“Where are the women?”

The Parliament Women’s Task Force asked this question and, in doing so, made the interfaith movement the place to find the answer.

The 2015 Parliament invited women to join in shaping our shared future, and the women of the world arrived.

Women of all generations from countries around the world showed up to the Parliament, ready to tackle the topics of women’s ordination, violence against women, women’s empowerment, war, peace, and right relationship with the environment.

They were there speaking out against gender-based violence, racism, and the roles of women in religious leadership. They shared stories of love, loss, and pain, but most importantly, of empowerment.

Indigenous grandmothers shared their wisdom with the interfaith world, and women shared pieces of themselves within the Women’s Sacred Space. They danced spontaneously in the aisles in sisterhood with Sheroes and One Billion Rising and walked hand in hand in a Women’s Silent Walk for Peace.

The assembly proved that women from every corner of the world - representing different faith traditions and religions, spiritual, ethical and indigenous backgrounds - can unite in sisterhood to create a new paradigm of shared leadership, empowering each other and women around the world; to cross delicate intersections, converse on sensitive issues, and share divergent perspectives with respect and commitment to uphold the dignity of everyone.

From Mormon women opening their home, to Muslim women confronting stereotyped views of their religions, to Dalit feminists, Pagan priestesses and female rabbis discussing the “Stained Glass Ceiling,” shared sources of spiritual empowerment emerged over the course of the Parliament.

The ordainment of women is an oft-discussed topic, both in religious circles and outside of them. Amidst this discussion, a clear and consistent thread running through the Parliament’s women’s spaces (and in the presence of men) was to establish a dignity and self-determination for women in their religious experience. No topic was taboo and, while many of the concepts that surfaced at the Parliament were difficult, it was important that women were asked to support each other’s empowerment and respect each other’s individual expressions of feminism.

Special wisdom comes with experience. The presence of the Indigenous Grandmothers (Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere, Grandmother Flordemayo, Grandmother Mary Lyons, Reverend Grandmother Eila Paul, Grandmother Pershali Ami, and Reverend Murshid Devi Tide) in the Inaugural Women’s Assembly and Program Initiative created some of the most transcendent moments. The Grandmothers participated in the blessing and lighting of the Sacred Fire, helped lead the celebration of the Opening Ceremony, and spent the day sharing their life experiences, traditions, and their love with the participants of the Inaugural Women’s Assembly. Prayers for Mother Earth and for her children echoed across the convention center, and their call for love inspired thousands to laugh, dance and share.

The Women’s Sacred Space was the brainchild of the Women’s Task Force, led by Vice-Chair of the Board, Phyllis Curott. The room was created to serve as a unique space in which women could gather for prayer, conversation, meditation, and to share with each other the experiences of the Parliament. The Red Tent Movement, which aims to create the cultural and structural change needed to empower women, raised over $5,000 to bring the Red Tent to the Parliament. Together with the Women’s Task Force, the Red Tent became a center of calm amidst the energy of the Salt Palace, where women participated in panels, presentations, dances, conversations, meditation and even naps! One of the most moving arms of the women’s initiative came with no words from Elana Rozenman, an Israeli Jew and the Executive Director of TRUST– Emun who organized a Women’s Silent Walk for Peace.

The vision of the Inaugural Women’s Assembly was to:

• Address the responsibility of the world’s religions to uphold women’s dignity and human rights.

• Share sources of religious and spiritual inspiration for women’s empowerment.

The Faith In Women Program Initiative continued throughout the five-day Parliament with speeches, Assembly presentations, workshops, panels, services and interactive performances, making it the most groundbreaking component of the gathering.

• The Assembly fulfilled the vision held by Parliament Vice-Chair Phyllis Curott since the first modern Parliament in 1993 and launched the global initiative for the human rights and spiritual leadership of women.

• Over 3,200 people registered for the Assembly and over 3,500 people participated!

• The Inaugural Women’s Assembly and Program Initiative for the Global Advancement of Women was hosted and organized by the Parliament’s Women’s Task Force with Parliament staff. Generous financial support was provided by the Kalliopeia Foundation, the Rachel and Ben Vaughan Foundation, the Utah legislature and individual contributions to the Parliament’s Global Sisters Fund.