INTERVIEW WITH AN EXPERT
Wanny Angerer in Moving Cultures
It is not every day I have the opportunity to speak with someone like Wanayran Angerer, world traveller, international woman’s rights advocate, singer and cultural promoter. I had been looking forward to finally speaking with the singer and artisan, affectionately known as Wanny for what seemed like an age. Her journey which started in Honduras has thus far led her to the USA, Austria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Colombia, India, Panama and Thailand and her involvement in various projects and life experience over the past thirty years would give us plenty to talk about.
Wanny is involved in a number of social development and advocacy projects including the use of music and arts as a means of developing self-esteem in children, women and the elderly.
She was born in Honduras, into a diverse community that traces its ethnicity from Spanish, Native Honduran, and African. It was in Honduras that Wanny would work as a hosting co-ordinator for AFS Honduras, while simultaneously launching her singing career. During this time she was a founder of the first organization to promote female arts in Honduras, called Women in Arts (Mujeres en las Artes), which is still alive and active after 20 years.
She is also a very active member of cultural and development programs and organizations in her home country and host countries of Zimbabwe, India, Colombia and Panama. These include AFS intercultural Programs, Women in Arts Honduras, Women in Culture in South Africa, SHARE (Showing How the Arts Rejuvenate and Enlighten project) in Zimbabwe, Fundacion Formemos, Fundacion niños de los Andes, Fundacion Hogar Nueva Granada (Colombia),“Sanando Cantando Boleros”, Make a Wish Panama and InterNations Panama
On to Kenya, where her initiatives are bundled under the heading of “Moving Cultures – Unity in Diversity” and there she is connected to a number of active projects and initiatives in the social and arts sector. She is also a supporter of the Magoso School in Kibera and gives music-therapy lessons at Faraja Cancer Support Trust for women who have survived cancer. In the NEST home she works with women who were victims of domestic violence, and the Kariobangi Women Promotional Training Institute is where she works with women to produce clothing. Her own design of Latin American ponchos in African fabrics is called“Ponchos Wanayran”.
Along with all of this, she regularly sings at concerts and events and is a renowned Jazz Singer ….
Thus, you can imagine my predicament of not knowing where to start in my conversation with Wanny, and was relieved when she started our conversation for us, with a simple, “Noreen, let’s just talk”
Wanny very kindly agreed to speak with the Global Leadership League, for what I thought would be an interview about her life, her projects and her work with women in the countries she has lived in. What I did not expect is how much her current work resonates with every woman, not regionally specific, and what we as members of the League can all learn from her experiences and insights.
Talking is the starting point of Wanny’s work with women and in her groups, the first thing women learn is how to find their voices. Conversations must be honest and it starts very simply.
How does she achieve this?
Wanny uses body language, music and art to encourage this conversation. It is all towards the same goal of helping the women she works with to first gain confidence and find their individual power, then later on, finding how they can apply that power. Wanny explains it is not enough to learn confidence, we also need to learn how to use this confidence, to stand out of the ground.
It can start very simply with basic affirmations about ourselves. Start at the foundations she tells me.
Listen to your voice. It will sound different in every situation. Do we know our voice and how it connects with our bodies? Are we aware of the sounds our voice makes? Whatever is on your mind will come through your voice and also through your body language. Know your body. Listen to your voice.
Your mind might say one thing but your body will say another.
She tells me she will often start with a group of women by asking them to say to themselves, I AM.
By listening to their voices.
By loving themselves through saying I LOVE YOU, and after loving themselves, say, I AM POWERFUL. It is only after doing these things that we are empowered to love ourselves, to be powerful, to have the capacity to give and when we have the capacity to give, we can then receive. This is universal and something we have in common with women everywhere, be it in Kenya, India or Panama.
Wanny starts working with women very slowly. It might be they start to ground their feet, raise their arms and physically reach for things they cannot imagine and to remember those words of affirmation. To look at themselves in the mirror and start loving themselves.
Music and the Arts
Wanny’s style of work is through language, and also through music and the Arts. After all, music, arts and entrepreneurship are universal languages. She provides a safe circle for women in her workshops to tell their stories through language and also through song and music. Women talk about their personal and work lives and do not separate them.
Why would we want to separate them? This makes perfect sense to me but we are all guilty of not recognising these two are inseparable.
After listening to Wanny and how she works with women through her various singing, musical and entrepreneurship projects, I started asking myself what was so different to the women she worked with in Africa and other places, and that of League members reading this in the USA, Australia, Ireland, Peru, or anywhere else in the world?
There is no difference.
We can all be victims of not using our true voices, or connecting with our inner selves. We may all have issues that need to be discussed and situations that we may not even know about. No matter what society we live in, women’s backgrounds can be similar, they have come from different families, core values, upbringing, but what it means to be a family and raise a child, gender issues, equality issues, etc is similar. What expectations has Social Media set for women in different societies for example? Women can face the same challenges set by themselves. Challenges to be perfect, to look perfect, to have the perfect public persona, to manage it all, to have it all, to lean in, to keep all the glass balls in the air. We can be bombarded by social media, and the message that we should be perfect, and yes, to manage and to have it all.
These issues are always present, but as Wanny points out, it is how we cope with these issues. These issues are not going anywhere so we need to learn how to cope. And this is also part of what Wanny teaches women through her various projects.
The Mentor and the Mentee:
Wanny and I spoke about the League and how we can support each other as women facing similar challenges. One way to bring women together is through mentoring and becoming a Role Model for other women. Wanny points out there must be trust between the mentor and the mentee and their relationship is two way. We must relate to each other. The mentor must firstly listen to themselves, and be able to cope themselves, then they can listen and support.
We need to look within, be honest with each other and be our authentic selves. Being fake and living a false image will only last for a certain period of time before the truth will shine through, Wanny believes, and it is easier to be consistent than live under a false image.
Again I thought how do we apply this to the League as members supporting each other? We are all guilty of portraying a perfect work-life balance when the situation is far from that. Where else can we support one another and be honest with each other, in a perfectly safe circle than in the League?
How did Wanny create and build so many projects and have such a wonderful insight into helping women, empowering them and giving them the confidence and teaching them how to use this confidence to build their lives, businesses and mentor other women?
It all evolved throughout the journey of her life and her family roots in Honduras.
Wanny comes from a family of educators which created an environment of sharing. Music, ballet, the Arts, were always present in her childhood, but her parents instilled in her and her siblings the importance of always sharing their knowledge. If their neighbours didn’t have these opportunities, they were told to pass on and teach whatever they had learned with them. As a child she didn’t realise she had opportunities other people didn’t have but as she grew older she understood this, and realised what an asset they had, and the importance of sharing this asset.
Wanny and her siblings were educated in the shape of a triangle:
And at the centre of this was always Art.
Her grandparents and parents taught her family the value of education, community service, spirituality and art and now she teaches her own children these values. Again I am reminded of our community of women in the League and how we can help each other.
I am curious about what she advises people who are not “into” music and the arts? Are these people doomed?!
She explains to me it’s not about the music or arts. It so happens these are her media of communication … essentially it is about the method of communication. It doesn’t matter how you do it, the important piece is that you need to find your voice. And learn how to listen to that voice, and be able to tell the authentic from the false voice.
Intrigued I ask her what she thinks of the imposter syndrome and faking it until you make it?
When you are confident, you don’t need to fake it, you can still be yourself, be creative, accept that it might take a long process but being true to yourself on the journey will be worth it.
But what about the expectations to be perfect and overachieve and overdeliver and manage it all?
She talks about many of these expectations as being set by ourselves. We should consider not looking at everyone else and trying to change their expectations of us. Know your limitations, everyone has limitations, and know your expertise. Once you know this, then this is when you start to mature and become more available to yourself and to other people
Times have changed, she tells me. She works with intergenerational groups, a lot of adult women in their 50’s 60’s and 70’s who lived in a different world than women in their 20’s for example. She tells me the value of these intergenerational groups for young women to see how different it was for older women at a time when gender issues were very different. Exchange of knowledge and bringing women from different cultures and nationalities and ages promotes learning and support.
Again, I am reminded of the power of the League for women from different backgrounds and how we can learn from each other through honest conversations.
Wanny has a lot of advice based on her unique life story and her propensity to share with her community.
Listening to her explain why she had moved country every five years to follow her husband’s work, made me think that not everyone would have done so much for the community they were living in. She has taken advantage of everything that has been put in front of her, be it in Thailand, India or Africa. She did so because she believes there is a bigger purpose. She doesn’t take things for granted. She seems to have put herself together in the way she asks women in her groups to do so and has very strong foundations herself.
Again I am reminded of the opportunities, we, as women working in International Education have to support other women and students that do not have the opportunities we do. Some of us are in influential positions, parts of large organisations, or have grass roots levels in many countries, and I ask myself, how can we learn from Wanny’s experience and utilise our connections to empower more women and girls?
I have written just a fraction of what Wanny and I discussed and there is so much more she has to say. Wanny will be guest speaker at the Forum on Education Abroad in Colorado next March. I urge anyone thinking of attending, to go, if not just to meet this amazing woman and hear her speak … and sing if you are lucky enough!