Naomi Tutu has loved talking all her life.
“I think that preaching is somewhere in my blood,” joked the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “I don’t know where it comes from.”
In her mind, though, her talent for talk didn’t translate to a career. It took friends and supporters to point out her gift, Tutu said. She had something to say, they told her, so get up there and say it.
At a Spokane event next week celebrating achievements by local women, Tutu will speak about how rarely women acknowledge their own talents – and how much the world loses when those gifts go unexpressed. Tickets are available for the YWCA’s Women of Achievement benefit luncheon Thursday.
Since taking her own pulpit, Tutu has traveled the nation – and other nations – speaking about racism and gender inequality. Now she’s a divinity student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
Tutu, the third of four children of Desmond and Nomalizo Leah Tutu, was born in South Africa during apartheid, the policy of racial segregation that her father grew famous for fighting. She attended school in Swaziland, the United States and England. As an adult, she has divided her time between Africa and the U.S. She has worked as a development consultant in West Africa, as a program coordinator at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town, and taught at various U.S. universities, among other roles, while raising her three children.
Regardless of culture or generation, Tutu said, women in particular tend to play down their own talents.
“Even when women are aware that we have a gift, we’ve been taught that we should not blow our own horn, we shouldn’t be immodest,” she said in a phone interview last week. “Women will speak up less about what they have to offer, or even if they do speak up will often preface what they are contributing with something that diminishes their contribution, whether it’s ‘I’m not sure if this is right’ or ‘I’m not sure this is really important, but –.’ You rarely hear something like that coming out of men’s mouths.”
The world loses out as a result, Tutu said.
“Anytime you have a gift, you have something to contribute, you’ve been given that gift to be able to make the world a better place,” she said. “So if you’re not sharing the particular gift you have, then the rest of us have lost out on something that could shine a huge light on something that we are struggling with.”
The YWCA’s event – in its 30th year – will honor six Spokane-area residents who have influenced the community, Executive Director Trish McFarland said. The award winners were nominated by community members.
The event is also a fundraiser for the organization, which offers services for domestic-violence survivors, job-skills and job-search programs for women, counseling and other programs.
The event’s organizers invited Tutu to speak because of her work as a human rights activist, McFarland said.
“We here in Spokane don’t get to hear every day from people like her, that work on a world stage and have this background of peace and justice in their lives,” she said.