by himself because there are no benches on the route.

Also, benches are not designed for socializing, they seem to have been planted for introverts 🙂 And that is fine, but a bit of a strategy would also work:

Take home message: If the street changes, it transforms the people.

She told us about examples for far away, such as Montevideo, or closer, such as Vienna, cities with strategies and vision. But the power is within us, always, and we can share that power. The streets belong to us, in the end, so we need to find ways to bring life to those streets.

I need to say, should they come to Bucharest some day, the ladies from this organization will most likely be puzzled and instantly anxious. But this is a story for another time. 🙂 Barcelona is far away from perfect, but it does seem light years ahead of my home town, so while I highly appreciate their work and vision, I also have to admit that I was completely unaware that there were so many problems present around here.


To wrap up, our bags became more personal (I am, again, at an age where I need my name written on my bag :D) through the art of a talented lady:

I also enjoyed finding about the #SkinIsTheNewCanvas project:

And the ImproShow was as funny and on point as always. Art was, is and will remain powerful.

For me, it was a special day which I’ll remember forever and ever and not only because I am clumsy and I spilled half of the wonderful little bottle of Sí perfume I received in the goodie bag on my left hand. It simply reminded me that finding your tribe can be difficult, but it is worth it. That I am powerful even though I am weak. And, generally, that this world is huge and exploring it is part of the beauty of our journeys.

So, #shareyourpower, ladies and gents, It’s not the wakin’, it’s the risin’!

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