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.

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