This article is about finding our role as women, not just for ourselves, but for the world.
A number of times over the last few weeks I have found myself thinking about the state of the world and what needs to happen to get back on track. You have to admit a world where we hold babies in refugee camps for years, a world where Donald Trump stands a real chance of becoming president, and a world where corporations can legally poison people because it is profitable, that world is in a bit of trouble.
My sense is that women not only hold the key, but also have a greater vested interest in altering the direction we are headed. Why? Because we hold the power to create life, and I believe inherent in that power is a responsibility to safeguard life and what sustains it. There is very little that is sustainable about the way life is lived in this world today and it occurred to me that maybe it is time to remember and re-establish our guardianship role.
As women, we know that we are powerful, and the cornerstone of the ‘equality for women’ movement has been about recognising that power and being heard. I am not sure however that the way it is playing out now is serving us as women, or the world. I see us as being grudgingly allowed on the field to play, but the rules and the goal of the game didn’t change. Our unique strengths aren’t necessarily recognised and in many ways we are unwittingly participating in the very things that are not so slowly destroying our world: competing for power; accumulating material items; and undervaluing our unique strengths as women, particularly the power to create life. I guess what I am trying to say is that I believe we have a more important role to play than accumulating stuff and competing on the corporate ladder and maybe now is the time to get to it.
I have come across two things recently that inspired me with a sense of what this role is. The first is a description of a constitution known as The Great Binding Law of Peace used to govern a league of Native American tribes. Wikipedia suggests that the League originated around the 11th century and that it still exists today. The highlights are mine and aim to capture the importance this society placed on women as the custodians and guardians of life.
In our society, women are the center of all things. Nature, we believe, has given women the ability to create; therefore it is only natural that women be in positions of power to protect this function….We traced our clans through women; a child born into the world assumed the clan membership of its mother. Our young women were expected to be physically strong….The young women received formal instruction in traditional planting….Since the Iroquois were absolutely dependent upon the crops they grew, whoever controlled this vital activity wielded great power within our communities. It was our belief that since women were the givers of life they naturally regulated the feeding of our people….In all countries, real wealth stems from the control of land and its resources. Our Iroquois philosophers knew this as well as we knew natural law. To us it made sense for women to control the land since they were far more sensitive to the rhythms of the Mother Earth. We did not own the land but were custodians of it. Our women decided any and all issues involving territory, including where a community was to be built and how land was to be used….In our political system, we mandated full equality. Our leaders were selected by a caucus of women before the appointments were subject to popular review….Our traditional governments are composed of an equal number of men and women. The men are chiefs and the women clan-mothers.…As leaders, the women closely monitor the actions of the men and retain the right to veto any law they deem inappropriate….Our women not only hold the reigns of political and economic power, they also have the right to determine all issues involving the taking of human life. Declarations of war had to be approved by the women, while treaties of peace were subject to their deliberations.
As I write this I have a deep sense that our survival as a race will depend on women returning to this guardianship role and fulfilling our responsibilities as custodians of life on this planet.
The next inspiration was a short video by Dr. Jane Goodall, an activist renowned for her work with chimpanzees. Titled a Message to Humanity, Jane starts this video saying: “I am Jane Goodall. I am 80 years old and my job is to give people hope“. Jane will turn 82 this year and as far as I am aware is still hard at work giving hope. This is a woman who has dedicated her life to her guardianship role, a woman who innately understands her connection with Nature and is prepared to fight ferociously to protect Mother Earth. You can watch the video on Facebook here or if you don’t ‘do’ FB then I made a transcript below of what Jane says.
Listening to her speaking though adds another dimension, so listen to it if you can. Come back though to finish the article and share your thoughts.
“My name if Jane Goodall, and I am 80 years old. My job is giving people hope.
I learned for my mother the importance of support because when I was a child my mother supported my crazy love of animals. When I said wanted to go off to Africa at the age of 10 and everbody laughed at me, she supported me and she simply said something that I took to heart and have repeated again and again…”When you really want something you have to be prepared to work very hard, take advantage of every opportunity and above all never give up.”
In my life right now I am 80. There is so much left to do, so I would like to go back and give myself a bit longer. I don’t know how much longer I have to live, but certainly every year takes me closer to the end, whenever that is.
So there is this feeling of desperation, so many places I want to go to, so people I want to talk to, so many hearts that I want to reach. And I am just me and I try and use this electronic stuff and it does work to a certain extent but it is not the same as being there and sensing a person and trying to get in where it seems impossible to do.
Education is not the education we think about when children go to school. I think education is learning from experience and I think we continue to be educated throughout life. Every day brings its own kind of education, and we can learn from it if we keep our eyes and ears open and think of every day as an adventure, then every day will bring us a lesson.
I have many kinds of happiness. I am completely happy when I am alone in nature. I love to be alone in nature it makes me really happy. I am really particularly happy when I sit around with friends in the evening, particularly around a campfire and we can tell stories and drink a bit of red wine. I am totally happy when I am walking with a dog, because dogs make me really really happy, you can just be yourself with a dog, and a dog is always be himself or herself with me.
In fact, when I was a child my great teacher was a dog, a dog who taught me that we are just part of the animal kingdom. That we aren’t the only beings with a personality and minds capable of reasoning, and certainly not the only beings with emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, despair nor are we the only beings capable of giving and receiving love.
The biggest problem we have as environmental activists is to fight the power of money. Because there is absolutely no question that there are people in government who agree, when I sit and talk with them, that this mine shouldn’t be opened or this dam shouldn’t be built or that Monsanto shouldn’t be allowed to test seeds here. It’s corruption really, the might of money, the corporations who hold governments in their hands because of lobbying power…it’s really frightening.
If I am allowed to change a few things, if I had this magic power then:
- Without causing any sadness or suffering I would like to reduce the number of people on the planet because there are too many of us. It’s a planet of finite resources and we are using them up and that is going to cause great suffering in the future.
- I would like to alleviate poverty, because when you are poor, never mind the individual suffering, you are destroying the environment because you have to. You have to cut down the last trees to try and grow a bit of food to feed yourself and your family or make a bit of charcoal. Or you have to buy the cheapest food, even if that causes horrendous suffering to animals or supports slave labour somewhere else
- Maybe the hardest of all, but what I would really really really like to change…is the unsustainable lifestyle of everyone else, we are just greedy. I always think of what Mahatma Gandhi said, “This planet can provide for human need but not human greed”, and that is so right.
Powerful stuff. Jane’s words and the Native American tribe’s constitution give me a glimpse of what is important and the direction I want to walk in because as always the starting point is with me. To quote Gandhi once again…”be the change you want to see in the world“.
This doesn’t involve giving up our day job. The Vaidyagrama recipe for life is enough:
Live simple, Live well, Live healthy, Live Happy .
It is enough to spend time in and show respect for Mother Nature, to eat in a way that doesn’t cause suffering, to give our energy and attention only to people and things that nourish ourselves and this world, to live simply – less is more, to be kind, to value community, to treat my body with respect…the list goes on.
I am feeling even more inspired now about our 2WiseWomen – Women’s Health and Spirituality course in August 2016. It will be a wonderful opportunity to gather as women and explore our feminine creative energy and inner power to heal. If you enjoyed these thoughts you can find some more information about the course here.
Please take a moment now to share below how you would like to take up your guardianship role. Let’s inspire each other…