Young Women and Young Adult Women in Huairou

There were 300 Co-Counselors who went with the No Limits Project to the Women's Conference in Beijing. About thirty of us were young people and young adults. We were able to have an impact on young women's issues.

We met as young women Co-Counselors (and three young men) five times during the Conference to discharge and strategize. People did an excellent job of going to workshops and putting out policy about young people's oppression and the centrality of young women's liberation. Many of us spent a good amount of time in the "youth tent" doing introductory lectures and running support groups. People were eager for both. I came back reminded of how fundamental the discharge process is to ending oppressive systems. The work all of us in RC had done before the Conference in understanding issues around all oppressions and understanding the goodness of human beings made us one of the most efficient and effective groups there.

The youth tent was in charge of planning what was originally supposed to be ten minutes, and what ultimately became an hour, of the closing ceremony. There was a group of us RC young women that worked together as a team. We were able to change the tone of the closing ceremony presentation from one that focused on being angry with adults for not including young women more thoroughly, to one that celebrated our power and invited adults to join us.

We led three workshops at the Conference, the largest of which had eighty participants. At all three we shared basic Co-Counseling information. One was called "Organizing Skills for Women Under Thirty." At that workshop we shared the Wygelian meeting format and the support group format and basic information about news and goods and appreciations. We also emphasized that caring about each other is the basis of building a unified young women's movement. People loved it. They said it was the only workshop they went to where they got to hear about other women and share about their own lives. At another workshop we did, called "Organizing Young Women Internationally," we did a panel with young women from five different countries who talked about their experiences. At one point we almost had a fight when one Arabic woman got up to talk about men in her country and the way women were treated. Lots of feelings came up for the women who were there, and we got to think about how to handle that. It was very interesting and challenging for us.

At the conference there were about 2,000 Chinese young people wearing yellow shirts. They were there either as translators or workers. Most of them were eager to be friends. Joanna Goode, a young woman from Maine, and a few other Co-Counselors did an excellent job building long-term friendships with a group of about twenty-five Chinese young people. Chris Austill and I did introductory lectures for the young women and young men in the group. There were mini-sessions and demonstrations, a discussion about equal rights for women, and singing and dancing.

I would say there were about 400 or 500 young women who got some direct information about RC or were involved in a support group or an RC-led workshop at the Conference.

Cherie Brown and Diane Balser had some connections with the woman who was second-in-charge of the United States delegation to the UN conference. I asked her if she would be interested in hearing from young US women about what issues they wanted to have addressed at the Conference, and she said yes. At our first meeting, we had fifty young US women meeting in small groups doing "think and listens" about young women's issues in the US. From that we developed a position paper, which is now being published in Sojourner magazine and two other national women's newspapers.

On the second-to-last day of the Conference, a group of us helped to organize a huge rights march. We made banners and got about 250 young women to walk around the Conference site singing songs and celebrating young women's power. Sometimes I question how effective marches are, but one thing I realized was that we all got to laugh and shout a lot, and that if we could keep the tone away from blame and towards celebration, we could actually send a very powerful message.

Overall, I was completely impressed with the way that thirty young Co-Counselors could have such a widespread and successful impact on this historic event. Since I've been home, I've received many phone calls from people who have heard of the No Limits for Women Project and want more information or want me to help with report-backs about Beijing. Almost every woman I speak to who was in Beijing heard about us in some way. I think this says something important about the organizing skills that we learn in Co-Counseling and the structures we have which help people listen to each other. When we put our minds to it, we can influence so many people, even at a gathering of this size. This certainly does a job on the feeling of "Who me? Why should I go? How could I ever have an impact?" I see now that good thinking about human beings and correct policy can move us into positions of influence very quickly.

Jenny Sazama
Jamaica Plain,
Massachusetts, USA

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