Moving the Idea Forward
In January 2003, Brazil hosted the World Social Forum. There the newly elected populist President announced that he was creating a new cabinet level department on women, and he named a feminist as the first minister. Stephanie Hiller, editor of Awakened Woman, attended the Forum and came back from it to share this with Jean Shinoda Bolen. Jean was inspired by the idea that Brazil under this new administration might be ideal and open to becoming the host country for a 5th U.N. NGO World Conference on Women, and discussed this with the MC conveners. Ann Smith called Angela Weber in Salvador who had helped organize an international Anglican conference in Salvador, and found Angela willing and able to get the support of the mayor of the city of Salvador and the governor of the state of Bahia. Angela talked with the minister of women's affairs and found her receptive to Brazil becoming the host country.
She and Jean brought this message to the first Gather the Women Congress in San Francisco in October 2003, where a petition was signed by the international representation that was at the congress, and later taken to the UN where it was received by the Secretary General Kofi Annan's office.
www.5wwc.org is born
The need for a Fifth international women's conference gathered support and momentum at the 2003 Gather the Women Congress. How to influence the upcoming UN CSW meetings in March 2004 was the question. A small strategy group of Americans and Canadians got together at the end of GTW, several of whom continued the conversation via conference calls. The idea emerged to have a representative (Clare Peterson from Canada) go to the UN as an NGO delegate with the information that there was grassroots support for a 5th world conference, and that Brazil could be the site. The idea was to have an information packet for all of the official delegations to the UN CSW and have flyers to distribute to others at the CSW meetings. We needed to have a website presence in order to do this effectively.
The core group (Penny McManigal, Carol Hansen Grey, Ann Smith, Clare Peterson, Jean Bolen, Donna Goodman) pitched in to name the site, register the domain name, design, deliver and distribute flyers and write text for the website. Carol Hansen Grey worked with Allan Saxon to design and host the website. Penny McMannigal collaborated with Carol Hansen Grey to design the logo (shown at the right). Once at the UN, Clare was helped by Joan Whitacre and Ann Smith to get the message to delegations and to NGO representatives.
Circles with a Spiritual Center at the UN
A reason for the initial visit of the Millionth Circle conveners to the UN was that one of the goals envisioned by Millionth Circle in its intention statement is to seed the idea of circles with a spiritual center at the United Nations. Circles are a source of support and an antidote to burn out. Loss of meaning, indifference, and even cynicism in formerly idealistic and caring women is an occupational hazard. It comes from overwork and frustration, trying to help people on one hand, and deal with indifference or incompetency or lack of funds on the other. Women's NGOs are on the front line, trying to alleviate suffering caused by wars, famine, and exploitation of women and children. A circle of women is a nurturing and sustaining resource that can become a spiritual and psychological wellspring that is tapped into whenever the circle meets.
5WWC as a Grassroots influence on the UN
The continuing purpose of 5WWC is to support the idea and influence the United Nations to hold a 5th UN International Conference for Women by encouraging women who want a 5th conference to become involved in making it happen by providing information, helping to lobby within existing levels of government, facillitating collaborative efforts, and organizing a petition drive to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Economic and Social Council to which the CSW reports, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Listen to an excerpt of a Millionth Circle conference call where Elly Pradervand of Geneva, Switzerland, expresses her enthusiasm for a 5th Women's World Conference and suggesting the possibility of it being hosted by Switzerland.