A Massive, Successful Project

From August 30 through September 8, 1995, approximately 300 delegates from No Limits for Women attended the NGO Forum on Women, near Beijing, China. Some attended representing other organizations as well. No Limits for Women is a women’s liberation project of the Re-evaluation Counseling* (or Co-Counseling) Communities.

The conference was the largest women’s conference in the history of the world. Thirty-two thousand women from most countries in the world participated. Many of these women came from the developing nations. The Chinese people were marvelous hosts. Thousands of Chinese students and workers worked nonstop for us in order to make this event go well. Attitudes of humility and cooperation permeated the conference. The first day, the streets and highways from Huairou (where the conference was housed) to Beijing were cleared of bikes and autos in order for thousands of women to travel in buses to attend the opening ceremony in the Beijing Workers’ Stadium. Chinese people respectfully stood at the sides of the highway greeting us. Of the many different signs posted about the conference the one that stood out said, “Be Worthy of Being the Host Nation of the Fourth World Women’s Conference.”

The conference itself consisted of attending workshops, meeting in regional or constituency tents, listening to speeches and talks, walking in the rain, buying gifts for friends. Most importantly, the conference was about making new friends, having our perspective changed, and getting a picture of the world’s population of women. Despite some differences and some national divisions, the overwhelming sense of the conference was one of personal openness and unity. Since the International Women’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, ten years ago, the growth of the international women’s movement has been profound. Women from the developing nations, particularly in Africa, were taking their rightful place in the lead. Women’s issues and the battle against sexism were central for women everywhere.  The ideas that all women are oppressed and that basic economic change is absolutely needed to free women from the existing global economy were widely understood, particularly by women from the “Economic South.” All issues pertaining to women were discussed. They included religious fundamentalism, women and politics, women’s health, female reproductive rights, education of girls, poverty, child care, national rivalries, peace, and the global economy. Most important, however, were the relationships that were formed, whether they were in the line to the toilets, in restaurants, on the streets, or at workshops. Women talked together who have never done so, for example, women with veils with women from the West. Lasting friendships were made. No Limits for Women played a good part in assisting these relationships to happen. 

The power of the NGO conference played a crucial role in pressuring the United Nations Conference to finally adopt the most advanced international document on women’s rights in world history. While this document is not binding on any nation, it is symbolic of the power of the women’s movement. (The Vatican decided to back off from its stand on choice, for instance.) It also can and will be used as a vital organizing and educational tool during the next period. 

No Limits for Women had a good international delegation including Co-Counselors from Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Trinidad, the United States and Zimbabwe. We had raised money to go for over a year, both individually and collectively through the No Limits Project.

We all, women and men, did very well. We were able to put into practice what we have learned about organizational forms, building relationships, and handling key issues. Being in China did provide a continual interruption of such Western patterns as individualism, materialism, and arrogance but we were also able to decide to function well together and continually organize ourselves. We used what we know. One of the highlights of the conference was our ability to model “One for All and All for One.” We operated on the basis of putting our common project ahead of individual needs. We were there to make friends, to introduce the tools of Co-Counseling (another name for Re-evaluation Counseling) to women throughout the world, and to learn.

We held at least forty workshops led by outstanding leaders. Workshops included Women’s Health, Internalized Oppression, Family Policies, Women and Leadership, Building Unity, Older and Bolder, and many others. At least l500 to 2000 women attended. In the beginning we recruited people through one-to-one contact and our fliers. By the end our reputation had grown and women just poured into the workshops. We held support groups at two official places at the conference. At the same time we built informal support groups in tents throughout the conference site. We were particularly successful in both the Grassroots Tent and the Youth Tent. I estimate that we led at least a hundred support groups, with some of our youngest members (ten to fourteen years old) actively leading. We did about ten formal introductory lectures in many different languages. We offered translations throughout our activities and were one of the few groups to do so. We sold our literature, distributed position papers on a wide variety of women’s issues, and started some new Re-evaluation Counseling Communities. Many No Limits for Women delegates introduced Co-Counseling on a one-to-one basis. Our women also led non No Limits for Women workshops and some individuals wrote for the NGO Forum daily newspaper. Others faxed home articles to their local papers. Some of our women learned to speak out on issues in a new, unifying way. Several of us met with our national delegations to the United Nations Conference including constituency meetings with the director of the United States official delegation.

We were visibly well-received at the conference itself. We had a reputation of being caring and thoughtful.

At the end of the conference we sponsored a Unity Shabbat service under a tent in the rain. Four hundred people from everywhere joined in a Jewish Sabbath ceremony (many for the first time). Afterwards we said good-bye to each other in many languages.

Each woman made a contribution to the project as a whole. Some were able to organize many people into support groups. One could often walk by a tent and see a No Limits for Women delegate leading a support group in a language she did not understand. Others built networks that will last into the future. One network was created for women using the tools of Co-Counseling in building women’s political organizations. Networks of trade union women, women of African heritage, Latinas, mothers, Jewish women, and raised-poor women were begun. Many women made permanent friends. Some taught those friends Co-Counseling on a one-to-one basis. Some sold literature, some staffed our No Limits for Women room and literature table, some distributed our position papers. Every activity was valuable.

The conference has many implications. We got a picture of what it is like to operate boldly in a collective way. We got a picture of our contribution and potential contribution to the international women’s movement that will take a leading role in world transformation. We learned a lot. There is much more to think about. I encourage all No Limits for Women delegates who went to communicate as much as possible about our experiences and what those experiences will mean for you in the future.

Diane Balser
International Liberation Reference Person for Women

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA 


* Re-evaluation Counseling (also called Co-Counseling) is a process whereby people of all ages and backgrounds can learn how to exchange effective help with each other in order to free themselves from the effects of past distress experiences, including the effects of oppression.  No Limits for Women uses the tools of Re-evaluation Counseling to create a system of ongoing mutual support in which women can help free each other from the emotional harm done by sexism.  It also provides the opportunity to develop fresh and intelligent prospectives on the global and local issues involved in the elimination of sexism/male domination by women and male allies

For more information about Re-evaluation Counseling, see: <https://www.rc.org/page/about>

 

For more information about No Limits for Women see: <https://www.rc.org/publication/foundation/nolimitsmission>


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07