Sisterhood 101: The end to competition & start to collaborating more fiercely.

It was effortless to smile today, with knees folded neatly beneath me, as I sat on the floor and counted sisters like holographic playing cards.

A Very Notable Collection of Them.

Just when I believe that the world has taken a break from marveling me with her magic tricks, she pulls a white, silk cloth from within my ear. Leaving me breathless, leaving me awe-inspired.

To tell you what happened yesterday is to tell you the story of a 22-year-old girl who woke up before the sun even stirred from its sleep cycle, put on a pair of black pumps and a reliable yellow sweater, and left her apartment for the day. That same girl came home completely changed with the addition of a Dozen New Sisters bulging out from her over-sized leather bag.

She called me sister and I instantly felt as if I were standing beside her, her arm swooping over my shoulder and pulling me in.

An unexpected thread laced throughout the room of over 300 women, curling us into a Sisterhood we never anticipated to find that morning when we bought our Starbucks.

Ms. Leymah Gbowee, the woman responsible for organizing the peace movement that brought the end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, was our closing speaker at the Girls Stand Up! Orientation Day yesterday. Months of tireless work, a slew of meetings at the UNICEF cafe, and a fine mix of email delegation between myself and several women, brought us to a packed venue where over 250 girls equipped themselves in armors of advocacy and womens’ issues in preparation for CSW 55.

That’s right, these next two weeks are my Shark Week. The 55th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations is a solid two weeks dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women. Say it with me now, Girl. Power. A forum amidst the Concrete Jungle to formulate Concrete Policies to Promote Women Worldwide. Can you see the grin stretching across my face just yet?

But while policies can grow long and technical, Ms. Gbowee brought it down to a level where we could all find sitting space. A call for women to be sisters. To be fierce collaborators instead of fierce competitors.

And so when she called me by “sister” I took up the title instantly.


Leyman is one of those people within this world that when she uses a word, she uses it. She feels it. She means it. And you feel it too. She wraps you up fully in it. Wraps you so tight that you wish she would just write the word down so you could take up living space in one of the letters, paying rent to the S or turning the T into a one-bedroom apartment.


I have never had a sister in my life, not by the dictionary definition that insists on telling me that I need some sort of matching DNA to hold the hand of another Beautiful Girl and be fully be related. But Webster & Oxford can never argue with me over the secrets I have shared and the stories I have heard from women all over that I now call Sister.

My life is Etched by many sisters.

Sketched & Etched By Many Sisters.

And life is far more interesting when the prospect of sisters, of fierce collaborators, are always around the corner. When we Link instead of Compare. When we Talk instead of Gossip. When we stop looking for what we can possibly aspire to beat in one another. You are not prettier than I. I am not smarter than you. She is not nicer than me. We are not better than her. These are the kinds of statements that tug at my heart, infusing me with hope that one day we will muster the courage to say these things to one another.

Because we don’t say these things often enough.

And so I punctuate the ending of this post with a little dose of Sisterhood 101, inspired by Ms. Gbowee, my Newfound Sister:

Let’s put away the Mean, Unkind Words. The Stunning Slander. Let’s tuck away the Comparing of our Thighs and our Hips. Let’s put down the Gossip and throw out the Animosity. Let’s stop battling for First Place and just help others find a place: to live, to work, to learn, without fear of persecution. Let’s drop the drama off at daycare. Let’s quit the popularity climb. Let’s forget how to back stab, how to make nasty comments, how to hurt one another’s feelings. It never made us prettier, it never really worked. Let’s forget that we were once “no longer friends” and let’s admire one another. Admire her. Admire Each Other.

Let’s sit down. Grab coffee. Put aside Jealousy. Make a Space for Sisterhood. Let’s talk about fears that we all have but never admit. Let’s allow Loneliness, Unhappiness, Excitement & Anticipation sit down at the table beside us.

Let’s plan. Let’s collaborate. Let’s think out loud to one another. Let’s be active. Real. Crazy. Daring. Proud. Loud. Sisters.

And let’s see what happens when we start these things. When we start a new ball rolling and take on a new attitude. Let’s see the change as it comes. Let’s see that progress as it is made, when we stop looking to beat one another and just begin being there for one another.

I tend to believe it makes life a lot simpler. And if you are looking for a real sell: I hear it prevents early wrinkles and nasty frown marks.



18 thoughts on “Sisterhood 101: The end to competition & start to collaborating more fiercely.

  1. Hi Hannah,

    Loving article!

    The heart of your piece says it all, “Let’s stop battling for First Place and just help others find a place: to live, to work, to learn, without fear of persecution. ”

    How can the groups you work with set this in motion at birth? It needs to start at the beginning for it to take root. Our entire system pits us against each other to compete and survive. In my attempts to spread the word about ending Mountain Top Removal, I faced responses that indicated people didn’t care if others were displaced by the resulting floods or poisoned by the toxic debris as long as THEY could turn their lights on. Compassion seems to be in short supply …

    Sounds like your making wonderful connections in the “maybe-not-so-concrete jungle.” G.

    1. I love that you refer to it as that G, the not so concrete jungle. You are great.

      And I totally agree, compassion is in short supply… I guess that means we just need to continue on, doing what we are doing and crossing our fingers the whole way through. I would love to hear more about this Mountain Top Removal initiative.



  2. Hannah,
    I needed this today. You have no idea how much I needed this today. On Sunday I spent an hour on the phone with my mother, telling her I was at the end of the rope with my own sister. That I was stuck standing off to the side in her over-populated life and I wasn’t good enough. That she was making me feel bad about myself, her not caring at all about me anymore, and that I couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve temporarily given up on my biological sister.

    And here you are, without a sister but with a whole roomful of self-designated sisters, and you’re reminding me why having a sister is a beautiful thing in this world. Why it makes us feel less lonely and less disconnected and more inclined to wake up in the early morning and put a smile on. It’s not a competition. I want to paste that on my wall or my mirror and look at it at the start of every day. It’s not a competition. We are sisters and we work together.

    1. A sister is a very beautiful thing. I know its wicked hard, but hold your sister tight. You are lucky to have her, and she is SO lucky to have you.

      I grew up killing for that bond but now I just plant sister seeds everywhere, and I have found so many who have helped me get to where I am. I am eternally thankful and grateful, esp. for my sistas in the concrete jungle, or a special sister at JMU right now.



  3. If I never read anything again today — this has made me so happy, so inspired and so proud. Thank you! I am your newest biggest fan and reader! XOXO

    1. Ah, that is wonderful! So happy to have you on board! And I always adore the prospect of new sisters!

      I hope you continue to read, looking forward to checking out your blog.

  4. A friend referred me here from Facebook. She found your blog so inspirational that she posted the link. I too, have no biological sister. But I understand your message and find it so inspiring. As we grow older, I think many of us abandon the competitiveness that we held in youth and the bonding sisterhood sometimes almost happens without our even realizing it. At least that’s been my experience. The comparisons never fully disappear without an actual, conscious effort on our parts though, I would agree. Beautiful post, fellows SITS girl! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Fellow SITS Girl! I love coming across secret sisters!

      Thanks for the kind comment, it really was great to read. I def think a lot of that competitive nature gets abandoned when we grow older, unfortunately I am still at an age where it seems to be alive and kicking. Not for me though, I have had the wonderful blessing of encountering older women, 40-60s, in my job at the UN this year and it is like sitting next to basins of wisdom and knowledge that you pray will tip over and spill onto you, hanging out in a Museum of Life’s Lesson all the time… I absolutely adore it and could not ask for anything more.

  5. What a truly inspiring read this was for me. So often we forget that we all are in the same world, fighting many of the same battles and if we stop competing and join forces our journey may be a little easier, happier and more successful. This is empowering. So happy to have read.

    1. You are an all star commentator ha. I always love reading your words. Thank you. And you are so right, just the message I was pushing, working together to help one another!

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