New Story Summiteer and Findhorn Community member, Jane Rasbash, shares this moving and inspiring update on ‘River of Life’ with summiteers who will remember being introduced to this worthy project at the summit. The New Story Summit: Inspiring Pathways for our Planetary Future was held at the Findhorn Foundation and Community 27 September – 3 October 2014.
I can’t run from my continent – my life work is in harsh conditions in Congo and South Africa – I have a huge need for spaces of deep connectivity to hold and nurture women.
The powerful testimonies of African Leaders Karambu Ringera (Kenya), Lua Bashala (The Congo) and Visolela Namises (Namibia) were a wake up call for many of us at the New Story Summit. Hearing first-hand of suffering in Africa, that grew out of a legacy of colonialism and slavery, was challenging. Facing immense difficulties, the stories of positive change that our African sisters shared with us was humbling for all. The rituals led by Visolela offered a glimpse of a deep, cultural wisdom that initiated healing responses on many levels with an authenticity I have rarely experienced. What a privilege to bear witness to. Thank you.
The notion of the ‘River of Life’ project first emerged at the ‘By Women for Women’ Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) programme, held at Umphakatsi Peace Village, South Africa in 2013. Since then there have been other impromptu circles around other Global Ecovillage (GEN) Africa Gatherings that I have been honoured to attend. In these circles women share how they have faced or borne witness to horrific abuse – rape as a weapon of war, systemic domestic violence and harmful rites of passages. Generally, in African culture, it is taboo to talk about the harmful aspects of rites of passage and violence against women. Several spoke for the first time about their ordeals. Women also shared how they felt alone and overwhelmed in their gritty work, often with very marginalised communities. They named a deep longing, not only for sustained support and mechanisms for healing and reconciliation of past trauma, but also for tools and practices for sustaining their challenging leadership roles. Out of these circles the River of Life project has been born.
GEN called many of the leaders to sit together to further this impulse prior to and during the summit. It was poignant that most of the women had been gifted places at the summit to facilitate their attendance. Excited to be together, yet weary and challenged as women leaders working in difficult situations, rather than a more activity based project, a deep yearning emerged for a space by woman for women to deepen the sharing and foster healing, restoration and inspiration. To meet this longing, the women have put out a call for a 10-day ‘By Women for Women’ retreat on the banks of the Umphakatsi River in in April 2015. The retreat will create a safe space for women to share deeply about current and past issues that impact on their ability to lead today with an aim to promote healing, renewed vitality and inspiration in their leadership roles. Together they will co-create and practice healthy rites of passage and strengthen the emerging circle of women leaders to call upon each other in times of both challenge and celebration.
If you would like to read more about this initiative, or find out how you can support our Sisters from the South, please click here.