Lean In is the title of the new book of the wonder woman of the Facebook Sheryl Sandberg. In her book and new website, she urges women to create a supportive circle among them, in order to move forward in their career, their life and even to get help with their problems. A concept that in many ways, women and people in general, who are in a weaker and underprivileged position have already adopted it in order to carry on with their everyday life.
The first time I came across a very sound supportive circle of women was the Georgian women in Greece. After the collapse of their country’s financial system, many women came alone-most of them without husbands and family- from Georgia to work, either as cleaners or looking after elderly people in Greece. They created a supportive cluster among them by sharing apartments, finding jobs to each other, replacing each other in their shifts when a problem was arising and generally being supportive physically and emotionally to each other. Since I have quite a few acquaintances among those women, I’m watching their way of life all these years and I noticed that they are getting happier by being altogether and trying to support their families back to their country.
Another example of a supportive circle of women that I came across, this time in a novel, was in Elis Shafak’s (turkish writer) book “The Bastard of Istanbul” . The theme mainly is based on a circle of women living in the same house. After the death of the men in an extended family, the women decided to live the same house and support each other. At the beginning, I found a bit unbelievable the story but when I asked my mother, who has extended family in Turkey and she has experienced their way of life, she reassured me that it is not at all strange in this society, for women to live together or at least to have a very strong supportive circle among them.
Living in Kazakhstan lately, I realized that the above phenomenons are not limited to the female circles. Everyone , in some way, depends on each other for carrying out everyday tasks. The oxymoron is that despite the widespread reputation of Kazakhstani being corrupted, the common people really support each other. It took by surprise the fact of how easily trust each other. An illustrative example is the way of finding a taxi : simply by raising one’s hand to stop the first car that passes – the way we are doing hitchhike in the West. When I asked my Kazakhstani friends, how they trust a totally stranger to drive them , they responded by shrugging their shoulders -meaning that it’s a common practice for them.
Perhaps the West has to adopt new ways of thinking and practice the “Lean In” concept to get through during the hard times of this never ending recession. The Thatcherite era of individuality and independency -with her own words “there is not such a thing as a society”- may have come to an end for the time being.
In the background, woman stops a car in a main road of Astana.