Day 3 of 3, Do Power Differently, 2017 Women & Power Retreat

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The last day of the 2017 Women & Power Retreat by the Omega Women’s Leadership Center (OWLC) couldn’t have ended any better. I would estimate about 400 people attended from all over the USA and several other countries. Considering how impactful the program was, that will translate into a good amount of change for women around the globe.

We started the morning with Sharon Salberg, who continued her discussion about mindfulness meditation. Today she talked about neuroplasticity, answered questions from the audience (and gave us some more sage advice), and guided us through an 8-minute met (loving kindness) meditation.

Then we had a keynote from Sarah Peter, an artist, philanthropist and co-founder of the OWLC. Her talk was about women as the subject of art, and women as the creators of art. She presented a slideshow of the works of leading-edge female artists from different countries who are changing the dialogue surrounding women. It was a thought-provoking talk and it got the first standing ovation of the day.

The next keynote was from Tavneet Suri, a developmental economist who focuses on research that can be used to bring people out of poverty and influence policy makers to affect positive change. I hadn’t paid much attention to economics before hearing Tavneet speak today. Her work is very interesting and one of current areas of focus is Mobile Pay, which has proved to be an excellent tool in sub-Saharan Africa. Among the statistics she shared with us regarding Mobile Pay: 196,000 households have risen out of poverty in Kenya, and 100,000 women have gotten better jobs, moving out of agriculture and into business. Her talk was mainly about how economic research and action can provide women with more agency in their lives, and the outward ripple effect of that.

Veronica Domingo joined us for about 10 minutes to guide us in some empowering body movements mixed with positive affirmations. By the time she was finished, I felt ready to take on great challenges, which was the perfect mindset for the next part of the program.

Robyn Moreno (president of Latina Media Ventures) and Dolores Huerta took the stage for a conversation, but first spoke to us individually. My goodness, how impressive these women are!

First we met Robyn, who talked to us about how “you can’t be what you can’t see,” and the importance of telling a different kind of story to show Latinas what is possible for them. I loved her story about how seeing Latina Magazine for the first time changed her life. And how she moved to New York, boldly walked into the offices of Latina Magazine and asked for a job, and then worked her way up to being President of that organization.

Robyn then introduced us to living legend Dolores Huerta, who received a whooping, hollering standing ovation when she walked onto the stage. Dolores has dedicated her life to creating great change. The activism and organizing she has done (and continues to do at the age of 87) is filled with inspirational success stories. I look forward to seeing the new documentary about her life, produced by Carlos Santana. Here’s the trailer, which we all watched together. The energy you might feel when watching the trailer is what I felt coming from Dolores herself during her talk. She led the audience in cheers, had us clapping in unison and shouting at the top of our lungs, “We Have The Power! Feminist Power! Si Se Puede!”

She talked about many things, each one as important as the last. The need for women to take power, empower ourselves, empower others. The importance of organizing and voting. The importance of educating our young girls to be strong and forceful. How women need to take over school boards so we can make a curriculum that includes teachings about the true history and contribution of people of color. The importance of teaching our children properly so as to eradicate bigotry, homophobia, racism and cruelty in the future. Not surprisingly, she got a second standing ovation at the end of her talk.

Then Dolores and Robyn had a conversation. This was mainly about all the different ways women can take action. We watched a video about the work of  the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and heard many success stories about real communities in the USA taking power and making positive change. When asked how she managed to do all of her activist work while raising 11 children, Dolores told us it’s ok to ask for help with your childcare, and she couldn’t have done it without the help of her community. She also encouraged the mothers of young children to take them to meetings, take them to protests, take them out canvasing.

Dolores believes every moment is an organizing moment, and she used every minute on stage to prove it to us. She asked the audience to make a commitment to take action, and gave many concrete ideas about how we can organize our own communities, create our own groups, etc. Even after the conversation was over and we were giving her a third standing ovation, she encouraged us again to get involved. Three standing ovations for this woman, and many of us were crying. What a way to end the weekend!

Well, it wasn’t over quite yet. Carla Goldstein returned and gave a summary of the weekend’s highlights, its themes and its most important messages. So much had happened in just two and a half days that it felt like I’d spent weeks at this retreat. With each portion of the program so rich and impactful, and with so many angles to the theme Do Power Differently, the time was ripe for Carla to weave it all together in her closing speech. She announced that we had came very close to last night’s goal of raising $50,000, which means that a lot of women will be able to receive scholarships to attend next year’s conference.

At the close of the retreat, the audience was invited to come to the front of the room, pick up a pair of scissors, and cut a thread from the artistic backdrop on the stage. I really enjoyed the symbolism of taking a piece of the retreat home with me. I now have a lovely piece of ribbon and will keep it with other souvenirs I kept from the last Omega program I attended (that program was also life-changing for me). I encourage every person who is reading this to find a way to to visit The Omega Institute and participate in a program. If money is tight, look into their scholarship program, which has grown a lot in recent years.

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