Women at the 2015 Parliament
The Inaugural Women’s Assembly and Program Initiative for Global Advancement
When women face discrimination and persecution for their religious and spiritual beliefs, and by their own faith traditions, when their voices are absent in peace talks, and when their dignity and human rights are overshadowed by longstanding, oppressive traditions, one question becomes obvious:
“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.
At the Parliament, Women Spoke First
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.
Major Voices of the Assembly
Mother Maya Tiwari • Terry Tempest Williams • Dr. Vandana Shiva • Dr. Ruth Messinger • Marianne Williamson • Ilyasah Shabazz • Indigenous Grandmothers • Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen • Rev. Phyllis Curott • Diana Butler Bass • Mallika Chopra • Dr. Serene Jones • Dr. Mara Lynn Keller • Charlene Spretnak • Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Faith in Women - The Plenary
Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and global humanitarian hero, selected the Melbourne Parliament in 2009 to state for the first time (and in no uncertain terms) that the world’s religions must be the catalyst to remedy centuries-long oppression of women and girls, and blaze the trail toward real human rights in the world.
“Ain’t Nothin’ Like A Woman!”
- Bishop Barbara King
At the Faith In Women plenary on Friday, October 16th, the Parliament stage continued to spotlight the women rising to this call. Each keynote address escalated the energy in the already-electric room. Parliament Youth Representative to the United Nations, Sara Rahim, commanded the stage as she reflected on her feminist understanding of her Muslim faith, stating confidently that her faith is her call to action. And author and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson brought a clarion call to the plenary with this powerful truth:
“Passionate and free thinking women have never been deeply appreciated by the great religions of the world. Because passionate, free thinking women raise passionate, free thinking children. And passionate, free thinking children grow up to be passionate, free thinking adults. And passionate, free thinking adults are very difficult to manipulate and almost impossible to control.”
“That Kind of Love is Revolutionary...”
- Valarie Kaur
President of the Union Theological Seminary Serene Jones, feminist Hindu environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva, and Sikh activist, lawyer and filmmaker Valarie Kaur each went straight to the heart of why women’s leadership is revolutionary.
Diverse but complementary expressions of women’s equality framed the reading of the Parliament Declaration of the Human Rights and Dignity of Women, which would go on to be a touchstone of the next days of the Women’s Initiative.
“We call upon all religious leaders and adherents to acknowledge and emphasize the positive messages of dignity and equality that the world’s faiths share.
We call upon all religious leaders and adherents to embrace their moral responsibility and collectively commit to ensuring that women are fully and equally involved in decision-making within religions and in every sphere that involves their lives.
We call upon the world’s religions to honor and uphold the dignity, well-being, and human rights of women and girls.
We commit ourselves to this collective undertaking to heal the heart of our humanity by releasing women, girls, men, and boys from the bondage of gender-based discrimination and violence. We do so with hope and with faith in our future.”
Major Speakers of the Faith In Women Plenary
Katie Jo Welch • Audrey Kitagawa, JD • Rabbi Amy Eilberg • Mother Maya Tiwari • Marianne Williamson • Dr. Serene Jones • One Billion Rising • Valarie Kaur • Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb • Bishop Dr. Barbara King • Grandmother Mary Lyons • Sheika Tamara Grey • Dr. Vandana Shiva • Dr. Mara Lynn Keller • Sara Rahim • Rev. Phyllis Curott • Rev. Crystal McCormick & Janaan Hashim, JD (Co-Emcees)