From the President 

Arlene Johnson, President, International Women's Convocation

Arlene Johnson

Semillas de Poder” – Seeds of Power comes from an old Mexican proverb that translates “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”   This aptly describes the resilience and determination of the 60 women who attended IWC’s amazing four-day Gathering in Bolivia, November 12-15, 2015.

Our theme for the Gathering was Women, the Earth, Climate Change, and Spirituality.  Despite a few language barriers, we were able to express our concerns and hopes in small Global Sisters groups with the help of two excellent translators, Michelle and Geraldine O’Brien from La Paz.   Empowerment of women was a recurring theme, along with the determination to fight the devastation of climate change and the promise to stay connected in order to meet those challenges.  Both Carmen Capriles, founder of Reacción Climática and Kiyomi Nagumo, regional coordinator for Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network gave impassioned talks about the challenges for Bolivian women.  Both attended the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris about two weeks later and shared updates with us on Facebook.  A recent BBC news article validated many of the Bolivian women’s concerns.  It indicated that “Bolivia’s second largest lake, Lake Poopo, has dried up due to drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon and the diversion of water from tributaries mostly for mining and agriculture.” Telemundo was very interested in our Gathering and sent a TV crew from La Paz to interview the organizers. Renee Hills and Beth O’Connell have both written articles about their experiences in our newsletter.

We came together as total strangers at the Gathering, but at the end there were lots of hugs and even some tears as we exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to keep in touch through our Facebook page, Semillas de Poder.  This herstoric Gathering could not have happened without the diligent work of several women. For planning this meeting and making it such a success, a big thank you goes to Olga Flores, Veronica Flores, and Carmen Capriles in Bolivia, Rev. Greta Brown in Brazil, as well as Rev. Carol Huston, Laura Nagel, and Zsófia Sztranyiczki with IWC in the U.S. We were very fortunate that Renee Hills of Australia was among the participants and that her husband James documented the Gathering, producing a high-quality professional video.

Congratulations to the women of Romania! They have finished five very successful Leadership Training courses under the guidance of Gizella Nagy and Kinga Győri along with assistance from IWC board member Tina Huesing. See their full report on page 7 of the newsletter.

We are very pleased that a Leadership Training School is now taking place for women in the Khasi Hills, India and they have successfully completed their third training under the leadership of IWC board member Elgiva Shullai. A report follows on page 4.

Our board members, staff and volunteers are now turning their full energy toward plans for our Third International Convocation, scheduled for February 16-19, 2017 at Asilomar Retreat Center in California. Please mark the dates on your calendar and plan to attend this exciting international gathering of women.  We are currently identifying sponsors for the Convocation and raising scholarship funds to assist women with travel expenses from other countries.  Many congregations have signed on to celebrate International Women’s Day on a Sunday near March 8th and will devote a plate collection to help with IWC’s efforts.  If your congregation has not signed up yet, there is still time.  Contact our executive director at for more information.  We will appreciate any and all donations for this effort.


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