“To me, spirituality is ultimately about seeing our Source — no matter what we each call It — as the same. It also involves acting on our responsibility to help others, especially those who are less fortunate. We must each do something to improve the world, even if it’s only that we pick up a piece of paper on the street.” — Zainab Salbi, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
On July 2, 2010, after 15+ years of proposing, petitioning, and planning, the United Nations General Assembly merged four of its existing organizations to create UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. UN Women will work to: eliminate discrimination against women and girls; empower women socially, economically, and politically; and give women equal voice in peace and security issues. Human rights, education, health care, eliminating poverty and violence against women and girls are a priority. (www.unwomen.org/facts-figures/)
In 2002, I traveled to Geneva as a delegate of The Global Peace Initiative of Women, a gathering sponsored, in part, by the UN, that brought women religious and spiritual leaders from 70 countries together to explore how women could actively influence the peace process. (www.gpiw.org) It was the first time in the history of the world women gathered with this intent. Being with these women — hearing their stories, looking into their eyes — moved me beyond description. I had a personal experience of global sisterhood.
About the same time I was in Geneva,
researchers at UCLA were conducting groundbreaking research into the friendships of women. Besides the social and emotional benefits they provide, scientists discovered womens’ friendships actually help us counteract stress. Previous research — limited only to male subjects — concluded that stress triggers a cascade of the male hormone testosterone and causes a “fight or flight response.” The UCLA study demonstrated women respond to stress differently then men; we release the hormone oxytocin which buffers the “fight or flight” response and encourages us to “tend and befriend.” Once the “tend and befriend response” is in play, additional oxytocin is released that produces a prolonged calming effect. Additional studies confirm that social ties reduce the risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. In other words, our friends help us live.
Like me, you may not being a religious leader, a policy advocate, or nonprofit entity; you may not be a woman of means, a woman of position or influence or fame who can use her gifts to call attention to the suffering many of our global sisters endure. But you can help further the efforts of the impassioned women who are making waves by creating meaningful friendships with good women, and with women in need.
The following organizations offer programs that connect women like us to other women. Check them out. Open your heart. Tend and befriend. Help us all to live better lives.
www.5wwc.org – 5th United Nations International Conference on Women
www.eomega.org – Omega Institute, Women and Power Conference
www.gatherthewomen.org – Gather the Women Global Matrix
www.millionthcircle.org – Jean Shinoda Bolen’s work
www.peacexpeace.org – Peace activities around the world
www.SAIV.net – Riane Eisler’s Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence
www.womenforwomen.org – Zainab Salbi’s Women for Women International