Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Drink a toast to yourself and to all the other women surrounding you

International Women's Day was busy and fun around the ecumenical centre. Elaine Neuenfeldt led morning prayers and told us the story of the women from a village in Mauritania, several of them grandmothers, who trained to become solar engineers. It is a wonderful story of education and empowerment. Why train women rather than men? Because the women will remain in the communities and train others, meaning that the knowledge and transformation are shared and passed on from one generation to the next. To change the village educate a girl or a grandmother. Men would be more likely to leave the village and try to earn money with the new found knowledge.

Then at midday a great impromptu library lunch was held with Father Daniel Groody from Notre Dame University, his theme was migration as a theological method - I'll come back to some of the reflections and discussion around the observations he shared in a later post. For now suffice us to say that it made for a really invigorating lunchbreak with good theological and intellectual stimulation.

In the late afternoon and early evening the World YWCA hosted a wonderful laid back and welcoming reception to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. It was the first time this year that I went out in the afternoon without my coat on, the sun was shining, the spring flowers covered the grass in front of the World YWCA building in a profusion of pink and it was quite simply a glorious sunny time. Here was an opportunity to network, to chat, to laugh, all presided over with enormous grace, good humour and aplomb by Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda the YW's general secretary. At one stage she got us to go around the room and simply say our names and one word which describes us - the words were many and the one chosen most often (by myself and by Nyaradzayi as well!) was "passion". A good word with which to enter Lent!
Nyaradzayi also got us to toast ourselves, to affirm ourselves as unique women and to toast the women on either side of us. It was time out, time to celebrate women's achievements over the past 100 years, time to look forward to what still needs to be done. It was also time to share stories of our work and lives- from the recent UN Status of Women meeting, to receive gentle greetings from around the world "this is my first international women's day outside my own country", to affirm inter-generational learning, to smile and share news and gossip. It was WONDERFUL!
And then I spent the evening with three very beautiful, very intelligent, very lovely female friends and got home not too long after midnight ...