“Contemplations from the Heart: Reflections on Family, Community, and the Divine,” by Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Last summer I had the delightful experience of participating with Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim in a focus group in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr. Mary Ann Beavis, religion professor at St. Thomas More College, facilitated this group of thirteen women reflecting on the ways we integrate the Female Divine into our Christian faith. The stories Grace told of her experiences as a Christian feminist theologian especially impressed me. After our focus group meetings, I asked Grace if I could interview her for my blog, and she graciously agreed. In the following weeks, we had a wonderful email exchange that resulted in this blog story: http://jannaldredgeclanton.com/blog/?p=2055. Grace’s story will also be included in my book She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World (scheduled for publication in the fall of 2014, by Skylight Paths Publishing).

On my blog I have featured three of Dr. Kim’s books: The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology; The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global Intercultural Pneumatology; and Colonialism, Han, and the Transformative Spirit. Recently she has published her fifth book, Contemplations from the Heart: Spiritual Reflections on Family, Community, and the Divine. (https://wipfandstock.com/store/Contemplations_from_the_Heart_Spiritual_Reflections_on_Family_Community_and_the_Divine; http://www.amazon.com/Contemplations-Heart-Spiritual-Reflections-Community/dp/1625645422/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397039624&sr=1-1&keywords=grace+ji+sun+kim)

Here is my endorsement that’s included on the back cover of this new book:Contemplations from the Heart is an impressive blend of compelling personal stories, incisive theological reflection, and prophetic call to action on major social issues of our time. With wisdom and passionate clarity, Dr. Kim demonstrates the intersectionality of racism, sexism, other “isms,” environmental justice,  and economic justice. Her openness and honesty about her own personal challenges invite readers to adopt her practical suggestions for promoting change. I highly recommend this inspiring, transformative, and accessible book for personal devotions and for group study.”

From the beginning of Contemplations from the Heart, Grace’s honest writing about her own struggles engaged my attention. She doesn’t gloss over the challenges of being a working mother in a patriarchal culture that gives her messages that she should feel guilty for not spending enough time with her children. One story she tells is of the criticism she received from friends and family when she accepted an invitation to speak at Myanmar Institute of Theology in Yangon, and took her ten-year-old daughter along. “I have often felt torn between being a good mother and being a reputable scholar,” Grace writes. “I lived with the constant guilt growing from the tension of trying to establish myself as a scholar and trying to be the best mom I can be. I felt criticized by other mothers because teaching or research took so much of my time away from my children. On the other side, the academy often criticized me for bringing a child to a scholarly event. I tried to rationalize that I was not such a terrible mom by remembering how much I was trying to do. I gave birth to two children during my Ph.D. studies. My third child was born while I was searching for a job. I nursed all three children until they were one and I speak in Korean to them as part of sharing as much of my cultural heritage as possible. I drive my children to Korean school, ballet, soccer, basketball, and school events. I even serve home cooked meals as often as I can. Surely that showed that I was not such a terrible mom, but my doubts still lingered.” She goes on to relate that when she in Yangon, she arranged an event for her daughter, Elisabeth, so that Elisabeth wouldn’t be bored listening to her three-hour lecture. But Elisabeth told her she was disappointed because she wanted to hear her lecture. Dr. Kim writes that she then realized that Elisabeth might think she was a wonderful mom. “In my daughter’s eyes, I was the greatest mom in the world, who took her out of school to visit Yangon. I was a fascinating mom who people found interesting enough to come out to hear me speak on a day that the seminary was closed for entrance exams. It was in that moment in Myanmar that I—for the first time—felt whole as a mother and as a scholar. To my daughter, I was not a ‘terrible’ mom. I did not have to live with the internal tension of trying to please either my Asian culture, which expects a good mother to stay home, or the competitive world of theological scholarship, which expects me to continuously contribute to theological discourse. I can be who I am. I traveled half way across the world to realize that I can be both mother and scholar. It does not have to be either/or. All my guilt lifted during that precious moment with my daughter. I have my daughter to thank for this affirmation after struggling to please both sides. She showed me how I can be both scholar and mother at the same time. And Myanmar helped me embrace both the beauty and the struggle inherent in each.”

In Contemplations from the Heart Grace tells stories of overcoming racism as well as sexism. “As an Asian American woman and an immigrant from Korea to Canada to the United states, I have experienced racism,” she writes. “I battle racism on different fronts and try to bring it from the shadows to reveal it as the anti-Christian reality that it is. Racism confronts people of color and produces discrimination, to which the people often react with frustration and anger. Due to racism, it is difficult to join the dominant culture, which exacerbates alienation. Asian Americans feel an invisible boundary that prevents our belonging to the mainstream culture at work, school, or community. Racism and cultural separatism have set up walls that Asian Americans cannot seem to climb. This has been a constant struggle for me and it will remain one as long as a dominant race maintains the abil­ity to hire and promote. Therefore it is necessary that we all work together to remove these barriers by equalizing power among all segments of society.” With passion Dr. Kim expresses her belief that schools need to teach our children about the nature of racism, sexism, and privilege. “Since racism has gone underground after the battles of the 1960s, it must be taught and brought out into the light. If it goes unchecked or unchallenged, it will continue to perpetuate preju­dice, discrimination, and white privilege. This will have negative effects on all of society. This issue needs to be addressed at an early age. Children need to be able to understand, tackle, and overcome this barrier in society. They need heroes and models who look like them, and they need to see them from the very beginning of life. Children must understand their own pride, and the ways racism is an acid that erodes that pride. All races need to see their leaders standing side-by-side, free of discrimination, condemning discrimination, and vilifying discriminators. And, in order to do that, the teachers of children must be taught how to handle this subject. The younger we start adding these important matters to our school curriculum, the better society that we can build. The better society we can maintain, the closer we come to building the reign of God in this world. Let us dream together and envision a society that will accept all people regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender.”

In her new book Rev. Dr. Kim devotes a whole section to “Environmental Concerns.” She expresses her deep convictions about caring for God’s creation, and she challenges faith communities to take actions to sustain the earth. She reflects deeply on the connections between her Christian theology, eco-justice, and economic justice. “Bloated by consumption, we need to develop a new perspective on our living and our planet rooted in how God calls us to live. Our environmental habits lead us to destruction. We must recognize the terrible path we are on, so we can find a new way to preserve the wealth of our planet instead of leaving a barren desert for our posterity. Climate change deepens the injustice between rich and poor. The rich can grow richer from exploitation and move their residence to the most desirable climate. The poor are stuck where they are, where the means of creating wealth disap­pear. Unjust distribution of resources and goods leads to unhealthy ways of living that include overuse of goods, misuse of natural resources, and pollution. Faith communities need to join together to act immediately if eco-justice is to be achieved. The word oikos (Greek for “house”), which is the base of the word ecology, is also the linguistic root for economics and ecu­menicity. There is a connection between our domestic economics and our stewardship of the earth’s economics. As we search for just ways of living together, we need to find common ground on economics policies that can guide us to live sustainably and justly on our earth. Economics, ecology, and the­ology need to be tied more closely together, rather than separated as we have done thus far. As we reflect theologically on this problem, and as we find ourselves deeply complicit in the destruction of the environment, we can rethink our understanding of God, creation, and each other, and choose to act justly. By pursuing a deeper level of engagement with biblical sources—an engagement consciously rejecting the interpretive grid of colonial power structures—we can rediscover and begin to live in the power of God’s transforming love. The gospel unequivocally calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as our­selves. We cannot claim to love God yet op­press and neglect our neighbor. Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures equate pursuing economic justice with knowing and serving God. Jesus, whom we are called through the power of God’s spirit to imitate, identified completely with marginalized people and placed serving the poorest people of the world at the very heart of knowing God.”

Here is the publisher’s general description of Contemplations from the Heart: “How do we find God in a world where God often seems to be hidden? How do we love one another and seek social justice? This series of theological and spiritual reflections on family and community helps readers see spirituality in daily life, exploring current issues such as global warming, environment, racism, child rearing, and sexism in relation to the church to offer readers new insights and directions for living as faithful Christians. This book’s brief, daily reflections on universal concerns give voice to what many people feel but struggle to articulate, bringing emotions to the surface to help readers apply theology in their everyday lives. The book’s thirty entries make it ideal for a month of daily personal devotions or group study and discussion.”

Here are several other endorsements of Dr. Kim’s new book: “Grace Ji-Sun Kim should be commended for her sincerity, courage, and thoughtfulness, for her book is a gift to the church. The church is in need of a fresh Asian-American woman’s voice on issues that challenge the church today. What an enjoyable, insightful, and delightful read on the theological reflections that matter to us most—God, family, and community.”—Jesse Jackson Sr., civil rights leader and President of Rainbow PUSH Coalition

“To be human is to be bound to this earth—to its concerns, frustrations, passions, pains, loves, vulnerabilities, and hopes; but to stake all on the claim that the bounds of humanity interplay with the movement of God is to be a theologian. Kim’s reflections on a wide range of subjects are an invitation to think further about what this claim looks like in the turbulence of the ordinary.”—Jason Goroncy, Dean of Studies, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Dunedin, New Zealand



 

 

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The Role of Religion and Culture in the Implementation of UN Millennium Development Goals and Women’s Empowerment

One of the sessions I attended at the UN Commission on the Status of Women explored the role of religion and culture in the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals, especially the goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. All 189 United Nations member states at the time and at least 23 international organizations committed to help achieve these Millennium Development Goals by 2015:

   1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
   2. To achieve universal primary education
   3. To promote gender equality and empowering women
   4. To reduce child mortality rates
   5. To improve maternal health
   6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
   7. To ensure environmental sustainability
   8. To develop a global partnership for development
 

This session on the role of religion and culture focused on the third goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women, but the panelists and others who joined the discussion agreed on the intersection of the eight goals. They agreed that gender equality is vital to achieving the other seven goals.

This session especially captured my attention because of its emphasis on the role of religion and culture in women’s rights. Do religion and culture contribute to the oppression or the empowerment of women? I would answer “both” to this question, and that seemed to be the consensus of participants in this UN session. Most agreed that religions contribute to women’s oppression by failure to include women’s voices, by not giving them equal opportunities for leadership, and by sanctioning inequality through interpretations of their holy books. I was also struck by the commonality of women from Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, and other traditions in finding empowerment through gleaning from their holy books those passages that support women’s rights.

Dr. Abeer Hassoun, pediatric endocrinologist and professor at Columbia University Medical Center

Abeer Hassoun, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist and professor at Columbia University Medical Center, was one of the panelists; she stressed the universality of women’s challenges:“Our problems are universal, whether we are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, black, brown, white. The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined; they are socially determined, changeable, and changing. Although they may be justified as required by culture or religion, these roles vary widely by locality and change over time.”

In her powerful presentation, Dr. Hassoun detailed challenges women face around the world. “Despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate, she stated. “They usually have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, training, and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Discrimination against women and girls—including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities, and harmful traditional practices—remains the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality.”

Dr. Abeer Hassoun, speaking at UN Commission on the Status of Women Event

The other panelists and respondents agreed with Dr. Hassoun that educational and economic empowerment are essential to women’s equality. Religion and culture often play a role in limiting educational opportunities for females. About two thirds of the illiterate adults in the world are female. Educational inequities result in economic injustice; 70% of the poor in the world are women. Religious regulations and practices governing work and family life often contribute to these economic inequities. As women’s economic opportunities increase, they achieve greater self-reliance and lift not only themselves but their whole families and communities out of poverty.

Participants also agreed that the right to reproductive health is another key to women’s empowerment and that religion and culture often contribute to limiting this right. Millions of women worldwide do not have access to contraception, only half of women in developing nations receive the recommended minimum of antenatal care visits, millions of babies are delivered without skilled care, and adolescent childbearing remains at high levels in many regions. “The ability of women to control their own fertility  is absolutely fundamental to women’s empowerment and equality,” said Dr. Hassoun. “When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life.”

This UN session also focused on women’s political empowerment and their role in the stewardship of natural resources. Several speakers indicated that some countries, like Iraq, have women’s rights in their constitutions, but these articles are not fully applied. An Iraqi man stated, “We can’t just leave articles on women’s rights on paper, but we have to put these articles into practice. I do believe that more Iraqi women will take leading political roles in the next fifteen years.” Dr. Hassoun pointed out that “as of January 2013 the average share of women members of parliaments worldwide was just over 20%.” The US is a little under this worldwide average with women comprising only 18.5% of Congress. Environmental sustainability is another of the Millennium Development Goals, and women play a big role in its accomplishment. “Women in developing nations are usually in charge of securing water, food, and fuel and of overseeing family health and diet,” said Dr. Hassoun. “Therefore, they put into immediate practice what they learn about nutrition and preserving the environment and natural resources.”

Rwandan Survivor

One of the most poignant moments in this session was after the presentations during the question and answer time when a woman from Rwanda stood and told a little of her story. Her voice breaking, she told of losing her mother and her whole family in the horrible genocide. She alone in her family survived. Dr. Hassoun, with deep compassion in her voice, responded to this women, “You’re a survivor like every women is.”

Stories I heard throughout the week in New York City impressed me with the great strength and resilience of women not only to survive but also to thrive in the midst of overwhelming challenges. I was inspired to learn of so many ways that women join together for their empowerment and the improvement of their families and communities. Although their religions and cultures may repress them, they find power both within and outside their traditions. Dr. Hassoun, for example, finds empowerment in her Muslim faith. She separates religion and culture, saying that “many of the practices against women attributed to religion are in fact due to culture.” She gives examples of the difference in the status of women in the Kurdish and Arabic parts of Iraq, and the difference in the status of women in Iran and Pakistan; “although they have the same religion, their practices vary widely.”

Dr. Hassoun concluded her presentation with these quotes:

“I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.” Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women

 “Humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to the earth with chains that the other half can soar to the sky?” Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the republic of Turkey

This session on religion and culture, along with the whole week at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, reconfirmed for me Hillary’s Clinton’s powerful statements at the Beijing World Conference on Women: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Dr. Hassoun elaborated on this truth: “Women’s empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and to improved prospects for the next generation.”

 

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Circling the UN Commission on the Status of Women

 

The most profound experiences I had at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) were in circle events as we shared our stories and dreams of a transformed world. These circles provided sacred space for every voice to be heard and for making spiritual connections to empower our social activism.

Ann Landaas Smith & Laurie McCammon, authors of "Enough: The Rise of the Feminine and the Birth of the New Story"

Ann Landaas Smith and Laurie McCammon invited me to join the circle conversations and to envision a “network of networks.” I had connected with Ann through an interview I did with her for my blog, and then with Laurie who co-authored with Ann the soon-to-be-published book Enough: The Rise of the Feminine and the Birth of the New Story, which I endorsed.

The invitation to participate in these circle conversations intrigued me: “Few new models exist to assist the coming together of those who are dedicated to personal and planetary transformation. We believe it is time to invent support systems capable of making us resilient as a community of change makers and promoting the full spectrum of our new paradigm work. We don’t have the answers as to how to do that yet, but believe we can find them together quickly, joyfully, and efficiently. The old models of hierarchy and control do not support a healthy, sustainable world. The new paradigm will be characterized by synergy, collaboration, and mutual aid. These are qualities we naturally demonstrate as circle conveners, and they are part of our compelling vision for the world. Who better than us to help to bring these qualities to a broader world?”

Suzan Nolan, Gather the Women Matrix Convener

Kathe Schaaf, Co-founder Women of Spirit and Faith & Gather the Women

In circles throughout the week in New York City, we talked about ways to bring this new paradigm, this New Story, to the world. It was exciting to connect with visionary women who are taking action to make this new paradigm a reality and who envision ways to expand the New Story throughout the world. We shared our experiences of sacred circles and of building networks of support through groups like Circle Connections, Gather the Women Global Matrix, Women of Spirit and Faith, We Are Enough, New Wineskins Community, and many others. We wove our wisdom together to begin plans for an egalitarian, co-led, co-designed network of networks collective.

Dorothy (Rowdy) Brewick, Gather the Women South Dakota Regional Coordinator

One of the circles was entitled “Remembering the Sacred Heart of Your Activism: An Evening of Prayer, Reflection and Inspiration.” I resonated with this title that expresses my deep belief that spirituality empowers our social activism. The evening of prayers from many faith traditions and circle dialogue inspired our continued commitment to gender equality for the women and girls of the world.

Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, author and co-founder of "The Millionth Circle"

me with members of "The Working Group on Girls"

Another of the circle events began with a panel discussion on “Implementing Women and Girls’ Circles” for progress on the UN Millennium Development Goals. On the panel were Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, author and co-founder of “The Millionth Circle”; Dr. Anele Heiges, Vice President of the International Public Policy Institute;  Dr. Pam Rajput, Chairperson of India’s High Level Commission on the Status of Women; and Julia, Working Group on Girls. Following the panel, the large room of participants divided into small circles. My placement in the room put me in a circle with high school students from “Girls’ Rights are Human Rights: The Working Group on Girls” and a young woman from Afghanistan. It was a great joy to be with these intelligent, articulate young women who expressed great passion for their work as advocates for girls all over the world. The high school students from the US told about partnering with girls’ groups in other countries and raising funds to help support them. The young woman from Afghanistan was eager to hear about ways to support education for girls in her country. I was filled with hope as I listened to these young advocates for human rights.

Indigenous Grandmothers

Another powerful circle event was “Calling all Women and Girl Dreamers!” The invitation was to join this “sacred circle where every voice is heard and supported” and where “we will dream the great dream that we learn to live in harmony with nature and achieve gender equality so that every woman and girl lives in a healthy and sustainable environment.” This large multicultural, multigenerational circle began with indigenous grandmothers’ blessings, co-creating with us a sacred place to voice our dreams. Each girl and woman in the circle expressed her dream for the world. Many of the girls voiced their dreams of peace throughout the world. Others dreamed of educational opportunities for every girl in the world so that she can reach her full potential. Women and girls in the circle voiced dreams for an end to poverty everywhere; for a safe world free of domestic violence, trafficking of girls and women, and all other forms of violence; for the health and sustainability of earth; for all beings to live in harmony; for gender equality throughout the world; for elimination of all forms of oppression and establishment of justice for everyone; for a transformed world where all are freed and empowered to become all we’re created to be in the divine image; for the expansion of cultural norms to include everyone; for all the dreams expressed in this circle to become reality.  We concluded with a blessing of our dreams as we move forward with the support of one another.

Recommended websites: http://www.weareenough.org/; http://circleconnections.com/; http://www.gatherthewomen.org/; http://womenofspiritandfaith.org/; http://www.millionthcircle.org/; http://girlsrights.org/; http://www.ippiun.org/aboutippi.htm; http://www.woman.ch/?hl=en_US;

 

 

 

 

 

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International Women’s Day and Beyond: Women’s Rights in Texas and Around the World


On International Women’s Day, March 8, I attended a wonderful event held in Dallas entitled “Texas Women Inspiring Change.” The following week I participated in other inspiring, amazing events at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. Increasing economic opportunities for women and organizing for change were common themes of the Dallas and New York events. Many voices affirmed the connection between economic justice and gender equality.

March 8: “Texas Women Inspiring Change”

Rosemarie Rieger & Mia M. Dia, reviewing program for "Texas Women Inspiring Change"

Rosemarie Rieger and Mia M. Dia organized and moderated this Dallas event. Rosemarie is co-organizer of North Texas Jobs with Justice, which is part of a nationwide network of labor, community, faith, student, and constituency organizations; she also serves on the Dallas Workers’ Rights Board. Mia founded Women’s Alliance for Leadership to empower LGBTQ women and their allies through community education, career development, advancing leadership skills and providing professional networking opportunities.

Rosemarie Rieger & Mia M. Dia

Rosemarie and Mia gave statistics demonstrating that even after more than 100 years of International Women’s Days, gender inequality persists. Although women are primary breadwinners for 41% of US families, they still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns and for women of color it is even less. Women make up about 2/3 of all minimum wage workers. Mia and Rosemarie then sounded a clear call for women to organize and take action to bring change for gender equality.

President of Texas AFL-CIO, Becky Moeller, also emphasized organizing to promote economic justice for women and for all people. Denechia Powell, who organizes with the Global Climate Convergence, and Aimee-Josiane Twagirumukiza, who has worked with community groups for racial and economic justice, demonstrated the power of using social media in our work for social change.

Music, storytelling, drama, and all the arts empower our social activism by reaching us on the deepest level. MosiacSong, a women’s vocal group, gave a stirring performance of beautiful music. Vanessa Mercado Taylor, Visiting Scholar of Drama at El Centro College, showed the power of storytelling to shape values and cultural norms which drive our actions. She challenged us with these questions: “Which stories are defining our culture? Whose stories are ignored or erased? What are the stories that can help create the world we desire?”

The program concluded with women’s rights activist Sarah Slamen’s passionate challenge to organize to increase our power and to take action for gender equality. I left re-energized to work in solidarity with others for women’s rights, workers’ right, and human rights—they are all connected.

March 10-14, UN Commission on the Status of Women

My week in New York City continued to impress me with the commonality of the challenges women face, the connection between workers’ rights and women’s rights, and the resiliency of women even in the most difficult situations.One of the sessions on economic justice presented a picture of inequities similar to what we saw at the Dallas event. “All over the world the face of poverty is a woman,” said Michele Ozumba, President and CEO of Women’s Funding Network. “Still in 2014, 70% of single mothers even in the US live below poverty level. Women’s economic security is at the heart of gender equality.”

Michele Ozumba

In 1985 the Women’s Funding Network (WFN) was founded, growing out of the movement for women’s equality. This multicultural, interracial network connects and strengthens more than 160 organizations, including the Dallas Women’s Foundation, in 30 countries. The WFN invests in solving critical social issues by bringing together the financial power, influence, and voices of women’s funds to increase resources to support women and girls. “Before 1985, only 3% of philanthropy went to fund women’s organizations, and still only 10% supports women’s organizations,” stated Michele Ozumba. “Gender inequality goes beyond the wage gap. The deeper underpinnings of inequality are cultural norms of gender socialization that still haven’t been cracked in the US, Africa, Afghanistan, India, or anywhere in the world.”

 

Michele Ozumba speaking at UN Commission on the Status of Women Event

Like the Texas women inspiring change, Michele Ozumba urged collective action as the most effective way to bring social change. She expressed urgency and frustration in trying to persuade people to join together for action. “The biggest challenge is silence,” she said. “There is so much chatter trying to silence social movements. In isolation we can’t change things; we have to collaborate. Where is the women’s movement in the 21st century? We need to address the intersection of gender, race, and class in the movement for equality. Not having access to reproductive health is a huge barrier for many women.”

Like the Dallas women’s rights event, this economic justice session at the NY convention stressed using technology to support movement building. Speakers also emphasized education as vital to women’s economic opportunity. Raihana Popalzai, Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Kabul University, lamented that women in Afghanistan can’t find good jobs because it’s still challenging for girls and women to get the education they need. Dr. Yasuko Wachi, Professor at Josai International University in Japan, stressed not only equal education for women but also equal representation of women professors in higher education. “Women around the world face similar challenges to achieving equality,” she said. “There is no nation, government, or society that treats women as equal to men. We’ve made progress, but not sustainable results. Traditional cultural values undermine women’s equality.”

Rallying Cry Heard Around the World

The rallying cry I heard ring out from the voices of women in Texas and New York and around the world is to join together to claim our collective power and to take action for economic justice and for equal rights in all areas.

Check out these websites: http://wrbdallas.blogspot.com/; http://www.internationalwomensday.com/; http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw58-2014; http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/

 More to come on the UN Commission on the Status of Women

 

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“Enough: The Rise of the Feminine and the Birth of the New Story,” Guest Blog Article by Ann Landaas Smith, Co-Founder and Director of Circle Connections

Ann Landaas Smith

Ann Smith, Co-Founder and Director of Circle Connections: Circles Connecting for Peace and Justice, has served as the director of Women in Mission and Ministry, Episcopal Church USA. With Jean Shinoda Bolen and other women, Ann co-founded the Millionth Circle Initiative. Ann has worked around the world with the United Nations, women’s organizations, and local groups using Circle Principles. She co-edited Women’s Uncommon Prayers and co-authored Stories from the Circle and Women Prints. With Laurie McCammon, Ann has recently launched an exciting, visionary program called “Enough” with an accompanying book, Enough: The Rise of the Feminine and the Birth of the New Story. In this guest blog she tells the story of the birthing of this new program and book, and her amazing visions for “Enough.” (www.weareenough.org; www.circleconnections.com)

“On Epiphany, January 12, 2014, I had an epiphany that I could leave behind work that was causing stress, and free myself to follow my heart as a co-creator of the New Story.  As I move between the two worlds, the world as it is and the world as it was meant to be, the New Story, I will continue to make choices that free me from old story entrapments.  I will listen deeply to God’s call by and pay attention to what is showing up. When I made the choice to leave something I loved but felt I could not make the changes needed to live into the New Story, my feelings of anguish that had been plaguing me soon dissipated and the song that ran in my head was Born Free.  All the “coulds,” “shoulds,” and “should nots” were transformed into “yes I can” and “yes I will.” Animals that had been missing around my home now showed up, such as a snake by my hammock when I was reading and an owl in my backyard tree. The January full moon reading and the Chinese New Year confirmed that I was on the right path and my new work to tell people about the New Story was beginning. This is the Chinese year of the horse and I am ready to gallop.

For forty years I have worked for women’s empowerment with the dream that our leadership will bring about real change.  I have worked in the secular, religious, and spiritual women’s movements with the desire to unite efforts.  The leadership programs we co-created were excellent and the women all felt empowered but something was missing in unleashing our potential to become the change we wanted to see happen.  Religious, political, and cultural messages that state we are not good enough continued to be internal blocks. We hear these messages daily especially on television and in women’s magazines that promote products, services, resources, programs, that claim by having them we will be improved. But they are never-enough messages for buying more and waiting for others. These never-enough messages keep us victims to patriarchy that is man-made and not in harmony with nature, keeping us separate from nature instead of part of nature. We continue to experience God as male in our churches excluding the Divine Feminine that is needed to bring balance in our humanity. We long for the words, images, and ceremonies that feed us intellectually and spiritually as women, whole and changing.

When I met with Laurie McCammon in the fall of 2012 in Maine, she talked about an Enough phrase as an alternative to the never enough messages. Her words about Enough resonated deep within me, and I knew this was the answer to what has held us back from claiming our power here and now. The more we talked about Enough, the more we knew this was the key to unlock the consciousness for us to become our Enough selves and ignite the global women’s movement. Together we wrote the Enough book, Enough: The Rise of the Feminine and the Birth of the New Story. Jean Shinoda Bolen states in the Foreword: There is a growing shift in consciousness which recognizes that peace and sustainability depend upon women and this new consciousness is arising through women and men who are contributing to a potential paradigm shift: a “New Story” supported by the principles of Enough.

We believe you will step into your full potential when you read Enough and gather in circle to discuss and co-create the New Story.

I Am Enough. I have the skills, talents, wisdom, ideas and heart the world needs.

I Have Enough. I have more than I think I have, enough to share, enough to shine.

We Are Enough. I don’t need to do it alone any more. Together we are capable and strong. 

We Have Enough. By pooling our talents, power, passions and resources, we ensure our security and expoentialize our capacity to bring about real change. 

Enough! Together, we stand in our power to claim our stake in a future which accurately reflects our dreams and values. 

Along with our book Enough, we will offer We Are Enough leadership programs where women and girls in their community can come together to pool their talents, power, passions and resources, becoming “solutionaries” both locally and globally.

We will work with all who want to co-create a network of support for a more beautiful, healthy, sustainable and peace-filled world that is in harmony with nature. We will help weave together the secular, religious, and spiritual women’s movements. We will support all people who want to bring in the New Story.

We know there is a deep hunger to protect our planet for future generations. We know both women and men are embracing the Divine Feminine within themselves, one another and Mother Earth. We are part of the conversations for unifying a women’s movement that will become unstoppable. We know we have the desire, the common vision of Oneness, and the resources to become the change we want to see happen locally and globally. We know women and men are contributing to a nature-centered consciousness that is both higher and deeper.    

We are healing divisions and will continue so all who want to step into the new are welcome and supported. We have the heart to lead and co-create circles where all are leaders. We leave patriarchal structures behind and co-create leader-full circles where everyone is valued and shares the resources and power. Each one’s gifts, talents, skills, resources, dreams, passions are listened to, valued and become part of the whole.

We know that with each circle formed we are one step closer to the “millionth circle,” the tipping point for bringing in the New Story.

We know We Are Enough. We will listen to the Universe and watch for signs as we discern together what’s next for us.

In my 71st year as a spiritual being on a human path I believe:

I believe we are Enough to protect and preserve Earth so that there is Enough for all creation to live in abundance and sustainability.

I believe we are unlimited in our abilities to dream and make our dreams come true.

We are Enough.

I believe everyone who is awake has a dream or, like me, many dreams. We just need to believe we are Enough.

I believe you the reader are Enough and by reading Enough will say yes to being a co-creator of the New Story.

I believe that by doing the inner and outer work individually and collectively we become “solutionaries” and co-creators of a beautiful world now and forever more. 

Namaste!!!  Ann Landaas Smith”

www.weareenough.,org and www.circleconnections.com  

 

 

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