Lauren Oliver and Ann Smith co-facilitated Circles Empowering Rural Women and Girls for a Sustainable Future workshop, held March 15th at the Armenian Center in New York City.
We put on the floor in the center of the circle a scarf from India, the Native American sacred hoop, 5WCW India 2022 buttons and other sacred objects making a beautiful and meaningful altar. The room was more oblong than square so our circle reaching to all four walls became an oblong circle. Every chair was filled by a woman leader and one ten-year old girl, who with her mother, was one of the presenters.
We opened the circle by Ginny Doctor from the Mohawk Nation giving a blessing. She talked about the power of circle, the sacred hoop, the talking stick and the importance of bringing back Indigenous ways that have sustained people for thousands of years.
She then passed the talking stick to Erin Toppenberg and her daughter Hudsyn for their incredible work creating the WaterBearers organization that allows for women who have access to clean water to give money to their non-profit organization so they can give water filters to those who don’t. These filters are simple to install so don’t need an engineer and women and girls like Hudsyn can teach others especially in remote areas. They had just returned doing this in the Amazon in Ecuador.
They then passed the talking stick to Pam Rajput who as a national leader of India serves as chair of the National Committee on the Status of Women committee on the Status of Women. Her CSW report tells of thousands of women in rural areas who are saving trees, bringing clean water to their communities and using indigenous seeds for good farming practices.
She passed the talking stick to Irene Kizito from Kenya who worked with the YWCA bringing clean water to areas where the women had to walk great distances to get it. She will work with WaterBearers to get water filters to Kenya. Ginny also will work with WaterBearers to get water filters to her people in Canada and the United States who don’t have access to clean water.
The talking stick was then passed to Arati Patel, President of Earth Child Institute (ECI), who was the sponsor of our workshop along with Millionth Circle, Circle Connections and CirclesWork. ECI brings children and youth to the United Nations so their voices are heard and they are part of finding solutions to ecological challenges. It is a global UNNGO with UN Consultative Status. They have many water and tree planting projects worldwide. http://www.earthchildinstitute.org
Everyone self-select into small circles of six women each: Indigenous with Ginny, WaterBearers with Erin and Hudsyn, Pam for India, Irene for Africa, Arati for ECI, and Lauren for circle information.
The hour and a half time period wasn’t enough and it still worked beautifully. Every voice was heard, everyone was now connected so they could continue the conversation, networking and resource sharing. We closed in one big circle ending with holding hands and singing songs. We were a joy-filled circle of women and one girl leader. Those who already knew and loved circle were gladdened to be in circle. Those who this was their first time loved being in a circle and were excited to start a circle back home. Irene is planning on using the circle model to start a community organization in rural Kenya.
Millionth Circle Conveners provide resources, coaching and ongoing support to all who want to start a circle and circle organizations.