By Kira Andersen and Malene Maxon, Denmark
Denmark, April 2015
For the third consecutive year, Feminenza and Oesthuset, a youth and women’s center in Denmark working with projects, events and activities for children, youth and their parents, hosted the Sisters of the World conference. This annual event is an opportunity for women to meet and discuss important issues relevant to their communities. This year the focus was on forgiveness, specifically the importance of understanding.
Without understanding the nature and ways of our common humanity, forgiveness has no soil in which to grow The conference is supported by local community leaders. Kira Andersen, project leader at Oesthuset, and one of the conference organizers, stated, “recently a local priest said that he has noticed that the work we do with the women in the area has a positive effect and impact upon their children, their families and society as a whole. He feels that it is vitally important to continue to focus on what we share, rather than what separates us.” As part of the program, Feminenza CEO Mary Noble gave the keynote speech titled: “Without understanding the nature and ways of our common humanity, forgiveness has no soil in which to grow.”
Conflicts are on the rise across the globe. Reports of rising violence and abuse are commonplace. Countries including Denmark share in the deep effects of violence on families, friends and colleagues, even ourselves. With a focus on forgiveness and reconciliation, participants of the conference asked, "How to best handle these experiences? Can we learn to forgive? Can the past be reconciled?"
Sixty-five women and their families were present for the day. These women came from several different countries such as: Denmark, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Turkey. Translators were available to encourage participation from all attendees. Meeting other women from all different countries was a unique opportunity for many of the participants and their families. One workshop included presentations, practical exercises and lively discussions about issues facing women who are displaced from their family and country. One important topic discussed in this workshop included the role of forgiveness where family members are suffering, but are separated by great distances. The discussion generated no final answers, but by talking through this issue as a group, women came up with strategies that could help in their own lives, and the lives of their families, now and in the future. One lady said, “I feel strengthened by being with other ladies who face the same issues as me”. Another lady reflected, “The most important aspect for me is to feel the warmth of sisterhood that was present here today – that helps to heal some of the wounds inside me”.
Inclusivity and cooperation were key aspects of the conference. Mothers with young children were allowed to join the meetings through a ‘babysitting club’ which older daughters of the Feminenza team organized. The lunch became a shared feast with contributions from several attendees. The day was inspirational and strengthening for all who attended. The shared experience of being human was a strong element throughout the conference. Connecting to the human experience was a starting point for the women to face their many challenges.
The conference also focused on the role women play in forgiveness and reconciliation, either as a mentor, volunteer or individual. By working to understand our shared human experience, the women were able to open up the areas and values that brought them together. One workshop focused on participants working together to identify the three areas of need:
- The need for sustenance and rest
- The need for education and development of personal skills and family dynamics, and
- The need to make deep spiritual connections with ourselves and our families into the future.
After the workshop, participants shared how it affected them. One lady reflected, "I really enjoyed the practical application and found that I was able to connect with all the ladies in the room – we had exactly the same needs.”
As the day came to a close, the following was read out in six languages:
what you feel, others feel;
what you need, others need;
what you long for,
others long for.
This tells us all
to honour our sameness,
and celebrate the richness
of our differences.
(From the Seven Expressions of Humanity, World Copyright © Philosophical Frameworks 2006-2015)
Sisters of the World is an ongoing event. It is also a mindset to actively choose to think of the strong connection all women have to each other as sisters around the world.
Kira Andersen recently published a digital book about ‘Women Days in the East House’ with the captivating story of all those contributing to the Oesthuset activities, through picture and word. Should you be interested in the book you can email to: firstname.lastname@example.org