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International seminar examines “gender reconciliation”

International seminar examines “gender reconciliation”

In December 2019, a representative of the Office of Public Affairs participated in an international seminar organized by Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) and the Baha’i International Community Office at the United Nations. The gathering explored the relationship between spiritual transformation and collective social change in the process of advancing gender equality.

Baha'i participants with workshop facilitators: (L-R) Suzanne Kay, Nava Kavelin, Tschika McBean, William Keepin, Cynthia Brix, Laura Friedmann, Saphira Rameshfar, Carl Murrell

The seminar took place within a broader context as this year marks an important milestone for international efforts to advance gender equality around the world. 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). Several forums will take place around the world to discuss progress and set new agendas for action. In March 2020, the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations in New York.

The weekend was designed to create an inviting space to examine the equality of men and women by inviting participants to reflect and share their personal experiences related to gender. Reconciliation in this context is about the recognition that both women and men are afflicted by centuries of injustice and that by bringing these issues to light and confronting them together, we begin to heal and transform these conditions.

The content emphasized the importance of healing in community settings and engaging in “gender reconciliation” in the context of a group. Conversations touched on a variety of themes including how women and men can work together to realize their true potential, and how to redefine masculinity. This space allowed for participants to reflect on the ways in which men and women need each other for mutual transformation.

Laura Friedmann, Media Officer with the Baha’i Community of Canada’s Office of Public Affairs, was one of the seminar participants. She reflected: “Humanity is in a time where women and men need to come together and face these challenges together. The seminar allowed the group to explore gender equality beyond policy and legislation. The facilitators created a unique space by calling to mind the higher aspirations we share as human beings. It became clear that gender equality isn’t only about the advancement of women but about the recognition that we are all souls who require justice and equality in order to advance as a human family.”

The seminar brought together participants from a number of United Nations agencies and Committees and representatives of organizations such as the Better Man Project, Global Goals Podcast, Culture Shift Agency and The ManKind Project. Representatives of the US Baha’i Community and the Baha’i International Community – UN Office also participated.

Ms. Friedmann observed, “There was a good gender balance, especially for an event of this nature where women usually make up the majority of those attending. This made the conversation very dynamic, and allowed for richer and deeper learning among the participants.”