News: Changes in the World that Impact Women
Molly Melching arrived in Senegal in 1974 as a college exchange student from the United States. In 1991 she founded Tostan. Recently she was promoted to the rank of Knight of the National Order of the Lion by the government of Senegal. This is one of the highest recognitions of Service awarded by this government. It is a HUGE affirmation of the positive impact that Tostan has had in Senegal and other African Countries as well.
Click this link to see the announcement of this recognition and learn more about what happened between 1974, 1991, and 2022.
If you want to know more about Molly’s experiences on her ”journey” between her arrival in 1974 and her recognition by the government of Senegal, in 2022, head to your nearest library or book store and get a copy of However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy. Talk about Creativity and Courage! You can expect to be inspired, challenged and appreciative!
You may also want to check out our September, 2021 Story which focuses on.Binta Diao as she describes her experience as a Supervisor overseeing Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in nine villages, Click here to read her story.
Pan-African Women’s Summit ~ PAWS 2021 ~ created by the Banner Unto Nations Foundation
What an incredible example of the Power of Self-Development in Local Communities!
What an incredible example of the Art of combining our uniqueness to enrich the larger whole.
As you see in the pictures below ~~ while the Flyers carry the same message, each participating Country focused their Pan African Women’s Day celebration on a topic of particular importance for their community.
Refugee Artisan Initiative (RAI)
Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman, Founder and Director of Refugee Artisan Initiative (RAI) was featured in our September 2019 Story of the Month.
Ming-Ming, herself an immigrant, has founded an Initiative (https://refugeesarts.org ) that enables other Refugee women to enhance their skills in sewing and craft work, in order to earn an income to help support their families.
This is such a great example of how immigrants support the communities in the country they now call home. As the coronavirus pandemic began to be recognized in the Seattle, WA area, RAI president, Ming-Ming and Board members, saw an opportunity for their artisans to use their sewing skills to contribute in a significant way to the response that was being called for. They quickly launched a GO FUND ME campaign and have raised $38,000 to purchase supplies and pay for their artisans to make Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as cloth masks and face shields to donate to healthcare workers, frontline workers, prisoners, nursing homes and many others.
Sandar, one of the Artisans, at work making Masks
To date RAI artisans have created 80,000 PPE masks. These were delivered to the City of Seattle, to King County/Metro, United States Postal Service employees in Michigan and Colorado. Most recently, they have donated 2,000 to fire victims and emergency responders.
Continuing their production and distribution of masks, Artisans have recently added masks pictured below: BLM, VOTE, RBG
To purchase any of their masks use this link for more information. https://refugeesarts.org/collections/ppe-masks-and-gear
or visit the RAI web site: https://refugeesarts.org
PAWS – Pan-African Women’s Summit 2020
At a time when it would have been easy, and understandable, for those leading PAWS to postpone this celebration for a year, INSTEAD they co-created a powerful experience that met deep needs during this confusing and stressful time.
Dami Olaogbebikan, founder of the Banner Unto Nations Foundation (NGO) which sponsored PAWS 2020, described the theme as The United Front. Their mantra, “Women helping Women.” “We are so excited, we aren’t just celebrating an event, we are creating gatherings of women in several African countries where women truly are helping other women!
Then she explained that a leader-facilitator in four different African countries was calling together a group of local women in her country, and creating with them a project of service to their community. These projects would be complete by July 25 and the women who had participated in them would share a story about the project as part of a zoom meeting on July 31 – August 1 to celebrate together African Women’s Day.
The Cameroon Project involved providing food packages for women and families who needed them.
The Ghana Project provided training for young women interested in developing vocational skills.
In Namibia women gathered to participate in a Peace Circle, a time for women to devote to self-care, and their overall well-being, a time for the “care-givers” to nurture themselves as they support and nurture others.
In Nigeria the committee of “women for PAWS” led an empowerment seminar for 20 teen-age girls.
Imagine the number of women and girls who were touched by these projects,
~ and ~
Savor the impact of the energy field that was created by all of these women!
This is a Fertile Time
Perhaps it is not strange that the coronavirus has spread through the world in early 2020. In terms of physical sight, 20/20 is considered perfect eyesight…
Could it be that in the year 2020, we will experience increased insight ?
The following three items were written by:
- a retired school teacher in Madison, Wisconsin,
- a Marketing/Communications Specialist in Hartford, Connecticut, and
- a Capuchin Franciscan friar in a Roman Catholic Order in Dublin, Ireland.
They do NOT come from the front pages, or even the inside pages of well known newspapers. In fact, however, they may be quite familiar to you. They have each “gone viral” as they say, on the internet.
As you contemplate THAT fact, please read the following three poems and consider what the coronavirus pandemic might mean to the global human community.
. . .
. . .
. . .
SO – WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Some commentators observe that O’Meara’s poem suggests that we view this era of social distancing as a chance to undertake purposeful activities like meditation, exercise, and dancing, and result in a kind of global healing.
Flyntz notes that “While COVID-19 is causing great suffering, it has also done something that most believed to be impossible – stopping the global economy in its tracks.” and asks: “ What might we learn from this experience?”
Bradshaw (Psychology Today) suggests that Kirstin Flyntz’ poem suggests this virus may be offering us a chance to learn how to live by Nature’s rules.
Huffington Post notes that Hendrick’s poem acknowledges the “fear” and “isolation” of the global public health crisis that has now killed more than 10,000 people and goes on to remind readers, however, that there “does not have to be hate” or “loneliness.”
While each poem is rich with meaning and imagery, collectively they highlight that the pandemic challenges us to change the way we think.
We invite you to consider the questions below. How would YOU respond?
- From your “former normal,” what is one thing you would for sure want to retain?
- From your “former normal” what is one thing you would be happy to leave behind?
- From your new routine, what is one thing you definitely want to continue?
- From your new routine, what is one way in which your thinking has changed?
As you reflect on your own experience, we invite you to consider what vision of a new reality may be emerging for you.
We invite you to consider shifting
- from a sense of “Let’s get through this and get back to normal” to
- “Let’s get to a new normal” one we create collectively using what we have learned from our experience during this pandemic.
A new article has been posted in the Articles section of this web site that explores in more depth a deeper look at our “former normal,” and how we might envision a new reality, by shifting our thinking.
THIS is a Fertile Time.
Three “voices:” Women’s Empowerment – the Journey to Full Partnership
Women ARE leaders, already.
While sometimes more is accomplished by “behind the scenes influence,” than by “out front” leadership, women’s voices and leadership are needed in every part of our society – in the family and in the community, in our organizations and corporations, in our government at every level, and in our educational systems.
The time has come for women to step fully into their power, authorize themselves and one another as leaders, seize opportunities and use the skill and wisdom they bring to ANY arena of life – from the kitchen to the Board Room, from child care to care for the planet and the global community.
If survival of life on our planet is to be an option, the partnership of feminine and masculine energies is necessary. No longer are “women’s rights” a matter of “Maybe, someday . . . .” Someday is now!
Three “voices” have articulated this necessity in clear and compelling ways:
Michelle Obama’s message in her book, Becoming, (2018) reveals deep insight and a vivid example of how one can fully support her partner, AND, continue on her own path to meaningful leadership. “Authentic” is a word that springs to mind over and over again as she owns and values her own roots – appreciation for her parents for their sacrifices and continued support, her vulnerability as she faces new situations, and her courage as she engages those situations that challenge her the most. She is a role model who confronts and inspires readers.
Abby Wambach, in Wolfpack, (2019) clearly names the informal norms, or rules, that she identifies as reflecting current assumptions about how women should engage in organizational roles, and redefines those as she believes they should be. Co-captain of the 2015 Women’s World Cup Champion Soccer Team, Wambach challenges women to not allow outdated, trite platitudes to define us or dictate our behavior. Instead, she emboldens us to honor our own knowing and values as we collaborate to create the kind of world we want. Wambach challenges women in a most compelling way both to “lead where you are” and to champion each other.”
Finally, and most recently published, Melinda Gates names the current time as The Moment of Lift, (of women). Through the lens of her own experience of seeing the “Bigger Picture,” and then realizing there was a “Bigger Picture” than that – and even a “Bigger Picture,” than that, she normalizes the ongoing journey in which many thoughtful women and men are engaged as we both deepen AND expand our understanding of life on this planet. She challenges and inspires us to acknowledge our own power, and the power we create as we connect. She highlights who the “teachers” of leadership are in this current time. It is the farmer who missed the Christmas celebration because she was in her field planting a new crop — – – because she had realized the rains were coming at a different time of the year. It may be a 10 year old girl who lives on a garbage dump whose questions, and refusal to be silenced prompt changes that had defied both scientists and community organizers.
Her stories of one-to-one conversations with some of the poorest women in the world, are riveting and often hard to imagine. However, the way she embraces what she hears, internalizes the messages, and opens to learn what is often “uncomfortable truths” is even more compelling. She absorbs these experiences not only intellectually, as perhaps how these messages are needed to guide financial Foundation decisions, but wholistically in terms of how they inform her internal growth. As with Michelle Obama and Abby Wambach, Gates shares her own inner journey of examining the assumptions beneath her actions and of working to create in her personal relationships the values and practices she is seeing as essential on the larger social level. The integrity she seeks to achieve, and the “truth to self” she seeks to nurture, amplify her impact.
Each of these authors are women writing out of the wisdom they’ve gained from their own experience. They are visionaries, courageously sharing stories of their own personal, internal growth that is the basis of our power as leaders.
January 2018: Creating Connection and Joy
A video reflecting the essence of the
Celebration of International Women’s Day ~ 2017 in Seattle, WA
In our last update the News section featured a description of the 2017 Celebration of International Women’s Day in Seattle Washington. Because our theme in this update is Connecting Across Differences we wanted you to be able to get a sense of the Joy that was co-created at that Celebration by women who grew up in many different countries and cultures, and now call Seattle their home.
We invite you to “join in this energy” by way of this brief video: https://vimeo.com/216110585
April 2017: A Vision Comes to Life
This story reveals the power of Vision and Intention. It is a story about the gifts of leadership that women bring to our global community. Like Tam’s story, it reveals a different way of prompting collective action, a different set of beliefs about how communities of people create the reality they desire.
In March, 2016, a group of five women came together in Seattle, WA, USA. Sad and troubled by the daily news of conflict and violence around the world, they knew different ways of BEING together and working together across cultural boundaries were both necessary – and possible. Seattle is a very diverse community, and they knew women could lead the way in creating an experience based on appreciation of differences, rather than fear of differences.
A powerful vision of a Celebration of International Women’s Day for the following year emerged from their conversations – a Celebration where women from different cultural backgrounds, different life experience, different faith traditions, and different language groups could join in an environment of appreciation and respect – and joy!
In March, 2017, that Vision became a reality as over 130 women gathered to celebrate feminine spirit, the value women bring to their communities, and the beauty of weaving together our differences, and our commonalities, to create a stronger global community.
This Celebration of International Women’s Day ~ 2017 in Seattle was created on the basis of women’s leadership gifts – quite different from the typical Western models of Conferences.
There was no structured hierarchy. There were no “Speakers.” The assumption was that “the Wisdom was in the Room.” The women at this event did not need “experts” to tell them what to do or how to do it. They knew that. Many women held the microphone during the day, sharing their thoughts, their experience, their insight and their wisdom.
Even more important than the microphone – was the conversation around the tables.
Though the gathered women spoke many different languages, many knew “some” English, and a smile, a hug, or an outstretched hand required no translation.
Collaborative creativity thrived!
Storytelling was probably the most precious experience of the day.
Originally conceived as Facilitated groups of 20 women sharing stories, planners were advised that many women would be intimidated and would not speak up. SO, participants were invited to form groups of three, each person would have 5 minutes to share a story in response to a specific question. Then the group of three could discuss what they had heard, and shared. Powerful, powerful face-to face sharing about, “an important experience I had in my childhood or young adulthood” unfolded. A second round focused on stories related to current goals or dreams each of us are pursuing.
These personal stories were shared across cultural boundaries, generational boundaries, faith tradition boundaries – – – – not by design, but because by this time in the day women had co-created a safe and trusting environment. And because those designing the day had listened to the wisdom of a young woman who knew that storytelling needed to be with one or two other persons – not a group of 20.
The “magic” of this event illustrates some important principles:
- The Intention of the Celebration never changed. The vision the “group of five” didn’t change. As they shared their personal images of the day they wanted to create, it was always about a welcoming space where a diverse group of women would connect with one another and deepen their appreciation for both their commonalities and their differences.
- The particulars changed rather significantly:
- The “time of day” of the event would clearly be 9:00 – 3:00, in the minds of some of the planning Team. Listening to the wisdom of others on the Team, gradually – over several months time – there was agreement that the “time” would be 10:30 – 4:30.
- A related and very significant decision, was to use the time from 10:30 – 11:00 to specifically welcome women as they arrived, walk them on the red carpet into the meeting space, introduce them to various “stations” around the room where they could engage in collaborative art projects or post on the “Project Wall” projects in which they were involved, help they needed, or strengths they could contribute. This half-hour, prior to the formal Welcome, had a huge impact on helping participants feel safe, respected, and empowered to fully engage and co-create the day.
- The location of the event would be Seattle Center – in the minds of some on the planning Team. Listening to the advice of a member of the Vietnamese community, the Team realized that many of the women they envisioned participating in the event felt Seattle Center to be quite outside their comfort area. As planning unfolded, the opportunity to hold the Celebration at South Seattle College became possible.
- And, as mentioned above, the “Facilitated Conversations” originally envisioned, shifted into Storytelling in groups of three.
Both Tam’s story and this News story about the Celebration of International Women Women’s Day in Seattle illustrate the importance of holding steady to one’s vision, while flexing and adapting in terms of how to achieve that vision.
Tam describes “listening to what country leaders were thinking, paying attention to how they wanted to approach reform . . .” AND keeping clearly in mind her Intention “” . . to work in public administration reform.” The planning Team for the Celebration of International Women’s Day ~ 2017, while keeping clearly focused on their Intention, listened to the wisdom of community members and the voice of young leaders and adapted the Design to even more effectively create the experience they envisioned.
Some of the more than 130 women who enjoyed this Celebration together.
February 2016: Y-WE – Young Women Empowered
Imagine young women like these – meeting one Saturday a month, developing deep friendships, making art together, developing skills of speaking, writing, and leading, engaging in projects and activities where they test out those skills, meeting with mentors on a regular basis, developing the confidence to go on to college, to move into careers they chose, and, often coming back to organizational events or activities as alums, to “give back” because they are so grateful for the experience that was available for them. Y-WE (Young Women Empowered) creates the opportunity for this to happen.
Girls, between 13 and 18, who come once or twice, continue to come for years. The organization has an 86% retention rate.
As we focus on young leaders, and the gifts they bring to our world, the responsibility for nurturing these young people immediately flashes into our awareness. How do we help our youth see themselves as leaders? How do we create an environment that is empowering for young women? Where do they feel secure enough to learn new skills?
The organization, Y-WE, is a great example of how this can be accomplished! One way we empower young women is that we step into our own leadership, creating opportunities for young women to develop attitudes and skills needed for leading, AND, providing role models for them. Y-WE exists because Jamie Rose, the Co-Founder and Co-Director, inspired by the birth of her own daughter, initiated a pilot project in 2010 that evolved into Y-WE.
Valuing diversity, and believing that we don’t learn to appreciate differences by learning “about” various cultures or generations, rather by working, and playing, “with” those who are different from ourselves, Y-WE is intentional in selecting Staff, Mentors and Board members that reflect the diverse population of girls they seek to serve.
Three foundational principles seem to fuel the strategy and activities of Y-WE:
- honoring the interests and expressed needs of the girls they serve,
- creating organizational structure and strategy that puts into practice the values on which the organization is based, and
- engaging the girls as leaders, responsible for creating healthy community both within this organization and within the larger communities of which they are a part.
Listening to what the girls want to learn about, to the needs they express, is not hit-or-miss. It is built into the organizational processes and culture. Feedback is invited in a variety of ways – from casual conversation to comment sheets at the conclusion of every meeting or training session. This feedback provides the basis for further conversation. Engagement and on-going dialogue enable ideas to flourish, informed by a variety of perspectives.
Girls currently engaged in Y-WE, for example, have expressed strong interest in travel and opportunities for learning in other countries. Staff members did not take that information and develop such opportunities for them. Instead, this is the beginning of the conversation. Girls are involved with staff and mentors in exploring this interest, determining together what this might look like and how such opportunities might be initiated. The respect for the girls is clear as the girls are included as partners in taking responsibility for creating the results they want. The message is, “You are leaders already. You are smart. You have good ideas. You respect the ideas and needs of others. Together we can create what we desire.”
This young organization is not only a great model for empowering young women – – – it is a model that could change the way “Development” is perceived around the globe and enrich our global community in profound ways.
Our current perception seems to be that there are “haves” and “have nots” in the world – whether we are talking about power, money, or other resources. Y-WE is founded on a different belief. They believe that EVERYONE and EVERY GROUP are “haves!” They believe each of us have gifts – and that all of our gifts are needed.
It is also true that we do not all “HAVE” the same resources, so Y-WE is attentive to specific needs. This shows up in a variety of ways. Transportation is provided to their monthly Saturday meetings for those who need it. At the Program level, training is provided for those who want to become better writers, for those who want to become better at public speaking or drama for those who want to become more influential leaders.
Suppose we looked at others – individuals, or countries – that may be characterized as “have nots” in terms of their strengths, rather than their limitations? Suppose we recognized that every “helping” experience is an opportunity for learning – for BOTH giver and receiver. How would that change our world?
February 2016: Tam Nguyen: Enhancing My Knowledge and Skills
In our second NEWS update of February, 2016, we acknowledge Tam Nguyen who has stepped up to seek a Ph.D., Enhancing my Knowledge and Skills
Tam working with representatives of the Vietnamese Women’s
Associations in their local communities
Tam Nguyen, is a young woman on a mission. She is a leader. She has been aware of that for sometime – and – has taken responsibility for continually enhancing her leadership competence. She seeks out opportunities — both to utilize her leadership skills in volunteer projects and employment that benefits others, and, in taking advantage of training and personal and professional development programs that challenge and enrich her knowledge and skills.
Tam’s country, Vietnam, is, like many countries, engaged in creating a future that strategically blends so-called “modern” technologies and ways of thinking with traditional culture and attitudes. Like individuals – as we change, we are constantly “holding on” to beliefs and ways of being that seem to add to our future, and “letting go” of those that do not. It is not easy, for individuals, and certainly not for a country.
Tam shares with pride stories of the history and culture of her country, Vietnam.
As Tam has gained experience and deepened insight into her own culture, and greater knowledge of the economic, political, environmental, social, and spiritual dynamics of the larger world, she has become aware, and has feedback from others, that her perspective, creativity and strategic thinking makes her a valuable asset to serve her government. She is particularly drawn to work at the local government level, believing that improvement in effectiveness at this “root level” will have key impact throughout the administrative system.
Professor Dr. Vo-Tong Xuan, Rector of Nam Can Tho University, acknowledges Tam’s work in terms of “…contributing her knowledge and skills into the national effort in reforming the administrative management system of Vietnam.” Because he was impressed with her work with him in research on administrative reform and public policy, Dr. Xuan has recommended her for a scholarship through the Australian Government to pursue her Ph.D. at a University in their country.
Others who have recommended her for this scholarship, note her initiative, innovative approach and ability to work effectively with diverse agencies and organizations. They also confirm her insight that addressing political and cultural issues are key to significant and lasting change in any governmental reform.
Tam, we congratulate you on stepping up to enhance your leadership impact, and wish you the best in pursuit of this scholarship!
Editorial comment: One of the gifts women often bring to leadership in any capacity is the skill of building relationships and the awareness of the importance of addressing the more subtle dynamics of power and deeply ingrained cultural patterns in any change effort.
September 2015: Women are Creating Change ~ All Around the Globe
In our May, 2015 update you saw a picture of Claudine Zongo at the site of the Community Center she is having built in Ouagadougou, the Capital of her country, Burkina Faso.
Despite her many responsibilities, Claudine continues to press on toward her vision. In late May we learned that she and another Humphrey Fellow won a grant of $1000 USD from the local US Embassy!
This grant will boost the development of the Center. This Community Center will be a place where women and young girls can “find and lead their way,” explains Claudine. firstname.lastname@example.org
Betty Kagoro is celebrating the completion of her book, Common Questions and Answers about Menstruation: True Answers with Advice for Teenage Girls.
With gorgeous illustrations of African girls, accurate information, and Betty’s amazing empathy, this book fills a huge need for information and guidance! “I want every girl in Uganda to have a copy!” Betty exclaims. The full color, 36 page book helps girls learn to appreciate and care for their bodies as they learn to manage their periods. Betty is working to get the book published through Amazon. Stay tuned – soon you will be able to order your own copy. And – donations to Betty will help her meet her dream for every girl to have a copy. email@example.com
In related news, check out this link to discover how social enterprise in India has produced new sanitary products that are low cost, compostable and biodegradable and a special incinerator that has been created to dispose of the pads. http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/ menstruation-innovation-lessons-from-india/?_r=1
Author of this essay, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, vice president for development for the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, writing on Nicholas Kristof’s Blog, makes the point that this is an area where the United States needs to learn from other countries. She points out that the strategies that have led to success include leadership characteristics common to women – collaboration, sharing, inclusion, and care for the greater good.
Frankline Nadembega recently returned to her home in Burkina Faso at the completion of her Mandela Washington Fellowship experience. In the summer of 2015, the US government brought 500 young African leaders to the United States for six weeks of study at a university leadership institute in one of three areas: business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management.
Frankline was one of 25 of these young leaders who were able to study Civic Leadership at Rutgers University. If you are curious about what these courses were like you may check out one of the online courses such as Inspiring Community Participation at https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/
courses/community-org-2/. These are good strategies for anyone interested in community development! And the courses are free.
Frankline believes that “the power to lead comes with a deep commitment to give back to her community.” Her experience at the Mandela Washington Fellowship was very enriching. Asked about what have been the most memorable values learned at the fellowship, she said “I have learned to appreciate whatever I have in life and take whatever opportunity that comes to me as a gift.” Shortly after she returned home, Frankline was invited to The Vital Voices Global Partnership Peer-To–Peer Exchange Program in New Delhi, India at the end of this month. Frankline was selected this year as a Vital Voices VVlead Fellow on her because of her significant accomplishments and outstanding potential to promote positive change through leadership in her community”.
In other global news – in keeping with Alene’s call to us, ~ “We are Engaged in a Revolution!” ~ two recent stories confirm both that we ARE in engaged in a revolution AND that women ARE taking leadership!
The on-going violence in Syria is hard to comprehend, its devastating impact on women and children unbelievable. YET, women are stepping up to leadership, not only through protests, but also by developing specific, sustainable recommendations for a transition that can create a healthy and sane and inclusive reality in their country.
The proposed recommendations were generated by networks of women meeting in diverse sections of the country, and thus represent the needs and vision of the whole society. Click on this link to read the Statement of their Recommendations:
Meanwhile in New York City in the US, a social service organization founded and led by Nepalese women provides assistance to the Nepali diaspora. The April earthquake highlighted the value of the service they provide as they facilitated a variety of responses from the Nepalese community in the US.
Their work, their organization, while appreciated, has nevertheless experienced resistance because it very existence challenges male dominated cultural norms.
“We have kept Adhikaar’s leadership, especially at the board level, all women because it is our way of addressing the patriarchy,” Ms. Ranjit, the group’s executive director, said in her office in Jackson Heights. “We are women, but we are working for social justice. We are women, but we are representing the entire community.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/05/nyregion/nepali-women-in-queens-challenge-tradition-and-take-lead-in-earthquake-response.html?emc=eta1&_r=0
May 2015: Talking Out-loud About Menstruation
Yes, at the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, Britain’s top female tennis player’s unexpected loss, her response to that – – – and the reaction to her response is both amazing and, perhaps, hopeful.
In many countries nudity and sexual activity literally “screams” at us from magazines, billboards, and movies. At the same time, actual normal physical and sexual development remains cloaked in mystery and ignorance.
The United Nations and many country governments are recognizing the economic and social impact of attitudes around menstruation. When girls have no place to take care of themselves at school when they are having their period, and spend four or five days a month out of school, the impact is not only severe for the individual girl, but her falling behind in school, or eventually dropping out means she will not have the knowledge and skills to contribute to the economic activity in her country, or to contribute to her family and community in ways that she could if she had completed her schooling.
If Watson’s comment has cracked open just a bit, the taboo about acknowledging and speaking about menstruation, it is a hopeful sign that the needs of girls and women are significant to the global community – as well as to the individual girls and women themselves.
This link to articles in The Independent, a British Newspaper, explores the significance of Watson’s comment:
January 2012 News
2011 Nobel Peace Prize goes to Three Women
While most of the Nobel Peace Prize awards have gone to men, the winners this year are three activist women in Liberia and Yemen for their non-violent work to promote peace, democracy and gender equality.
Emphasizing that the awarding of this prize is an important signal to women all over the world, Thorbjorn Jagland, former prime minister of Norway and head of the Nobel committee, reinforced the idea that the intention was give impetus to the fight for women’s rights globally.
—from the formal Nobel Peace Prize citation
Who are these women?
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. Since her inauguration in 2006, she has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women.
In November, 2011 Sirleaf won re-election as President. Violence on the day before the elections required local and UN security forces to ensure voters’ safety. External elections commissions judged that the elections were free and transparent.
Johnson Sirleaf comments, following the elections, that now Liberia must get back to the basic work of educating the children and young people, providing health services, building infrastructure and bringing clean water and electricity to more homes. Poverty and high unemployment are big issues.
Leymah Gbowee was only 17 when the Second Liberian Civil War erupted. As a young mother, whose dreams had been destroyed by the war, and who was trapped in domestic abuse, she nevertheless discovered the courage to step into her own leadership and rally other women to join her. Knowing that women working together can create an unstoppable force inspired her to organize the Women of Liberian Mass Action for Peace. This group was composed of women from different religions and different cultural backgrounds. Their solidarity in praying for peace, non-violent protests and a sex strike was a major force in bringing an end to the civil war in 2003. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war.
In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the “Arab spring”, Tawakkul Karman played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen. Ms. Karman, 32, a mother of three, took to the streets of the capital along with about 50 other university students in January, demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Sitting inside her blue tent at the antigovernment sit-in where she has lived since late February, Ms. Karman, the Yemeni human rights activist, said “I didn’t expect it,” her eyes growing wide, a red flowered veil around her head. “It came as a total surprise.”
Nadia Mostafa, a professor of international relations at Cairo University, said awarding the prize to Ms. Karman was endowed with “political significance.”
“Islam has always been associated with radical terrorism, intolerance and more,” she said. “Giving it to a woman and an Islamist? That means a sort of re-evaluation. It means Islam is not against peace, it’s not against women, and Islamists can be women activists, and they can fight for human rights, freedom and democracy.”
The Nobel Prize this year is a huge indicator of two forces at work in the world today!
- First, these strong, courageous women saw a need and stepped up to lead. Through their leadership, they created opportunities for others to contribute as well.
- Secondly, Nobel Committee, by recognizing the importance of this leadership, have reinforced the importance of not only these specific leaders, but for non-violence, democracy and gender equality.
This is a huge affirmation of the work to value the contributions of all people in this world, women and men. And, I would say, it is also a challenge to each of us to continually be alert to our own opportunities to step into our leadership, to see a need and step up to help.
Much of the information about these three Nobel winners came from The New York Times, October 7, 2011.
September 2011 News
World Bank Report:
A recent World Bank Report notes impressive gains in gender equality world wide, and yet report that nearly 4 million women are “missing” each year. “About two-fifths are never born due to a preference for sons, a sixth die in early childhood, and over a third die in their reproductive years.”
The report highlights that while gender equality is important in its own right, it is also smart economics. “Countries that create better opportunities and conditions for women and girls can raise productivity, improve outcomes for children, make institutions more representative and advance development prospects for all. . .”
Here are examples of how the World Bank believes countries could gain by addressing disparities between men and women:
- Ensuring equal access and treatment for women farmers would increase maize yields by 11 to 16 percent in Malawi and by 17 percent in Ghana.
- Improving women’s access to agricultural inputs in Burkina Faso would increase total household agricultural production by about 6 percent, with no additional resources—simply by reallocating resources such as fertilizer and labor from men to women.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that equal access to resources for female farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5 to 4 percent.
- Eliminating barriers that prevent women from working in certain occupations or sectors would have similar positive effects, reducing the productivity gap between male and female workers by one-third to one-half and increasing output per worker by 3 to 25 percent across a range of countries.
(Read World Bank report here)
This is significant! It is important that large institutions recognize the value women bring to the whole. And you and I know that there is much more to it than is even recognized. Women bring different vision, possess different competence for creating community, and skills for creating peace. We own a deep sense of the whole.
AND we know that just because the World Bank highlights these examples does not in any way mean that the changes will come about easily.
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Juliet Theresita, the woman we featured when we launched this site in August, 2010, shares news of her work today – seeking those very things that are outlined in the above excerpt from the World Bank Report.
It is budgeting time in Tamil Nadu, India and most unorganized workers rights are denied by state restriction. Inn order to call government attention to this Juliet and others organized conducted a demonstration from August 22nd to September 07, 2011.
Here are their four demands:
1. Demanding the budgetary allocation for the unorganized workers.
2. Demanding the proper social security for the life and livelihood of the unorganized workers
3. To realign the agriculture welfare board and the fisheries welfare board from the respective department to the labor welfare board along with other demands.
4. To allow the Head Load Women Fish Vendors to carry their goods in the public transport.
Juliet is the woman in the gold sari in the bottom left of the picture above. You can contact Juliet directly if you like, at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 2011: Women are Creating Change ~ All Around the Globe
The WAAPONI Foundation in Cuenca, Ecuador, with funding from UN WOMEN and the Municipality of Cuenca, is engaged in a project to strengthen the democratic participation of women in rural areas surrounding the city and to reinforce the institutionalization of gender that is promoted by the Department of Gender Equality of the city itself.
Nena Siguenza, co-founder of the WAAPONI Foundation, is deeply committed to enabling transformative leadership. This is the inner work that enables us to be effective in our work in the world. As the women who participate in this project learn to appreciate and value themselves, they are more successful in achieving their personal and professional goals.
These women are clear about the role they want and the power that they want. They are not interested in simply flipping social power from male dominance to female dominance. They realize that would only continue the “power over” model. Instead, in a recent presentation to municipal leaders, these women laid out new approaches that would enable women and men to decide together on the future of the community and work together to achieve the future they want!
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Ananda Zeas has translated Barbara’s essay,Women Hold up Half the Sky into Spanish. See the Articles and Essays section of this site to read this essay in Spanish. Ananda, who holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology, is the Methodological Advisor at the WAAPONI Foundation in Cuenca, Ecuador.
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Margaret Wheatley is leading a Learning Journey to South Africa
November 1-12, 2011. Noting that women are playing the pivotal role in creating change, around the world, Wheatley reminds us that “in community after community, women as informal leaders have stepped forward to solve local problems without waiting for formal authority or resources.” This is nowhere more true than in South Africa, where courage and creativity trump despair over and over again. This journey will be an insightful and transformative experience.
Check out www.berkana.org/Women2011 for the itinerary or to register.
Wheatley has long inspired and challenged us with her definition of a leader as “anyone who wants to help.” In our web site, we meet these leaders again, and again, women who see a need and step up to meet it, or see an opportunity and step into their own power to maximize it.
April 2011: Local and Global – Individual and Collective Action
Girls and Technology
Fourteen year old, Tristan Spraker brings this to our attention – a remarkable program that reveals the individual/collective connection. “Girls Gather for Computer Science” is a four week, non-residential camp for 7th and 8th grade girls. The goal is to provide an opportunity for girls to think of themselves as scientists. The camp will be run by all-female instructors from Pacific University, middle schools involved and undergraduate computer science students. For the thirty girls who are selected, the camp is free. It is sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation and will be held at Pacific University in Oregon.
So a collective effort makes possible opportunities for individual girls to step up and learn new skills, develop new self-concepts, and enhance the contributions they will make to our society
Betty’s Good News
Betty Kogoro, whose story was featured in our October web update has received approval of the Uganda NGO Registration Board. Teen Empowerment Uganda (TEU) is now an officially registered NGO! ! ! Way to go, Betty! It took at entire year. Yes, persistence and perseverance is definitely a big part of leadership. You may contact Betty directly at email@example.com
UN Women, 5th World Conference on Women
This is global collective work that is needed, the “global” part of the local/global connection. Sign this petition if you support the Conference. And engage with government agencies, NGOs, or other organizations that are promoting women’s rights and supporting women’s leadership, in order to amplify your own voice.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., author, feminist, activist has been championing this effort to bring about a UN sponsored 5th World Conference on Women. There is a strong sense of the need for this conference, as Bolen says, “not as an end in itself, but as a huge step toward a global women’s peace, justice and empowerment movement.”
The petition to convene the Conference has now reached the UN Commission on the Status of Women. This body, representing forty-five member-countries, is asked to support the statement and advance it to the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. As you can see there is a long process to gain the necessary commitment to this conference, but progress is evident.
The launch, on February 22, 2011, of new superagency for women, UN Women, under the leadership of Michelle Bachelet, is another event to celebrate. Bachelet, former President of Chile, is a pediatrician, a single Mom, an activist who was imprisoned by Pinochet, Chile’s deposed dictator. One of the Hubert Humphrey Scholars from Chile commented that women literally stood taller and walked with more confidence when Bachelet was elected President. Here was a person they could relate to, and whom they could respect.
In keeping with our collective story, A New Story in the Making, we want to acknowledge that it is all women that are creating this new story. Our primary intention in this site is to provide stories of women who are making a difference in the world. We often focus on women who are making a difference – in the world – through making a difference in their local area, because, that is where most of us have the greatest impact.
However, we also want to acknowledge women who are publicly recognized, who lead through their position or reputation. These women influence policy decisions, directly or indirectly, and often have significant impact on creating a world where all leadership gifts are welcome. For a powerful and inspirational story, read the biography of the President of Liberia, Mary Johnson-Sirleaf. Her story, This Child Will be Great, reveals the violence she, and her country, experienced and the tremendous personal strength, vision and resilience she brings to the leadership of her country.
Not only are these women role models for other women stepping up to positional leadership, they also need the support and/or challenge of all the women in the nations they lead. They need clear and persistent messages about the national policy that needs to be established in order that women throughout their countries can manifest their leadership.
- The Nobel Women’s Initiative was founded in 2006 by six women Nobel laureates who joined together to use the visibility and prestige of the Nobel prize to support women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations that address the root causes of violence and that advance nonviolence, peace, justice and equality.
- They are currently advertising a position: Manager, policy and Advocacy. Check out the posting and learn more about the work of this organization: http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/home/article/job-posting-manager-advocacy-policy
- In November, the G20 Summit was held in Soeul, Korea. G20 refers to the group of 20 major economies of the world. Established in 1999, the intention of the G20 is to bring together industrialized and developing economies to discuss key issues in the global economy. Leaders of these nations, Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meet once a year. This year four of those countries are led by women:
- Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
- Christina Fenandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina
- Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia
- Dilma Rousseff, President-Elect of Brazil
- Finally, we want to call attention to those countries that currently have a woman as Head of State. While these women certainly should be recognized, we need to see more women joining this level of leadership.Listed by country, in order by the length of time they have been in office:
- Ireland, President Mary McAleese
- Finland (1st), President Tarja Halonen
- Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel
- Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
- India, President Pratibha Patil
- Argentina, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
- Bangledesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed
- Iceland, Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir
- Croatia, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor
- Lithuania, President Dalia Grybauskaite
- Switzerland, President Doris Leuthard
- Kyrgyzstan, President Rosa Orunbayeva
- Costa Rica, President Laura Chincilla
- Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
- Finland (2nd), Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi
- Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard
- Slovakia, Prime Minister Iveta Radicova
- Brazil, President-elect Dilma Rousseff
Through the efforts of Nena Siguenza, Executive Director, and the WAAPONI Foundation staff, 25 women gathered on October 25, 2010 in Cuenca, Ecuador, to explore together how to expand the impact of their leadership through
- leading from their own center
- engaging with others
- drawing together diverse perspectives to serve the common good.
Though these women’s experience is perhaps much different from your own, and though it is different from one person to another in terms of the participants themselves, the shared commitment to fully live out their potential in service to the world was an amazingly powerful common bond.
The context of the workshop was the awareness that the work of each individual, and of the collective that had gathered, was nothing short of creating a new social order. The intention of the workshop was to develop leadership that moved our social systems from a “power over” way of being to a “power with” way of living and working together. Recognizing that Yin and Yang energy are both necessary, and that each individual embodies both forms of energy, the group became clear that one way of increasing one’s power is discerning what energy is needed in each particular situation.
Engagement was high as every woman created a symbol that represented something important and good that had happened because of something she had done or said. In small groups, as each person told her story, listeners in the group identified strengths and skills demonstrated by the person sharing her story. Not only was the power of each individual affirmed in this process, but the knowledge, skills and abilities within the collective became obvious. What a foundation – on which to build additional impact!
Imagining together the future they wanted to help create, laid the groundwork then for each person to determine one major goal that she intended to pursue within the next year – as a way of moving toward that future.
Energy increased as women moved around the room – viewing the visual representations that had been created – absorbing both the strengths represented and the goals and visions identified. As the women read the goals of others, they noted on that person’s poster any ways they could support that individual – experience with a similar project, contacts, perhaps a willingness to be a listener as the individual developed her strategy for meeting her goal.
The workshop concluded by learning how to locate one’s personal power center in the physical body and how to deal with the “mind chatter” that can distract us from our primary intentions and decrease our energy.
The opportunity to come together, to affirm one another, and to learn with and from one another – – – is a powerful experience. Thanks goes to each person who participated, for creating together an exciting, productive, and satisfying learning experience.
World Pulse (www.worldpulse.com)
You will want to check out this web site on your own, but we wanted to highlight one of the amazing things they do. Each year they select, through a competitive application process, 30-40 young women from countries around the globe–and train them, through an on-line curriculum, to be citizen journalists. At the conclusion of the training each young woman is assigned a mentor. These young women write their stories, which are published on the World Pulse web site. Their mantra: “Don’t speak for us; we speak for ourselves.”
If you want to know what is going on in Brazil, Kenya, Nepal, or many other countries–through the personal experience of one who lives there–or if you simply want to be inspired by the courage, creativity and persistence of young women living in very challenging situations, watch for the stories, Voices of our Future, on the World Pulse web site.
September 2010: UN Women and Ashley Judd
UN Women is of major significance in two ways. First, it brings together four previously distinct agencies that work for gender equality and women’s empowerment for more focused direction and concentration of resources. Secondly, it also acknowledges the huge work to be done. The challenges faced by women and girls across all societies is cause for shame, and must be changed. Violence, harassment, lack of health care, high rates of women dying in childbirth are common place. The creation of this agency is a step in the right direction. It will be headed by an Under Secretary-General who will be a member of all senior UN decision-making bodies and will report to the Secretary-General. It is important that we continually insist that our own government support this work through the United Nations. This new entity only came about because of tireless efforts of women and men of the countries that are members of the United Nations. It is with gratitude that we take a moment to appreciate their work for the greater good. Visit: www.unwomen.org/
The story of Ashley Judd reveals the impact that one person can have when she steps into her own leadership with courage and conviction. An American actress and an activist, Judd is perhaps best described as a person who demonstrates fierce determination and fearlessness, both in her own life and in many of the characters she portrays. She has traveled the world, connecting with, and calling attention to vulnerable people, often women and girls, and the issues they face.
A September 2 CNN News article describes her recent work in the Congo: http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/09/02/judd.congo.conflict.minerals/index.html?hpt=C2. In the Congo Judd is working to raise awareness about conflict minerals – tin, tantalum, tungsten – which are used to make our cell phones, computers and other electronics.
Military commanders control most of the mines where these minerals are extracted. Women, as well as children as young as 11, work as miners along with village men. The military has absolute control over working conditions, taxes imposed, and destination of the minerals. Most of the minerals are transported out of the country by plane, often to nearby countries where they may be mixed with other minerals. Once the minerals are refined into metal it is impossible to determine the origin.
A CNN interviewer asked Judd: “Could you help us to connect the dots between the rape victims you’ve met in these camps and the materials used in the electronics industry?”
Judd’s response: “The armed militias make war on a woman’s body. In Congolese society, women are the pillars. They are the backbone. They are the heart, and so when an external force wants to destroy a society, wreck havoc, disrupt, the most efficient, direct and — in a way — sickeningly cunningly brilliant way to do it is to literally attack the woman’s body.”
Judd suggests three actions that can make a difference:
- Anyone can go to womenforwomen.org and literally with a click and a small financial commitment put money in the hands of a survivor of gender violence.
- Contributions can be made to Population Services International, which has grass-roots health interventions and helps poor women deal with preventable disease, family planning, HIV, because a lot of them become HIV positive after they’ve been raped, because they’re raped by so many men, their exposure to HIV is very high.
- AND, To genuinely end the root causes of mass rape in eastern DRC, people can send an e-mail immediately to the world’s top 20 electronics manufacturers and absolutely insist that these manufacturers create a clean supply of minerals that they use in their products and that end up in our pockets. http://www2.americanprogress.org/t/1659/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=6265
SUMMER 2010: Petition for a UN 5th World Conference on Women
A petition to the UN, signed now by nearly 10,000 individuals around the world, is urging the UN to sponsor a 5th women’s world conference in 2015. Designated as the 5th, to highlight that it follows the other four, specifically the Beijing Conference in 1995, the intention is to bring to fruition the goals and aspirations that were put into the Beijing Platform for Action. The petition is absolutely clear that the conference would NOT reopen debate on those issues or add new items. The intention is to actualize those identified goals.
The United Nations needs to be the sponsor of the Conference, so that women from all 192 UN countries know that it is about and for them. Many will be able to come only because it is a UN Conference, recognized by their government. The Petition asserts, “It would be as significant to women working for women as the Olympics are to athletes.”
Because of the technology available, email, web sites, cell phones, youtube, etc., “events leading up to the Conference, the Conference itself, and the ripples radiating out from it, including meeting in circles, would raise consciousness and oxytocin levels, moving us toward reaching a critical mass.” (Quotes are from the web site)
A UN women’s super agency equivalent to UNICEF for children, was authorized by the UN general Assembly in September, 2009. This agency could organize such a Conference.
Visit the web site: http://www.5wcw.org/
for more information, and to sign the petition.
Book: Half the Sky
One of the most powerful books ever, this book brings global attention to the treatment of women, the cost to both the individuals and to the economy and culture of their countries, and highlights straightforward actions that can change this reality.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn, Pulitzer Prize winning husband and wife team, through statistics and stories of individual women, describe the terrible suffering of women, day by day, in countries around the world, and the amazing resilience and bravery with which women turn brutal treatment and unbelievable challenges into ways of creating a better future. Women endure gang rape, stoning, genital cutting, honor killings, beatings, horrible fistulas as a result of no health care for pregnant women. They are sold into brothels or married off as little children. Because of gendercide, more girls have been killed simply because they are girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century, they claim.
The authors’ call to action highlights what can be done. Local women are the most effective change agents. Providing a list of hospitals, school and charities that are effectively supporting these individuals, readers are challenged to become aware, become involved and contribute to making a huge change in the world.