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The Divine Feminine Emerging, Embodied, and Emboldened

By Kathe Schaaf and Kay Lindahl for The Interfaith Observer

Finally…

Circle of Wise Women Candlelamp – Photo: goddessgift.net

We can’t help but notice that the world seems to have suddenly ‘discovered’ the value of women. After thousands of years living in the shadow of the masculine, after being pushed into the margins of power and leadership, after being silenced in every cultural institution – including most of the major world religions – the media today is full of messages that it is time to listen to women’s wisdom.

Women’s leadership styles are being acknowledged widely in diverse segments of the global media:

  • Research articles from the field of neuroscience suggest that women’s brains do indeed work differently than men’s, giving us more capacity for the kind of functions required to address the complex issues facing our planet: multi-tasking, integration, cooperation, and contextual thinking.
  • A headline during the recent budget impasse in the U.S. Congress declared “Women Lead While Men Bicker.”
  • Micro-lending programs in Africa and Asia frequently identify women as key to their success; not only are women more marginalized in poor countries but they are also more likely to make decisions that will benefit both family and community.
  • Even the world of religion has begun to acknowledge the importance of women’s voices and leadership. Pope Francis recently called for a “more incisive female presence” and a broader application of “feminine genius” in the life of the Church.
  • Sojourners recently launched a Campaign for Women and Girls that supports the equality of women in ways that are both practical and theological. The cover of their January 2014 Sojourners magazine boldly states, “Twisted Theology: Churches that still treat women as inferior are distorting the image of God.”

The Divine Feminine Rising

While all of this sudden attention on women, leadership, and feminine spirituality is exciting, it is important to pause a moment and listen deeply for the heartbeat of the Divine Feminine guiding, informing, and inspiring this complex global movement. The Divine Feminine is indeed rising, despite all the jagged history which repressed Her and despite the reality that women have been offered little legitimate space in which to practice feminine ways of being and doing. She rises in individual women and in the thousands of organizations they have created around the world. She rises as women struggle to bring a different style of leadership – and a new matrix of assumptions and values – to the institutions, initiatives, and corporations which shape our culture. And many believe She rises now on behalf of this troubled planet.

Continue Reading…

Kathe Schaaf is a Trustee Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women of Spirit and Faith. Kay Lindahl is on the Ambassador Advisory Committee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women and Spirit and Faith

The Power of Women as Agents of Peace

Rosalee Laws

Via Rosalee Laws for Women’s History Month , Parliament of the World’s Religions Ambassador 

I have had the pleasure of witnessing many women and women’s groups involved at all stages of peace work, from prevention to resolution. When I define peace work I mean it in a broad sense, not just the absence of war, but living honorably, dying in peace, having basic human needs met, and post conflict resolutions.

Amid 39 active conflicts over the last 10 years, few women have actually been at the table of peace negotiations. Out of 585 peace treaties drafted over the last two decades, only 16 percent contain specific references to women. Furthermore, around the world 1 in 3 women are subject to “non peaceful” or violent situations, including sexual and physical abuses.

Since it is quite obvious that women are very affected by “non-peaceful” situations, and they are 50 percent of this world’s population, isn’t it quite obvious they are a critical voice in the building of peace?

Inequality in Leadership Roles

It is time for women to come out of the shadows at the podium of peace.

It goes without saying, men tend to dominate the formal roles in the current peace-building process. Male peacekeepers, male peace negotiators, male politicians, and male formal leaders all take the spotlight. Power is unequally distributed between men and women and the majority of women do not have a voice in any local or national decision making processes. Such inequalities cause formal peacebuilding activities and policies to suffer from insufficient understanding of the diverse communities in which they are representing. Not including women in decisions making processes towards peace often means that female concerns are not addressed. Experiences and insights of both men and women during conflict and peace need to be represented in order to encapsulate all dimensions for holistic solutions.

The landscape of women’s participation has experienced significant change mostly in the area of awareness. All of us, men and women alike, have gender roles firmly embedded within us. The more we all try to pretend they do not exist, the less conscious we are of our own behaviors that promote inequality. Discussion of these issues openly is a first step to dealing with them and getting more women involved in the process of peace.

Getting Out Of Our Own Way

An effective message by female peacemakers overcomes conflict by refusing to kill the child of another mother.

Many women’s groups that are advocating their participation are siloed in existence to their peers. Most of the groups that exist have great broad ideas with lack of tactical implementation skills. Many current women’s movements and formal policies do not have established mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the progress of their work. Even at the international level, it is very upsetting to see how programs and policies lack in operational guidance, program implementation, data monitoring and evaluation, knowledge and resources. There is also a huge gap in knowledge for most organizations on how to harness technology resources such as social media that have the influence to mobilize millions all over the world in minutes.

The Women’s Leadership Ambition Gap

A bigger part of the problem is not just allowing women to come to the table, it is that women often themselves de-value their role as peacebuilders. So many women, despite their amazing achievements, feel like impostors and do not necessarily recognize the important roles they can play in both building peace and as leaders. Women need to recognize that within themselves they have attributes, valuable insights, and experiences, that NO ONE else has. Women embody the maternal gifts as caregivers, focus on the family, and resolving violence without conflict. Women of faith, in particular, are well suited for participation in peace efforts. They transmit peace values over generations and are already promoting critical values to the world.

What Would Big Change Look Like?

Big changes would happen if we first, could ensure that women play a key role in the design and implementation of peacebuilding activities and give them a confidence to do so. Second, we need to support and strengthen the already established women’s organizations that are currently working in their peacebuilding efforts. Finally, systems need to be established for enforcing and monitoring all efforts on a global scale.Women have such untapped potential to be effective participants, key-decision makers and beneficiaries of peace.

They must unravel the potential that exists within themselves to create a more peaceful world. Discovering their own voices. Find the courage to step up. There is a place for all women at the podium for peace.

Rosalee Laws, Ambassador, Parliament of the World’s Religions

 

Rosalee Laws is the CEO of R.O.S.E. a company that offers online development programs to business owners and organizational leaders. A passion for interfaith work that stems over a decade, Ambassador for the Parliament of World Religions and Founder of “women leadership” on reddit and the invite only “women in leadership” group on Linkedin. Rosalee has had experience in over 29 industries some of which include, working with the Secretary General at Religions for Peace, with United Nations entities, Disney Films, and the Associated Press. You can find out more on rosaleelaws.com.

 

 

Resources / Supplementary Information

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) (S.2982, HR. 4594). Amnesty International Issue Brief No. 2. March 2010.

United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 1325 Women Peace and Security,” (2000).

Posa, Swanee Hunt and Cristina, “Women Waging Peace,” Foreign Policy, no. 124 (2001): 38-47.

Anju Chhetri, “Women’s Intervention in the Peace Processes,” Nepal Samacharpatra, August 29, 2006.

UNIFEM, “Securing the Peace: Guiding the International Community Towards Women’s Effective Participation Throughout Peace Processes,” edited by Camille Pampell Conaway Klara Banaszak, Anne Marie Goetz, Aina Iiyambo and Maha Muna (New York: UNIFEM, 2005),

United Nations, Women Peace and Security (2002)

Lisa Laplante, “Women as Political Participants: Psychosocial Postconflict Recovery in Peru,” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, v. 13 no. 3 (2007).

Jackie Kirk, “Promoting a Gender-Just Peace: The Roles of Women Teachers in Peacebuilding and Reconstruction,” Gender and Development 12, no. 3 (2004):

Madeline Storck , “The Role of Social Media in Political Mobilisation:a Case Study of the January 2011 Egyptian Uprising” 20 December 2011.

Report of the Secretary-General on Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding (A/65/354–S/2010/466)

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/audio/2014/feb/20/women-movements-force-for-change-podcast

Bearing The Light: Honoring our Spiritual Foremothers

An image of the Rockefeller Carillon, to be played at the Bearing the Light concert at University of Chicago, an event put on by the Women’s Task Force of the CPWR. Photo from University of Chicago website.

On November 3rd at 7:30pm, the University of Chicago’s majestic Rockefeller Chapel will be filled with the dynamic sounds of West African drumming and the ethereal 12th century chant of Hildegard of Bingen. As the combined chants of many different traditions reach a crescendo, the chapel will be bathed in light and the ringing of the Rockefeller Carillon, the second-largest musical instrument in the world.

An hour of music and readings honoring women across time and traditions, “Bearing the Light: Honoring Our Spiritual Foremothers” will feature the all-women’s percussion ensemble Diamana Diya, directed by Helen Bond and Amy Lusk, and acclaimed sopranos Laura Lynch, Jillian Krickl, and Alessandra Visconti, as well as classical Indian dance and the soulful sounds of chant from Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, and other spiritual traditions.

“Bearing the Light: Honoring Our Spiritual Foremothers” marks the inauguration of the Women’s Task Force at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion. The Women’s Task Force seeks to assure that women’s voices are heard at the vital nexus of women’s issues, religion, and spiritual leadership. “This is a night to celebrate the courage and wisdom and love of the women who have gone before us, and to inspire one another to speak from the deepest truths of our lives today,” explained the Rev. Dr. Anne Benevenuti, co-chair of the Women’s Task Force.

This event is free and open to the public, and takes place at Rockefeller Chapel, at 5850 South Woodlawn Avenue on the campus of the University of Chicago. A dessert reception follows with spirited conversations.

Come join us for an uplifting evening of world music and interfaith spirituality in Chicago, marking inauguration of the Women’s Task Force at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion!  RSVP at www.facebook.com/events/116084761877554/

Christian and Jewish Women Create Film About Syria’s Muslim Girls

 

A photo of the film cover. Photo from “The Light in Her Eyes” website.

by Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix, Filmmakers, “The Light in Her Eyes”

In a courtyard off a busy street in Damascus, Syria, boisterous girls run and play before class starts in the women’s side of Al-Zahra mosque. Inside the mosque, preacher Houda al-Habash teaches the Qur’an, educating women and girls about their religion, and their rights, within their faith. Julia Meltzer lived in Damascus in 2005, and from the moment she first entered Al-Zahra mosque, she recognized what a unique place it was. Houda’s school was well-organized and energized—filled with women and girls supporting each other in their studies.

Most people don’t associate Islam with women’s rights, and that’s exactly what we found interesting about the Al-Zahra Mosque Qur’an School. Inside this community, we uncovered a lively debate about women’s roles as mothers, teachers, wives, workers, sisters and daughters. Houda insists that secular education is an integral part of worship, because it gives her students the tools to make decisions about their futures. However, the school also emphasizes the importance of modesty and piety. These women and girls are following “the straight path” of Islam, because they want to live according to its structure, rules and ethics.

Houda’s version of women’s rights doesn’t look like ours. We were raised in the West by feminist mothers, grew up attending marches for reproductive freedom and identify as third-wave feminists. But the deeper we dove into Houda’s community, the more we realized how much our guidelines for judging women’s liberation and autonomy were informed by the parameters of our culture and experiences. As filmmakers, we believe it’s our job to understand our subjects, and to tell truthful stories about their worlds.

Click here to read the filmmakers’ full statement and to watch a trailer of the film

Egypt’s New President to Pick Woman, Christian VPs

Egypt’s president-elect, Mohamed Morsi, is in the process of putting together a government. Photo from CNN.

from CNN

Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, will appoint a woman as one of his vice presidents and a Christian as another, his policy adviser told CNN.

“For the first time in Egyptian history — not just modern but in all Egyptian history — a woman will take that position,” Ahmed Deif told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday. “And it’s not just a vice president who will represent a certain agenda and sect, but a vice president who is powerful and empowered and will be taking care of critical advising within the presidential Cabinet.”

Click here to read the full article

July 3rd, 2012 at 9:55 am

Global Peace Initiative of Women Convenes Environmental Conference in Kenya

UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner with some of the women religious leaders at the conference Religious and community leaders meet to discuss solutions for sustainable development.

from the United Nations Environmental Programme

Nairobi (Kenya) 2 March 2012. The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW), a non-governmental organization of contemplative leaders based in the United States, held today an environmental conference at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi.

The meeting, entitled Awakening the Healing Heart, focused on how civil society, especially women and religious leaders, can mobilize awareness and action to protect the environment and promote sustainable development.

The challenges facing the environment today has created a new urgency within faith communities to build a global consciousness around sustainable development. An international delegation from the GPIW conference will form part of the inter-faith component attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012.

The meeting brought together over 300 women religious and community leaders, environmentalists and advocates from 28 countries and from all the major faith traditions, including among others H.H. Shinso Ito, head priest of Shinnyo-en, Japan; Reverand Dr. Celestin Musekura, founder of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, Rwanda/USA; Ms. Wang Yongchen, founder of Green Earth Volunteers, China and Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning.

Click here to read the full article

Women Wear Hijabs in Support of Slain Iraqi Woman

by Omar Sacirbey
from the Washington Post

Jean Younis won’t be wearing an Easter bonnet at church this Sunday. Instead, the office manager at Bonita Valley Adventist Church in National City, Calif., will don an Islamic headscarf to support the family and friends of Shaima Alawadi, the Iraqi immigrant and mother of five who died March 24, three days after being beaten in her home in El Cajon, Calif.

“I do expect a reaction, but that’s the point. It needs to be discussed,” said Younis, 59, who predicted that most church members would be supportive or respectfully inquisitive.

She is one of many non-Muslim women to post photos of themselves wearing a headscarf on “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi,” a recently created Facebook Page that had nearly 10,000 likes on Monday (April 2) and hundreds of photos. Others posting on the page have identified themselves as Catholics, Quakers, Mennonites, Jews, Pagans, and atheists.

Click here to read the full article

A Sermon for Water

by Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, and Susan Barnett
from Huffington Post

We don’t honor God when 4,500 children die every day — but they do — from the lack of something so simple, each of us takes it for granted: a safe glass of water.

Four thousand five hundred children — that’s one every 20 seconds, a little life extinguished.

While the last couple of years have seen an increase in awareness about the global water crisis, it’s still the No. 1 killer of children around the globe. Safe water and sanitation remains the greatest under-recognized global humanitarian crisis we face and its impact is staggering. It’s the world’s dirty secret.

Almost a billion people do not have access to safe water globally and 2.5 billion lack the dignity of basic sanitation. This lack of access translates into more stunning numbers:

    • 50 percent of all malnutrition is due to the lack of safe water and sanitation
    • As is 80 percent of all disease
    • Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled by patients suffering from water-borne diseases
    • This leading killer of children under five kills more children than malaria, AIDS and TB combined
    • The result is a catastrophic 2 million, mostly preventable deaths, every year.

We fight malaria but poor sanitation increases breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. We spend millions making sure HIV/AIDS patients get the anti-retroviral drugs they need, but they take these drugs with disease-ridden water.

Current U.S. funding for water and sanitation development amounts to less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the federal budget. Yet for every dollar invested, there’s an economic return of $8.

With all the good work the faiths do, from malnutrition to malaria, it’s all being undercut by the overarching absence of clean water and sanitation. Not prioritizing the global water crisis defies logic. It prevents productivity, increases poverty and inequality for women.

Click here to read the full article

My Female Faith Hero: Ms. Fatuma Gebril

by Katie Taylor
from the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty.

Ms. Fatima Gerbil knows from personal experience the challenges children in her community face. As a child Fatuma became an orphan, and as she grew older, she began to understand more and more the personal burden carried by parentless children.

In 2003, she started the Community-Based Child Support Program, directed at both Christians and Muslims, in Bahirdar, Ethopia, which began with 87 children. Fatuma’s program focuses on educational and psychological support, as well as developing life- skills. An important part of her advocacy efforts is encouraging schools to provide financial support for orphaned children who cannot afford school fees. These include children who have lost one parent, those who have lost both parents, and those who are in living in great poverty. For children who have lost only one parent, Fatuma works to support that family financially and emotionally. For children who have lost both parents, they look for relatives, and support the family once the child is taken in.

What I find most inspirational about Fatuma‘s story was not only her passion for helping children in her community but how she is willing to try anything to improve the lives of these children. This includes leveraging religious leaders to support her cause, and she has an excellent working relationship with the imams as well as with other government and community leaders.

Fatuma also believes Imams can play a great role in eliminating harmful traditional practices such as child marriage. Imams are highly heard in the mosque. So if they speak out boldly on these harmful traditional practices, it will be easy to bring about the desired change.

Fatuma has become talented at leveraging religious institutions to support her initiatives. Thanks to her efforts, at the ritual Muslim engagement ceremony, it is now established practice for the couple to be asked, in private, if they love each other. The man will also be asked if he understands the woman’s rights. Fatuma has also established an impressive record of legal interventions in unlawful marriages with underage girls or polygamous arrangements. Her role in the community as the protector of the vulnerable has allowed her to expand her advocacy and she looks forward to establishing her programs in new neighborhoods to spread her message of equality.

Katie Taylor is Executive Director of The Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA) CIFA engages and trains leaders from multiple faith traditions to deliver critical development messages and services. These messages link interfaith efforts with those of civil society and governmental campaigns to reduce poverty and disease.

This article is part of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation series: My Female Faith Hero honouring International Women’s Day

Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power

by Harvey H. Guthrie
from Episcopal News, Los Angeles

This is a book by women, addressed to women. This male reviewer is related to it as a visitor is to the House of Representatives: as one not on the floor but in the gallery. I did not, nevertheless, feel at all an unwanted voyeur. The spirit of what is going on makes transparency and openness natural and necessary. It is a hundred and eighty degrees opposite the old boy, insider vs. outsider, secretive, male arena in which my early formation took place. The spirit of what is there is also a hundred and eighty degrees opposite the traditional masculine hierarchical models of leadership and process (to lift a line from page 4).

The editors, all from the United States, came together at the 2009 Parliament of World Religions in Australia, each having been impressed by how that gathering was “bursting with feminine energy,” about how “People everywhere were talking about Earth-based spirituality, the Sacred Feminine, feminine principles, the full inclusion of women, women’s leadership, and the critical global issues facing women and their children.” (Page 3) The book originated in the large “we” of a global gathering, in the global feminine “we” so present in that gathering, and then in the fourfold “we” of the editors, who are a consultant to women’s organizations not currently affiliated with any religion, a pioneer in the interfaith movement and founder of the Listening Center, a Lutheran lay teacher, and an ordained Mahayanna Chan Buddhist nun.

As they reflected on where to go from there in the United States, they saw an opportunity to build a larger field of collaboration and action with bridges of understanding between the many and diverse feminist networks and women’s leadership initiatives including bridges between secular and religious/spiritual initiatives, and to enable a leadership style embodying the deepest feminine wisdom and catalyzing social change through sharing and listening. This led to the founding of Women of Spirit and Faith in 2010, and to a gathering in 2011, the theme of which was The Alchemy of Our Spiritual Leadership: Women Redefining Power. The book points to “a sense of mystery wrapped around the word alchemy, an invitation to surrender to the unknown together and be changed.” (Page 5) The book is an exploration of that mystery, of where it might lead, and of aids to surrendering to it – all based on the concrete experience of women and on the redefining power of the Sacred Feminine.

Click here to read the full article