By Beth O’Connell, France/USA
The women, they Zoomed
Across borders, oceans, land
To renew, help, love.
The haiku above from Jacqueline Thomas of Kentucky has captured the essence of a weekly online gathering of U*U women worldwide amid the global lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic that has altered all our lives.
Since March 31, over 30 women have logged on each Tuesday for a cross-continental meeting, creating on computer screens a gallery of women’s faces from Australia, India, and Bolivia, to Kenya, Uganda, several European nations, and across the United States and Canada.
“At first, though I didn’t know most of the women, I appreciated having the connection in a difficult time. As the faces started to seem familiar, I looked forward to talking to some of the same women and meeting new ones,” said Gevene Hertz who joined from Denmark.
The meetings have been hosted by the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women (IWC), whose executive director Zsófia Sztranyiczki says the idea was to “offer a participatory activity to allow women to connect in a time of isolation, uncertainty, and distress.”
A line from a poem offered by Rev. Audrey Brooks in Canada declares that “there can be no isolation if words are shared.” And that’s what the meetings have been all about.
At each gathering, the participants are divided into breakout rooms to share thoughts and feelings in small groups of four or five women from around the world.
“I’m so glad I started participating… to hear from women in different states, different countries… to share what it (the lockdown) means to us,” Jeannie Lewis of Texas told her “breakout” group.
A Unitarian minister from Transylvania, Rev. Júlia Jobbágy, has served as moderator and recalled that at first she could not really imagine how these international meetings would work, but over the weeks she has seen the reward of global connections.
“It gives me so much strength to be able to hear and talk with women from Australia, the USA, the Philippines, Canada and so many places from Europe …. We share the same emotions, same concerns, same problems and we are awaiting to face the same global problems,” Rev. Júlia said.
There has been a topic for discussion at each meeting ranging from haiku writing to environmental pledges on Earth Day, which included reducing the use of plastics, eating less meat, and using our consumer power to buy environmentally friendly goods and services like green energy.
Another special theme was a celebration of Mother’s Day with music, meditation and talks by IWC President Rev. Addae Kraba and Unitarian woman leader Gizella Nagy from Transylvania, reminding all that this period will pass and reaffirming U*U women’s commitment to empowering women and girls everywhere.
“One day we will be able to arise from our shelters to resume the activities of daily life, albeit in a different way,” Rev. Kraba told the online U*U service. “But we will once again take counsel with each other and rather than dwelling on past losses, better appreciate the positives that life offers and continue our work to support women and girls to improve their lives.”
From East Africa Sylvie summed up the spirit of these gatherings: “Every Tuesday I am always excited and happy to meet my Sisters around the world.”
If you wish to join the Tuesday gatherings of U*U women please send your request to email@example.com.