I am flying back from New York where I attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. It was a sobering and life altering experience. I feel like my life perspective will be forever changed. What once seemed important to me now seems trivial. I’ve lived 50 years blissfully unaware of the horrific and difficult circumstances under which so many women and children live. I attended classes on human trafficking, prostitution, FGM, obstetric fistula, forced child marriages, maternal and infant mortality and honor crimes, I’ve listened to stories about all kinds of women and children’s human right violations. I feel saddened beyond words. How can so many of God’s children live under such oppression and abuse? How can government allow for such basic human rights to be denied? How can women and children be denied any rights, any voice, any hope? Freedom is the the greatest gift we have and yet millions of humans are in bondage to monstrous oppressors. These word seem too soft, too inadequate to paint a complete picture of the lives of those who have no voice, no rights, no hope. Something more must be done to stop these crimes against humanity. With knowledge comes responsibility. I am no long free to sit and do nothing. A week ago I was unaware. I kept myself unaware. I would hear whisperings about some of these issues, not often, but from time to time; they seemed far removed from my world and my influence and so I told myself there was nothing I could do. If I didn’t look too close then it wasn’t real to me. therefore, I had no responsibility. Well, now I have looked close and it is beyond any nightmare I have ever imagined. Now I am accountable to myself to do something, to step up and fight for those that cannot fight for themselves. I don’t know where this journey will lead me and how far I will travel but I am committed to use my voice, my strength and my abilities to help those who need my help. I met hundreds of brave and fierce less women who have picked up the mantle and are leading the charge to restore basic human rights. I join their cause and willing engage in a battle for freedom. We are at war and we need your help to fight for the rights of humanity. I can no long say “There is nothing I can do, the problems are too large, they are too far away”. It is true the problems are even bigger than I ever imagined but I now know I can do something. If we unite our voices, our might, and our will we can change the world one person at a time. And when you change one life for the better it gives hope to many. I will ask myself each and every day “What more can I do?” I believe in the power of one and if we unite our power we can change the world.
We are excited for our new website! Hope you find out more about us by reading through the different pages. www.motherslegacy.org
Thoughts from our delegate, Lisa Garfield:
Imagine: a smallish room full of spiritual seekers from around the world gathered to discuss the “Spiritual Empowerment of Women and Girls”. In front of the room, five women constitute the speaker’s panel — one from Korea, one from India, a third from California, another from Rwanda, and one from New York.
The Korean is the Venerable Chung Ohun Lee, Supreme Council of Won Buddhism. She speaks with quiet passion about the benefits of a meditation practice, especially for women and girls, because it “takes us to the center of ourselves, so that we can know who we are.”
“Amma” in Telugu means “mother” and Amma Sri Karunamayi from India is revered as an “embodiment of divine motherly love”. Her gentle face is painted gold and her third eye stares from the middle of her forehead with wisdom and light. Her voice is soft and we sit forward in our seats to hear her impressive report on the various charitable projects she and her organization are working on in India. She seconds Chung’s testimony of the power of meditation and shows us slides of female Indian students in her schools lined up in lotus position, their eyes closed, finding themselves. I think she might be the new Mother Theresa. She tells us she loves us all “from the bottom of her heart” and we believe her.
Sande Hart is the Vice Compassion Officer of the Compassion Games International, among several other philanthropic titles. She gives us a fascinating account of the origins of the Compassion Game, which is an annual 11-day contest between cities and communities to see who is the kindest. Points are accumulated and tracked for various acts of service and the award of Most Compassionate is highly coveted. Sande calls it a game of “co-opetition” because it calls upon our human drives to both cooperate and compete.
Then Consolee Nishimwe, a Tutsi from Rwanda, speaks. She tells the horrific story of her experience as a 14-year-old during the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in her country. She tells of the murder of her father, then of her three younger brothers. She tells us about how her family kept trying to find safe places to hide, and how her mother kept telling her to “keep a prayer in your heart”. She tells of being captured by a “killer” who did not kill her but did rape her. The whole room is weeping. Consolee pulls from all of us our deepest compassion and love. When she finishes her story by reporting that of her entire family, only she, her mother and her sister survived, we all feel an urge to rush forward just to hug her. The moderator says, “I know you all want to do this” and gives Consolee a long, warm embrace. I say to the African woman on my right, “I DO want to hug her, so I will hug you instead.” And I do.
Finally, Reverend Deborah Moldow of the World Peace Prayer Society speaks. By now the room is thick with spirit and solidarity. We feel Consolee’s pain and faith, Amma’s love, Sande’s compassion, and Chung’s peace binding us as one. Deborah passes out laminated flags of all the countries in the world. I am holding the flags of Panama and Papua New Guinea. She instructs us to hold up any flags of countries that are in current need of our combined prayers. One by one we name the areas of the world that are experiencing particular hardship: Syria. Afghanistan. Egypt. Sudan. Israel. Japan. Nicaragua. Ukraine. Iraq. Papua New Guinea. The power of our collective prayer is palpable. We are a room full of various faiths, united in love and support for our brothers and sisters worldwide.
Deborah instructs us to hold up all our flags. I look around the room at all the colorful flags of all the countries in the world and I am moved to tears. I am not alone. The moderator says, “I can’t help it” and begins singing, We’ve got the whole world in our hands. We all join her, We’ve got the whole world in our hands, we’ve got the whole world in our hands, We’ve got the whole wide world in our hands. Then, We’ve got the little girls in our hands . . . We hold our flags high, swaying and singing. It is easy, here and now, to feel how spiritual empowerment can change the world.
My African neighbor and I turn at the same time to embrace each other. I love you, I whisper in her ear. I love you, too. And we mean it from the bottom of our hearts.
Our panel discussion held on Tuesday, March 11th was a big success. We had a full house and a great Q&A session.
Panelist Matt Stearmer discussed maternal mortality rates and the importance of honoring mothers who have died in childbirth with a mother’s monument. Panelist Alicia Giralt discussed her research on maternal mortality in Guatemala including the causes and effects of the problem. Substitute panelists Rebecca Densley and Rachel Densley read a statement about implementing new technology in developing areas to help decrease maternal mortality.
The event was moderated by our president, Afton Buetler.
(From L to R) Alicia Giralt, Matt Stearmer, Afton Buetler
(From L to R) Rachel Densley and Rebecca Densley
A big thanks to everyone who worked to make our event great!
Thoughts from our delegate, Tracey Snoyer:
I am struck by the passion in this place. Women are dedicating their hearts and souls to the causes of women’s empowerment and equity in all its ways and with its many faces. I am moved in deep ways by both the causes that are being pursued, and the devoted hearts and brains of the people doing their part to eradicate it. I find myself overwhelmed at the bigness of the cause and the smallness of my own personal resources. It evokes the thought engraved on a plaque given to John F. Kennedy: “O God, Thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.”
A few thoughts from one of our delegates, Nanette Cobbley, about Consultancy Day:
2014 NGO CSW New York Forum
The 2014 NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) CSW (Committee on the Status of Women) New York Forum began with Consultation Day where UN NGO representatives and delegates from around the world met and spoke on issues effecting women and girls globally. The Great Hall at Cooper Union was filled to capacity with women who all had a similar agenda; to effect a positive change by bringing peace, gender equality, and proper resources for all people. To facilitate change we need to begin at the grass roots with women empowerment beginning with our homes and work out towards a national level.
Among the prominent topics discussed were how to have access education for women and girls, making sure communities have the resources they need, overcoming discrimination, living a life free from violence, women being included in the integral parts of development of cities with more woman in government and leadership roles. There have been many positive changes towards gender equality but we have to evaluate where we are today and ask ourselves, “What and where do we go from here?” This is the time to move forward, be strong and use our creativity to create something better. By empowering women and girls, we can solve many of the economic problems. My favorite quote of the day was by an amazing seventeen year old girl, who said, “Don’t be a victim of your situation.”
Throughout the day there were three different panels that lead discussions on women and girl’s issues. The energy in the room was contagious and exhilarating as woman spoke passionately about changing the world one step at a time starting with their communities. Keep in mind it isn’t just about addressing women’s issues alone; it is about bringing awareness to every man, woman, and child on the importance of gender equality – not just women supporting women, but all humans respecting and supporting all other humans. Men and boys must be an integral part of “the change we wish to see.” It takes governments, organizations, and individuals to work together to bring a transformation that creates a world that is beautiful, safe, and prosperous place for all.
And women have a powerful and integral role to play in bring peace and security to this world.
Women’s Legacy Project delegates together for dinner.