Global Women’s Forum – 1977
by Ellen Rebstock
In 1976 the UN expanded the Year of the Woman to the Decade of the Woman moving beyond the anger of “Women’s Lib” to an understanding that Women hold up half the sky to quote an American Indian myth.
I was on a team in the ICA that designed a Global Women’s Forum, a one day program spending the morning understanding “who I am in this place and in history” and the afternoon deciding where I am going and what I am going to do.
When the model was ready for testing in Asia, India, Africa & South America as well as in North America & Europe, I was on the Asia team – I actually crossed the International date line on my birthday in 1977 so I never had a 33 year – you do the math!
We had lived in Europe and I was prepared for the cultural differences. But I was not prepared for the contrast between women in the urban and women in the rural villages of Japan, Korea & Taiwan. Urban Women were protected – choosing career or family; married women did not work outside the home and were struggling with a difficult vocational transition. Rural women, on the other hand, did nothing but work – raising children, subsistence crops, and farm animals and assisting their husbands, those who hadn’t gone off to jobs in the cities, with cash crops like rice.
The most enlightening event was in Kwang Jung Il Ri, a Korean village,. On the day of the event, ten women were there at 9 am and 30 more straggled in over the next hour. They were all excited to be talking together and learning about other places and other women that they kept talking right through lunch. There were some pretty disgruntled men whose wives didn’t go home to prepare their noon meal that day. The event ended with the older women demonstrating a rice planting dance that many of the young village women had never seen – much less a couple of foreigners! It demonstrated the women’s decision not to abandon the past but to create new roles for the future.
- 06 Oct 2006