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International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women Action Plan

General Assembly 2009 Event 5017

Linda Lu Burciaga, president of the Unitarian Universalists Women’s Federation (UUWF), kicked off this session by introducing Barbara Beach. Barbara is chair of the International Convocation of UU Women (ICUUW), which was held in Houston Texas from February 26 through March 1, 2009. The purpose of the Convocation was to create a tapestry of women’s lives and to decide on global women’s issues to move forward and focus on. Attending were 600 women attending from 18 different countries and 37 different states. At the end of the Convocation, the top three issues that the assembled group agreed to work on going forward were:

  1. access to education,
  2. violence against women, and
  3. health and reproductive rights.  

In addition to the South West UU Women (SWUUW), this Convocation was sponsored by many groups including, UU Women’s Federation, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), UU Office of International Resources, Women and Religion. Internationally, many groups supported the coalition including ones from Philippines, Northeast India, Transylvania and South Africa. There was an outpouring of personal financial support from women all over as well.

Rev. Carol Huston, from the Community Unitarian Church of White Plains, thanked all who put on the Convocation, and used the word “miracle” for how it all came together. An example of the multi-generational attendance is that 21 pairs of mothers and daughters attended. Huston talked about some of the events that have happened since the Convocation. Women in New England have already come together, an ambitious gathering. Women in Austin, Texas, came together for gathering and dinner, in order to share ideas. Global Sisters in Belgium have come together and are working through Facebook, to come together electronically, but will soon come together face-to-face. Metro New York District UUs conducted a workshop at their spring meeting, to report out on what happened at the Convocation. At this Metro NY meeting, there was a workshop already scheduled through the UU Women’s Federation to inform the District on details about what the UU Women’s Federation is all about.   

Laura Nagel, administrator of ICUUW, spoke next. She said that, in the planning process, she wondered whether women would connect, but that indeed connection did happen at the Convocation. The ICUUW made a presentation to the UUA Board, just prior to General Assembly 2009. Laura said they experienced, at this meeting, unanimous adoption of their proposals and support of this work from the UUA Board.

Cathy Cordes, Executive Director of the UU Partner Church Council, spoke next, and said that at the conclusion of the Convocation, it was one of the most energetic highs she has been on in a long time. It was organized and designed for participants to take care of themselves, eat together, view art together and do their work together. She had the participants thank Laura since it started as a little idea and Laura took it and made it happen, with support from many others.

A process was devised for Global Sisters to get to know each other. They assigned everyone to Global Sisters groups, which were organized around process. In four short sessions they went from brainstorming to action plans. Some of the tools have been developed by the UU Partner Church Council, and are used with partners to get them to work together in right relationship. The purpose of the Convocation was to decide which issues they would move forwardwith action plans, after they left the Convocation.

On the first night, participants introduced each other and brainstormed issues that are important for women. Twenty groups of women developed lists. At the end of the evening, the facilitators of the twenty groups got together and synthesized the lists into a manageable number. Using a tool called pair-wise ranking wherein you only talk about 2 issues at a time, you then rank them. They then demonstrated the process in groups of 10 for only 10 minutes, to show how easy the process is. Overheard during the process was “Of those two issues, X and Y, what would you work on first?”

All in all, there was a lot of excitement in the room for the work done at the Convocation. It was great to practice the tools “live” during the session and to hear some of the actions already happening as a result of the Convocation.  The UU Partner Church Council (UUPCC) has offered to come to districts and run capacity-building workshops, similar to the process that the women used at the Convocation.

Reported by Sally Russell; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

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