Profiling the Makers behind Project: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the Globe

It takes a village, so the African saying goes, to raise children.  It also takes a village, it can be argued, to create a project with a trajectory to create positive change.  There is a village behind this project, creating it, building the momentum, and steering it on a course of action that is already making positive shifts in women’s lives.  This blog is dedicated to the 8 makers and creators, recognizing their on-going efforts and seeing what makes them tick in regards to this project by inquiring of them “What does this project mean to you?”

Barbara Spraker is the visionary and mother of this project.  In her words, “It means engaging with amazing women around the globe as we are co-creating a future where all can thrive.  I am so completely awed by women’s leadership – and know so deeply how much our natural gifts are needed. It makes my heart sing to be able to engage with women leaders, to jointly create an energy field that invites us all to embrace and use our skills, that enable us to support and celebrate one another, and connects us in ways that enlarges our positive influence in our families, our towns, our organizations and our countries! We have so much power to create a better future – AND – have fun doing it!”

Roslyn Ericksen – I am intrigued with the power of feminine energy and leaders who are using and engaging with this type of power.  The feminine is about caring for, fostering and preserving what feeds and nurtures us; like the environment, our families and communities as well as our values, traditions and culture.  I believe that the world is calling and maybe even demanding for us (both men and women) to step more fully into our feminine power and engage the tools of the feminine like; cooperation, collaboration, relationships, and intuition.  This project is a way for us to expand our understanding of feminine power and leadership.

Pat Hughes – I recently read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, and it had a big impact on me to get more involved in issues supporting women and girls.  I was drawn to this project because of the focus on women, leadership and a global reach.  I have a long background in leadership development and an educational background in international relations with an emphasis on women’s development, and I am finding this project blends these interests and is a practical way to get involved. I look forward to learning about women’s stories, about women’s global leadership and to developing friendships with women who share a passion for positive change.

Jennifer LeMarte – I’m fascinated and curious about the spaces we create when each voice has an opportunity to be heard.  To take it a step beyond being heard, what might the world be like if our gifts of leadership are nurtured, shared, developed, and supported within a network of women?  I also wonder how the world might shift, when we as women share those gifts and create new ways of knowing, leading, and experiencing the world we are a part of.  This project creates a space for those wonderful, beautiful surprises to emerge and a showcase for the gifts we bring into being.

Kathleen Swirski – What draws me to this project is my avid fascination with what is different and the same among people around the world. I feel this project is an important avenue through which we can share our stories, learn from one another and build a strong women’s leadership network to connect and support each other globally in our efforts to enable change. I look forward to meeting with all of the women and expanding our leadership web as we join our hearts and hands together across our distances, to form bonds based on our collective strengths and compassion.

Nicole Theberge – I am so honored and excited to have been one of two graduate assistants for this project. I believe women are in an important and unique position to create a better world. I have come to believe in the power of sharing stories and creating connection to solve important issues and to enrich lives. This project presents an amazing opportunity for discovering each other’s wisdom and ideas. I am looking forward to creating those connections and learning from and with everyone involved in this project.

Laura Veith – I was drawn to Developing Women’s Leadership – Around the Globe because of its people and mission. I saw my personal interest of play as an approach to life, work and creation reflected in this adventure. It’s a great opportunity to explore ideas, to create new understandings and to play with different approaches to leadership. In short, I saw this as an opportunity to create a blueprint for playgrounds that women around the globe will be able to build based on their needs, desires and personal preferences – while having fun, creating community and designing the world we want to live in.

Wendi Walsh – I have spent my working life in the American corporate culture and have learned and used masculine energy leadership. However, I always felt that I wasn’t bringing my authentic self (feminine energy) to my leadership. This fantastic group of women as Country Conveners, Learning Partner Organizations, Kitchen Cabinet and Antioch University has opened my eyes to the masculine and feminine aspects of leadership and I’m looking forward to sharing and learning with all of you.

The summit takes place on September 28-29, 2013 at Antioch University.  The village behind the project, as well as the Country Conveners and women from our local community will be in attendance.

If you are interested in participating in this wonderful and gracious space, please contact Barbara Spraker: or Samantha Novak:

On-going information about the Project as it emerges may be found at:

This link on the Antioch University Seattle web site also provides additional information:

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The Capacity-Building Guide: Learning from one another.

(This guest post comes to us from Molly Cox.)

Molly Cox

I was one of the writers who collaborated with Barbara and Pat Hughes on the capacity guide published in the Developing Women’s Leadership ~ Around the Globe. project. My roots are with Antioch’s Center for Creative Change where I received my MA in organizational psychology and it is where I met Barbara Spraker. Barbara and I clicked immediately over our passion for women and leadership, she as the master and I as her student, eager to learn from her global women’s conversations.


The Capacity-Building Guide: Learning from one another.

As a member of the writing team I participated in the collaboration meeting Pat Hughes facilitated for construction of the Capacity-Building Guide. The room was filled with eager writers.  We had prepared by reading all the transcripts the Country Conveners had provided from their local Conversations.  We broke into smaller workgroups while Pat led us through a process where key messages, patterns, themes and unique scenarios were identified and written on sticky notes in phase one. Phase two involved affinity mapping.

Capacity Guide Collaboration Meeting, Pat Hughes top right in red.

This sounds boring when I write about messages and themes yet it was exhilarating to get to know each of the Country Conveners and their Conversation members. I learned about intelligent, hard working women who came together to create a space to support, learn and grow.

I had the privilege of writing the summary for Question Four: How do you imagine you might develop these skills?  The Capacity Guide outlines four themes that arose across the globe – in  response to this question.  These four themes were:  creating a safe environment, taking care of self, having an opportunity to learn, and practicing for experience.

The Handbook of Leadership Development published by the Center for Creative Leadership in 2010 describes four leadership practices that cultivate positive relationships in what is referred to as cultivate-and-encourage leadership. One of these practices is called boundary suspending.

“The practice of boundary suspending creates a neutral zone or safe place where interactions are individualized rather than group based.” (Leadership, 2010, p. 389). This action creates a space where diversity and individual uniqueness can bloom. In the writing process I noted that each of the County Conveners naturally engaged in boundary suspension in their leadership practice in order to invite inclusion and safety.

The idea of boundaries in group relationships becomes a very powerful concept when facing the challenges of a global community. Suspending boundaries as an active means of cultivating an open environment goes hand in hand with communication skills such as paraphrasing and active listening. The transcripts of the Conversations revealed many examples of ways the Country Conveners invited positive group engagement.

This is evident in the amazing Conversations and stories told in the Capacity-Building Guide.  For example, the group of women in Guatemala led by Mabilia discussed the commitment they felt toward helping other women:

“Teach other women so they can also participate. Make constructive criticism to help improve others. Give space and opportunities for others to speak, respecting their opinions and helping them build confidence. Teach one’s experiences; many of them have overcome difficult situations from which other women can learn.”

I was truly inspired by each Conversation and I found that Guatemala and Mabilia said it best.

We can develop our own leadership by “. . . .listening to other women, as many women seek to tell their problems and ask for help . . .and by helping women work together.”


Leadership, T. C. (2010). Handbook of Leadership Development. In Ellen Van VElsor, C. O. McCauley, & M. N. Ruderman. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Danielle Prince

This guest post comes to us from Danielle Prince, a fierce gender-justice, women’s rights advocate.  Danielle’s focus has been both local, and global, working in the field of domestic violence and refugee resettlement.  She is thrilled to be participating in the Women’s Leadership project at Antioch as it blends both arenas of her passion.  Stay tuned for more blog posts from her!

Contact Danielle at


Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Barbara Spraker is a soft-spoken powerhouse of a woman who has led the charge for the first-ever Women’s Leadership Summit to take place on September 28 -29, 2013 on the Seattle Antioch campus.  Over a year in the making, this project was born from Barbara’s cumulative experiences working on women’s issues in a global context.  A professor at Antioch University in Seattle, she has surrounded herself with dedicated, successful women who became integral in creating the project that culminates in the September Summit.

Barbara Spraker

The trajectory of this undertaking can be summed up in Barbara’s own words:

“The purpose of the Project is to amplify women’s voices, highlight the specific work that women are doing in six different countries plus Antioch University Seattle, and build community among women leaders around the globe.”  The team at Antioch, called the Kitchen Cabinet, has been working fastidiously on planning for this summit and creating a hands-on workbook that contains stories and guidelines that highlight women’s leadership around the world.  Other key figures are the women in the six countries (Country Conveners) who led their own groups of women to answer four questions pertaining to women’s leadership put to them by the Kitchen Cabinet.

THE KITCHEN CABINET: (from top left, clockwise) Pat Hughes, Leadership Developer, Author; Wendi Walsh (sunglasses), Senior ITS Manager, Parsons Brinkerhoff; Jennifer LaMarte, HR Manager; Roslyn Ericksen, Senior Account Manager, The Hartford; Kathleen Swirski, Senior Project Manager, Microsoft; Barbara Spraker, Faculty, Antioch University Seattle, Director of the Project; Nicole Theberge, Student, Antioch University Seattle, Graduate Assistant to the Project; Laura Veith, Graphic Designer and Digital Artist, founder Creative Nudel


The four questions posed to each group, both internationally and locally at Antioch, were:

  • What do you care about in your community and what projects have you participated in?
  • As you have engaged in this work, what skills have you used?
  • What additional skills and knowledge would you like to gain?
  • How do you imagine you might develop these skills?

The responses from each group were compiled into a Women’s Leadership Capacity Guide that was published in spring 2013.  This guide is available for other women – anywhere around the world – to use to amplify their voices and recognize their roles in leadership.

Women’s leadership is essential for solving the problems of the world.   If you are interested in women’s leadership and the forms it takes both locally and globally, or attending the Summit, or learning more about this innovative project, please contact Barbara Spraker: or Samantha Novak:

On-going information about the Project as it emerges may be found at:

This link on the Antioch University Seattle web site also provides additional information:



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Who Has the Power to Stop Family Violence? We Do!

Leyla Welkin, Ph.D. in Cross-Cultural Psychology specializing in trauma treatment, in a recent blog describes training regarding family violence which she and two others presented in Canakkale, Turkey.  The training was for representatives from the police, lawyers, family court judges, social workers and a few NGO and local organizations. The focus was preventing family violence through coordination of services, and the things that get in the way of communication and collaboration between agencies.  On the third day a panel discussion was planned that would be open to the public.  Over a hundred people showed up – and despite the vast expertise present in the room — – the most powerful comment of the day came from one of the women who came to the “open to the public” event.  Here is an excerpt from Leyla’s blog that tells the story:

The discussion however, kept getting caught again and again on the reefs of our law professor’s love of the sound of his own voice.  At one point when the drag of that tide had me exchanging glances of frustration with some of the women in the front row of the audience, a woman halfway back jumped up.  She was probably in her fifties or sixties, though age is hard to judge through a full scarf and overcoat.  She called out, not waiting for the microphone to find it’s way to her.

“Excuse me for interrupting you sir but I have something I have to say!”  She was emphatic, the apology was completely pro forma.  “This family violence is happening in our neighborhoods!  These victims are our neighbors.  Who is being beat?  It is your next door neighbor.  And what do we say?  We say ‘She had it coming to her.  Look what she did; she deserved it!’  We make excuses for the beatings and we don’t stand with these neighbors of ours.  Am I right?  Is this the way it goes?  You know it is.  Until we stop making excuses for these men.  Until we have some solidarity with other women and expect an end to this violence, it will continue!  This is the problem.  Excuse me mister law professor.  But the problem is not the law, it is us.  We have to change.”

The room burst into applause.  I could have hugged her.  She put her finger right on the pulse of the issue and everyone knew it.

To read the blog post in its entirety click on this link:

This is the power of a single voice!  And this is leadership!  The applause indicates how many others in that room knew the truth she spoke.  Her courage to speak it allowed them to express their opinions as well.

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iLEAP Fellows and Women’s Leadership Development

This special opportunity to meet with young social leaders from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Papua New guinea, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Honduras, and the Philippines this week provided an up-close opportunity to learn from these front line workers.

The purpose of our meeting was to explore together – actually for me to learn from them – what is truly valuable in supporting women’s leadership development in the communities where they work.  These folks are iLEAP Fellows, participating in a three month intensive learning/teaching experience here in Western Washington.  In their home countries they work in both urban centers and remote rural villages, in programs to improve health, gender equality, women’s rights, access to education, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, sanitation and hygiene education, youth empowerment, microfinance.

We spoke first about what they saw as enabling women to exercise leadership.  Education opportunities, political connections and individual personality and passion were key themes they identified.  Several spoke of their personal commitment to themselves and their communities as the basis of their motivation and key to the hard work, courage and persistence required in their work.

Here are some of the specific stories they shared:

  • Practical one-to-one and small group work to help women make connections and discover opportunities for work is important.  Vocational training for developing employable skills is necessary, including in new fields such as ecotourism, and also finding scholarships so that women can take advantage of such training.
  • In some parts of India once women are married they are quite isolated.  They are always inside the house and do not even know their neighbors.   There is much diversity of religion in these areas and concern about perceived efforts to being converted seems to reinforce the isolation.  Workers often go door-to-door to connect with these women, and continually seek ways to build trust – not only with individuals, but to foster trust within the community as a whole.  The teaching here is aimed at both creating social connections in the community where ideas can be shared and also specific information about organic farming.  Women are taught how to use the small plot of land attached to their houses for growing healthy, organic food for family consumption – such as leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions.  Those without land are encouraged to use plastic pots that would otherwise be discarded, or cement bags, as containers for growing a few plants.
  • In other countries the people do know each other.  However, as a middle class emerges, and the concept of ownership is embraced, a different form of isolation is created.  While in rural areas, families need one another, and connection is necessary, in the more urban areas as people are able to own property, or “things,” the sense of what is “mine,” weakens the feeling of being interdependent as a community.
  • In some countries money from drugs and guns creates major distinctions between the poor and those who are gaining from the drug/gun trafficking.  In this environment women are definitely leaders already – they have to be in order to survive.  In working with women here, the focus in on supporting women in developing relationships with one another, and in consulting with these women to learn what they need.  Here it seemed to be important to teach about gender equality and to provide micro-financing so women can become more economically self-sufficient.  It also became clear to the workers here that these women had no health care.  When they asked the women “What does health mean to you?” the women replied that being healthy meant being able to open ones eyes and get out of bed in the morning in order to go to work – thus, as long as one could move at all, one was healthy.
  • The critical connection between the various levels of society – in creating change – was highlighted through conversation about Indonesia.  When there was a woman president attitudes changed! (Megawati Sukarnoputri, July,2001 – October 2004).  NGOs were able to create an alliance with the National Health Ministry.  In 1998 a National Commission on Violence Against Women was created.
  • Personal power was highlighted in a final story of the afternoon.  Trained as an engineer,  one of the leaders who was part of the conversation described working in a hotel and being given a lower job – with lower pay – than a similarly trained male engineer.  How to change that?  Speak up, say what’s wrong and what needs to happen to change that!  That is using one’s personal power.  AND, following one’s own heart is also using one’s personal power.  Though Lidieth was offered a good job with the hotel, she saw the need to work with women, to help women to help themselves and chose to invest her energy in this work.  “It takes courage, but I had to do what was meaningful to me.”

These stories the Fellows shared reveal powerful strategies for encouraging and supporting women’s leadership development.  They provide inspiring examples for us to heed and to share with other women.

The Intention of this blog is to provide a space for women to Create Our Own Story.  As described in the intro of the blog:

The story about women and our place in the world, the one we tell ourselves, the one history describes, the one that holds the assumptions that influence decisions and interpretations all around the world – that story was written by men.  Our responsibility ~ and opportunity ~ is to

            Create our own Story.

The stories shared by the iLEAP Fellows through this posting are some of the actual stories of women’s leadership!

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October 18: Lily, Selcuk

Lily sells carpets.  Not only that she has her own carpet shop, right across the street from the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk.  I was introduced to Lily by Sue who lives on Vashon Island, a short ferry ride from my home in Seattle.  Sue, who is herself a weaver and who has lived in Turkey and traveled to Turkey many times, also is the proud owner of a carpet she purchased from Lily.

When I first contacted Lily, she responded right away, in a very open and friendly email.  She approved of our choice of a place to stay in Selcuk, assured me that she, too, loved conversation, that we could meet in her shop, and that she would drive us to Ephesus.

We arrived in Selcuk after a six and half hour bus ride from Antalya.  The bus system in Turkey is outstanding.  The scenery on this leg of the journey was wonderful.  We found our hotel with no trouble at all.  It was delightful – clean as could be, run by Osmond and his family, a small swimming pool in a small but lovely garden, and roof top dining outdoors.

Well, though we had been soaking p the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean the day before, by the time we arrive in Selcuk the temperature had dropped to 6 degrees celsius and, according to the TV it was snowing in Istanbul!  Osmond insisted that it was OK to eat outside on the roof, and I guess it was if you don’t mind wearing all of your warm clothes and eating with your gloves on!

Oh, and he indeed assured us that Lily would be by to pick us up about 8:30 the next morning to take us to Ephesus.

And, so she was.  Lily is a delightful young woman.  Her parents had had a hotel she told us, and had retired and sold it.  She now had her own business and also daily took folks from the Nazar Hotel to Ephesus and back.  This was only about a five minute ride we discovered, and we agreed that Lily would pick us up at 2:30 in the afternoon after we had toured Ephesus to our heart’s content.  Ephesus by the way, is one of the best preserved (or restored) ruins of the Roman Empire.  Completely awesome! ! !

But for me, a visit with Lily was just as marvelous.  We went directly to her shop; Jim went to get a bite to eat, and Lily and I settled on a sofa in her shop for a visit.  Yes, she is a business woman.  Yes, she is one of the 7% of Turkish women counted as “employed,” (outside the home, not supported by father or husband.)  Yes, she is a member of the Chamber of Commerce.  Yes, she is a rare model for other young Turkish women her life demonstrating that getting married while young is not the only possibility.

And, yes, at 36, she is independent, owns her own shop, experiences all of the challenges of that, as well as the joy of directing her own life.  She sells – and sends – carpets to customers all over the world.  Her most recent customers were from Colorado in the U.S. and from Ireland.

With Lily’s positive energy and courage and “Hugs” from me,


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October 16: Heather, Antalya

Heather was my very first connection to women in Turkey as I set out to find folks who might be interested in talking with me about the role of women in global leadership – and in particular, what it is like to be a woman at this time in history in Turkey.  I had googled something like “women in Turkey” and her blog, Feminist Activism popped up on my screen.  I was startled, and intrigued.  I was impressed with what I read.  It was articulate, passionate.  I subscribed.

Then I emailed Heather.  “I am not an activist,” I remember stating clearly -“and I think we may have much in common!” Bless her.  She responded and we stayed in touch as my plans materialized and our journey began. . . . . . And suddenly we were meeting “at the Clock Tower” in Antalya.

The Clock Tower – one of the many surviving or rebuilt structures reflecting the hundreds of generations that have called this place home.  How uncanny that we would meet there – at the time I was struggling so to accept that perhaps women had never inspired such awe, had never been so valued as I had thought.  It was time to look ahead.  And here was Heather.  Young, knowledgeable, educated, courageous, smart, passionate.  One of her undergraduate majors was Women’s Studies.  Plus she has a graduate degree in Gender and Peacebuilding from the University for Peace in Costa Rica.  She shares that in her family (in the United States) intellectual development and expressing one’s opinions was encouraged.

This is a gift U.S. women have to offer the world.  When safety, shelter, food, clean water, health care are much more available than in many parts of the world, when young women are encouraged to think, to express their own opinions, to develop all of their potential, when all of this is available – women have the precious opportunity to look beyond their immediate daily needs, to examine world issues, to learn of the work of other women and to build on that, to find those ways in which they can best contribute to creating a future that benefits all, not just themselves.

Heather met her partner, whom she describes as an “American Turk,” in San Diego.  He had come to Austin, Texas from Turkey, and from there to San Diego.  He, too, is an absolutely delightful individual.  These two are now living in Antalya, Turkey, near his family.  They took us to dinner, at a special restaurant where organic foods were served, for a delicious meal and great conversation.

Please do yourself a favor and check out Heather’s blog,       A recent post described a conference in which she participated, In Women’s Hands.  The conference brought together women activists and organizers from  Srebrenica and Sarajevo.   Her most recent post, “Love Your Body Day.”

Thanks, Heather!


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October 15: The Journeys Converge, Antalya

Introducing this Blog, September 15, 2011, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles,” I described two journeys – one was the actual trip through Turkey, on which I was about to embark, and from which most of the posts so far have been made – – and the other the metaphorical journey that women around the world are traveling.  These journeys have converged for me at this point, in a potent, painful and I suppose necessary way.

I am sitting on a small hill, a bluff at the edge of the Mediterranean.  The sky behind the Taurus mountains across the water is a soft pink.  The water itself is smooth, satiny.  Doves are pecking out their breakfast around my feet.  It is a gentle scene, quite a contrast to the emotions raging inside of me.

Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, and actually for five to ten years leading up to that, the clarity of understanding about my work in the world came into sharp focus.  First was clarity about “global.”  My work was – and is – global.  That seemed arrogant and incongruous for a girl who grew up in the rural mid-west of this vast nation known as the United States.  But so it was.  Of course that’s the deal when it comes to one’s “calling” in life; it is not a logically planned journey; it is a continually emergent journey, based on trust, filled with surprise, synchronicities and puzzling uncertainties.

The second clarity was that my work was to be about women’s leadership ~ not a focus on supporting the leadership development of individual women, but rather about evoking, calling out, encouraging, nurturing women’s leadership – the leadership of all women. Kofi Annan, then Secretary of the United Nations, said the 21st century was the century of women.  I got it – not in a rich way, but I got a sense of the essence of that meaning.

I realize that coming to teach at Antioch was very much a part of this journey of my work in the world – because my colleagues and our students taught me about systems and I came to understand the real difference between an individual woman’s leadership  —  and women — stepping up, stepping into, standing in the leadership that is already deep within them and is necessary to manifest at this time,  if we as a human species are to survive, let alone thrive.

It is clear that this is not an individual journey.  It is a collective journey.  The meaning of the Yin/Yang symbol that has resonated with me for many years, has reached new depths.  Robert Taylor,  a nationally recognized leader and author, who now lives in Seattle, grew up in South Africa.  Desmond Tutu was his mentor.  Robert recently sent me a note sharing that at Tutu’s 80th birthday in conversation with the Dalai Lama, Tutu was asked about one thing that would change the world.  He replied that women should lead the world.   We have indeed, as a species, come as far as we can go with only male energy leading us.  Feminine energy is not needed as a supportive adjunct.  It is necessary as a leading energy, giving voice to the vision and the values that will create our future.

This actual journey we are on, this travel through Turkey was partly motivated for me by the thought of being able to stand on the land where the goddess was  worshipped – so long ago.  Imagining the Neolithic times, where egalitarian life style was the norm, where there were no monuments to fighting and war, was a powerful, refreshing and energizing vision.  To know that at one point in history me and women were equally valued – seemed a precious place to stand, from which to once again create – in this age – a world where women and men are equally valued.

To learn that this is no longer the way that period is understood, to have to give up a belief that was so central to me, has been as traumatic an experience as I can imagine.  The convergence of our journey as women with my actual journey to the Neolithic archeological site at Catal Huyuk has shaken my world.  I do not have a nice foundation on which to stand.  I must let go of that notion – and look ahead with the realization that we are indeed creating the future.

The questions remain, of course.  How did we as women get into this subordinate place?  How is it that for thousands of years we have participated in maintaining a system where we are valued less, discounted, and often even today, treated with violence?  We will continue to explore these questions in subsequent posts.  The message of this one is about the agony of giving up cherished beliefs – – – – and the necessity to do so – – – in order to truly move into new understanding, to create our own future.

I see that future unfolding before me.  In a sense I saw it before, but I did not know the power of what I saw.  I see more clearly now the potency of creative business women, such as Eveline, Silvia, Banu, Lilly, carving out a way to give their gifts – to share their skills, to enjoy their creative process – and in so doing provide both jobs for others and products that are satisfying to their customers.

I see Leyla’s leadership as the powerful gift that it is – not only to the women who need to recover from abuse, but to a social system that is learning its way from unbridled power and control over other human beings to more respect for each individual – man or woman.  I can treasure in a whole new way the potency of Heather’s poking and probing old, unexamined belief systems through her Feminist Activism blog.  And the list goes on and on.

What a gift the conversations on this trip have provided for me.  Visionary, creative, skilled, savvy and courageous women are indeed creating the future day by day.  They are not waiting for approval.  They are not waiting for external authority or resources. They are authorizing themselves, and in many cases using their own limited resources, to create a new reality with intention, consciousness of the greater whole and trust in their own power and the competence and power of those they attract to themselves.

It is an amazing time!

I hope that my sharing a bit about these women we’ve met may encourage and inspire you, evoke your own courage to do whatever it is that is yours to do.

I also hope that the women I’ve met may connect with one another, or at least, find and connect with other kindred spirits.  BECAUSE one of the ways we contribute to traditional subordinate roles is that we are frequently unaware of the contributions of one another.  We do not support one another as much as we might.  We are unaware of some of the lessons and knowledge gained by women in previous ages.  We do not build on the work of one another as much as we might.

AND – that is changing.  We are at a point where we have access to the work of other women – both from the past, and from the far away spots around the world.  Role models are available to us as never before!  The stories of the women featured on this blog, and on the web site are examples of women leaders who might live right next door to you, might be part of your community.

Only a few weeks ago the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women:  Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first freely elected female president, Leymah Gbowee, who mobilized fellow women against the Liberian civil war including by organizing a “sex strike,” and Tawakkul Karman, a leader in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.  “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” noted Thorbjoern Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

In Istanbul, on the same day the Nobel Peace Prizes were announced, on the front page of the English newspaper, Daily News,  Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, is pictured striding alongside her counterpart, Turkish President, Abdullah Gui.  Rousseff was named as the third most powerful woman in the world in 2010, by Forbes Magazine.

We have great partners on this journey!

And we are great partners for one another!



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October 14: Ayse, Konya

After our bus ride from Goreme to Konya (very flat, wheat fields, and potatoes) on Tuesday, about 3 and a half hours, we were eager to get out and walk a bit.  So, we set out to find Silvia’s shop – thinking I would meet with her the next day.  (See my earlier post to learn about Silvia.)  As we entered the shop, a young woman clearly recognized us as non-Turks and quickly learned that we had come to meet Silvia.  She began to explain to us – in Turkish – that Silvia was out.  Another young woman, we assumed perhaps another employee, stepped into the conversation and explained in English that it would be an hour before Silvia would return.  As we walked out of the shop she continued to talk with us and said wouldn’t we please have tea with her while we were waiting for Silvia.  A friend of hers had a small restaurant nearby, she told us, and that is how we met Ayse!

And what a delight!  She was eager to visit with us and we loved talking with her!!!  She grew up near Goreme, studied business in college and went to Istanbul to work in a bank.  She didn’t like that work and Istanbul so much, however, so after some time decided to come to Konya and work in her father’s pharmacy.  I believe she has a Master’s degree in business – in any event, she has done postgraduate work and now is studying pharmacy.

There are other professional women here, but I had a sense that, as most things revolve around the family, it may be hard to create your own social network.  She said as a divorced woman it was very difficult in Istanbul, because if you had money (a good job) many men wanted to be with you just for that.  It is not so hard here in Konya she said.

Her friend, in whose shop we had tea had been a chemistry teacher, loved food and decided to open her own restaurant.  Now her husband works at the restaurant as well.  BPW is present in Turkey – this is a women’s business and professional organization to which many U. S. women belong.

One of the interesting parts of our conversation was prompted by her question about our plans for the next day.  When we told her that we were meeting with a student of Cemalnur Sargut and would be visiting the Mevlana museum with him – eyes lighted up!  She honors the work of this Sufi teacher, listens to her when she is on television and perhaps has attended or reads about some of her conferences.  While the expat women with whom we have met are unfamiliar with the work of Cemalnur Sargut, she is well known and deeply respected and appreciated among many Turkish people.

Several interesting bits of information fell into place during our conversation.  For example we learned that the Turkish government requires that all children attend school through 8th grade.  Good jobs require English.  Companies prefer men – because women can take take off 6 months when they have a child, and the company would rather not bother with that.  On the other hand, she said, if you say here – “I can’t come in today.  I’m having my period and don’t feel well.”  That is OK.  In Istanbul she explained, that would be totally unacceptable.

When I asked her what leadership meant to her – she said women begin leading in the family.  And they may run a business or an organization such as mothers who organize and raise funds for orphans.  And, I would add, that young women like Ayse, are also leaders simply by the way they and intentionally living their own lives in the midst of very changing and challenging times!

Ayse has been to the U.S. several times.   Her brother and his wife live in Georgia.  The wife is a professor at Georgia Tech.  She is quite clear that she doesn’t want their lifestyle – they are busy all the time – – working, working, working.  And, in a way that sums up the dilemma for many women in the more industrialized countries – busy, busy, busy – do we have time for the most important parts of our lives?

Connecting with Ayse was a delightful surprise! ! !   I’m so grateful for the many serendipitous happenings on this trip – this is certainly one of them.

Hugs to all of you,


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October 14: Cigdem, Ankara

Cigdem is an archeologist ~ her focus is Neolithic culture.  She refers to this as “the Neolithic process,”  – – – — not “the Neolithic period.”  Several persons we’ve talked with have a sense of history as continual process.  A most significant reminder to me – and, I suspect, many of you as well ! ! !

She says archeologists generally consider this period as coming at the end of the last ice age when various parts of the earth became more hospitable for humans.  These were hunter-gatherer societies that moved around, often in a fairly small geographic area, gradually becoming more sedentary around a site and using the resources of that area.  The reasons for this are not only economic, but also symbolic – rituals for a successful hunt, perhaps.  The time frame – 10,000 BC; in the Dead Sea area, probably 14,000-13,000 BC.  By around 6000 BC settlements were depending on agriculture.

We were particularly interested in the Catal Huyuk site near Konya, Turkey which were planning to visit.  By around 7000 BC sedentary groups were common in this area – and some of them were very large – as many as 1500 people at one site.  These settlements were sometimes maintained at one site for several thousand years.  When a house was no longer livable, a new house was built immediately on top of it.

The social organization Cigdem described was most interesting.  There was hierarchy, she told us, but not central authority.  Status was based on such things as one’s family, age, skill, gender – probably male.  The ritual specialist was one of the most important.  Such a person could organize a ceremony for the hunt, for example and at the end of the hunt that person’s influence ended.  That is, when a person was a leader for one purpose that leadership did not extend to broad, long term influence or control.

I find this quite fascinating in light of current thinking of complexity theory – – that day by day, moment by moment we are continually creating our reality.  And Fritjof Capra’s lucid description of form and process – what stays the same (that is, changes at a much slower pace) gives shape to that which is continually changing.  It seems that what gave shape to these Neolithic cultures was a basic family organization, and wisdom was transmitted generation to generation.  At Catal Huyuk, for example, people literally lived with their ancestors. The dead were buried beneath the floors of the homes.

These houses were not merely places of shelter.  They were the place where one belonged.  Cigdem says there did not seem to be a concept of “owning property,” but a very strong sense of belonging.  So these houses were where people lived with the past, birthed new generations, acknowledged significant ceremonies – such as coming of age and marriage.  There is strong investment in the family group.

There are no significant differences in the burial sites that would suggest males or females were considered more important.  There seemed to be relatively egalitarian access to resources.  There was no “chief.”   Nevertheless – some persons and some families came to be more favored as having rights to administer, to make decisions that influenced all.

The theory proposed by James Mellaart (who first discovered this site, 1965) that the presence of figurines such as those at Catal Huyuk, the absence of objects of war, etc. suggested Goddess worship – seems to be largely discounted by current archeologists.

SO, the questions live on:

  • How is it that some people would accept other people’s power and authority over them?
  • How is it that women become subordinate to men?

Gerda Lerner, social historian, researches this general topic in extensive detail and eloquently describes her exploration and conclusions in her two volumes,

The Creation of Patriarchy (1987) and The Creation of Feminine Consciousness (1994).  We will explore her work in a later post.

For now may we simply revel in the incredible human history of which we are a part.  May we glean wisdom from it – and contribute wisdom to it.


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