Oh man. Where do I even start? Women in the World. It’s a summit that I attended a few weeks ago and it was . . . awesome. I could not tear myself away. Speaker after speaker stood up and shared messages that made me think and feel and consider and reconsider the roles women have, what they are capable of, how they present themselves, what they can do, and how they are using their power and influence throughout the world.
I’ve been overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to share everything with all of you, which is why it is only now, nearly 4 weeks later, that I’m sitting down determined to say something. And hopefully over the next several weeks and months I’ll be able to share in more detail some of my thoughts from the pages and pages of notes I scribbled down in the darkened auditorium at Lincoln Center.
Here is a start, snippets and fragments from those pages of notes, sprinkled with some brief thoughts of my own.
“A revolution is not just a rifle. It is also a helping hand, a song, a prayer.” — Rania Kasar, founder of Syrian Women’s Revolution Committee. Obviously she was talking about the situation in Syria, but this idea has come up a couple of times in my life since then: the bold thing to do is to be compassionate, to turn the other cheek, to reach out instead of turning away.
So many people spoke of “making a difference,” but can we be more specific? Can we talk about how we are helping those in need, or of what need we are trying to fill?
Some thoughts from Hillary Clinton and Christine Legarde:
-Equality between the sexes means stability and security throughout the world.
-Take criticism seriously, but not personally.
-Hillary observed that women are often hesitant to take on new roles or to step into bigger ones. She made it sound like that was keeping women from achieving, but I wondered if that is an unrecognized strength women have — it’s not necessarily self-doubt, but might be a means of building relationships and developing a team.
-Don’t cry, strategize.
From a panel on Women and the Arab Spring:
-”To cook the food well, you need a fire up and down,” — up is the state, down is the people, the food is a stable society.
-When women speak up, they are subject to personal attacks. The solution is education so that they can change the dialogue.
-Jon Stewart (who moderated this discussion) observed that we are very impatient for change in the Middle East, but already change is progressing at an unheard of rate. The US claimed equality, but took 100 years to free the slaves.
In Rwanda, women are having to re-integrate the society to include both the perpetrators and the victims of genocide. In addition to learning how to forgive, they are working toward reconciliation and re-educating the perpetrators — even taking them into their homes and treating them as their sons in some cases. Revenge is not an option.
“Empowering women liberates humanity.”
A woman from Britain shared the story of how her son became an extremist and was arrested and is imprisoned on terrorism charges. (He was considering suicide-bombing a mall, but was arrested beforehand.) She said that he genuinely felt a lot of pain for the Palestinian people, but he didn’t have the tools or understanding to address his grievances in a constructive way. How much pain and destruction could be prevented if we were able to teach people to deal with their pain constructively?
Ken Burns on Eleanor Roosevelt: She would not have become who she was if she had been made to feel like she was pretty. Her drive to help people was borne of her experience as a child in which her mom was very vocal about her disappointment with Eleanor’s looks, but loved it when Eleanor brushed her hair. Eleanor felt that if she could be of use to someone else, she could be loveable. I have so much to say about this topic — beauty and feeling loveable — that I will undoubtedly be writing more on it later.
Maternal mortality throughout the world: in poor countries, the problem is getting women to medical care. Sometimes they have been on the road for days, trying to get to a hospital, and by the time they get there, it’s too late. But in the US, the problem is that women are arriving to pregnancy sicker. They have chronic conditions, are obese, etc. And the pregnancy needs to be co-ordinated with efforts to get the mother healthy. The focus right now is on outcomes for the baby, when there needs to be more concern for the mother’s overall health as well.
“Run towards fear.” Fear is what happens to people before they get into action. Once they are acting, the fear disappears.
Okay, that’s all for now . . . I’ve still got plenty more to share, hopefully in the next couple of days. Let me know if there is anything that piques your interest and we can start a discussion!