Adventures and serendipity

The writing prompt is “what is on your mind” and I must say A LOT. Like many people I am on Facebook. Through Facebook I have joined some amazing groups on spirituality, feminism, feminist spirituality, Goddess worship, etc. Through interacting on/with those groups I have met some very interesting people. One of the groups I belong to is Kolo: Women’s Cross Cultural Collaboration started by Danica Anderson (pronounced Danissa).
This week Danica Anderson and the Kolo are putting on a an International Women’s Summit organized by Valley Reed in Dallas, Texas. I am unable to attend the summit due to prior commitments, however, I spoke to both Danica and Valley and asked if there might be time for us to meet in person. They both said yes. Valley generously offered for me to spend the night in her home. So I went thinking we would have lunch and I would come home having met some amazing women. And that did happen. Valley informed me before I left home that there was going to be an informal dinner for the key note speakers and asked if I would like to attend. I, of course, said YES!
When I arrived and finally met Valley in person I felt like I was meeting an old friend. She invited me in and showed me where I would be staying. I settled my stuff while Valley finished up some business. Then we went to lunch at an amazing middle eastern food restaurant. Over lunch she said we would be picking up the key note speakers on our way to the dinner in Arlington. I really didn’t think much of it until Valley said both of the key note speakers were Nobel Peace Prize nominees (!).
One of the keynote speakers is Jolly Grace Okot Andruvile (pronounced Jo-li as in Angelina Jolie). The other keynote speaker is Wahu Kaara . I was feeling a little out of my league! That is until I met both women. We spent an hour in the car just talking. Wahu is a dynamic woman and plans to run for president of Kenya! She is the kind of person that will motivate you to DO SOMETHING, anything to help the earth and women’s place in society. Jolly (she said she does not like the sound of her name in American mouths; Jolly instead of Jo-li. She said this as I was thinking, oooh, Jo-li is such a pretty name.) Jolly is very passionate about helping former female child soldiers find a trade. As the evening goes on I learned that she had been a child soldier and lived in a concentration camp and is a rape survivor.
Once we arrived at the home where the dinner was held I learned that the host is one of the founders of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus and is on the board of directors of South Asia Democracy Watch! He and his wife, Samina Babhai, generously opened their home for this private reception. Many of the founding members of the AMDC were there as well.
Also in attendance were two women who lead the Kolo in Bosnia, Nisveta Džimika Pašić and Susana Koric both survivors of war crimes. Nisveta was a handball champion in the former Yugoslavia and is 78 going on 30! They are also to speak at the International Women’s Summit tonight.
There were so many amazing people there. Both before, during and after dinner the conversation was lively. The discussion was around women’s rights and visibility. How does one hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable? What is justice? How do we help the women and children (female and male) who are victims of rape, abduction and may have been forced into soldiering?
The conversation naturally turned to why do male soldiers feel they can just rape anyone? Danica answered, “I have asked that very question to soldiers. They say, “our job is to soldier their job is sex.”” I am still awe struck by that answer. Where does one start? How do you find a way in to start the conversation of the damage done to women? Jolly had a similar answer. All of the women had stories of assumptions of what their “jobs” were. The Bosnian women told of rape camps and how they survived them. The men were very receptive and open to the voices of the women present and shared stories of the strength of women in their lives and communities.
The topics were intense, but the conversation was lively and respectful and very good-natured. Amazingly there was a lot of laughter.
The group was made up of Muslims, Christians, Spiritual seekers, Shamanic workers and Goddess devotees (there may have been some other belief systems but they were not mentioned). There were people of many nations represented, we did not all agree on every topic and yet the evening was inspiring, joyful and educational.

Kolo meeting