The International Women's Writing Guild (IWWG) is a network which demonstrates that each life is worth the telling and that in the telling the timbre of each woman's voice becomes strong and
The following essay 'A Call for a Home Apothecary to Keep Spirits Buoyant', appeared in a recent IWWG Network journal. It was penned by Hannelore Hahn, founder and executive director, International Women's Writing Guild.
One thing we must not allow ourselves to feel is powerless.
And since doubt about ourselves and our world does surface a lot these days, we must create a ready Apothecary that will contain remedies and antidotes for flagging spirits. One category that should be placed on the
Apothecary's shelf are stories of women and men whose unflagging spirit singlehandedly brought forward something of great benefit to many. Not unlike fairy tales, their stories could begin simply with:
"one day there lived in the forest..." and then they continue to take you on a long journey. In the case of Wangari Maathai, who is this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the story begins this way:
"One day in 1977 in Kenya, on Earth Day to be exact, a woman by the name of Wangari Maathai planted seven trees. Wangary had been feeling powerless in her country which was in the hands of a dictator who ruled with great force and whose lack of humanity rubbed off on the tribal chieftains in the villages and on the husbands in the home...."
As the seven trees began to grow, Wangary began to teach women how to plant trees in Kenya's public forests. Soon the women created their own tree nurseries, 6,000 of them, and over time, they also began to control their own firewood and in this way began to feel empowered. Now something was truly shifting, and a movement, which was called The Greenbelt Movement, began to grow across the land. Through education, village women began to see forests differently, as something they, as citizens of the Earth, had a claim to. Also, they were re-establishing indigenous crops using organic methods and re-introducing kitchen gardens, a skill many of them had lost because of their government's export-oriented agriculture.
Over the years, Maathai and members of the Movement have been beaten and even jailed. But now having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Maathai and her Greenbelt Movement in Kenya will receive better attention from the world.
This is one of countless examples depicting how a single person began to do something, seemingly insignificant, which was brought forward to the benefit of many because of his or her unflagging vision. For that matter, take the Guild, for example. When IWWG was founded in 1976, it was not going to allow the literary establishment to pass judgment as to whether or not a woman was a writer. Each woman, IWWG said, had a right to her own story no matter whether she had ever written before, was educated or not, and so on and so on. And furthermore, the Guild said that her skill as a "writer" would grow in the process of writing. In the meantime, the Guild set out to provide hundreds of "midwives" across the land to help thousands of women to bring their stories to term Of course, there were detractors who claimed that IWWG was unprofessional and that autobiographical writing on the part of the "indigenous" non- establishment population of the United States and elsewhere had no value. But over the years some 50,000 establishment and non-establishment women became empowered through the process of writing, and their thousands of published works are proving otherwise.
So do place stories of empowerment in your Apothecary, stir well, and swallow with clear spring water. And yes, one more thing: Just a few days ago, on Armistice Day to be exact, a reporter on the staff of the New York Times wrote the following on the fighting in Falluja:
"With the troops' senses tuned to a high pitch, mundane events become extraordinary. During one bombing, a blue-and-yellow parakeet flew up to a roof of a captured building and fluttered about in tight circles before perching on a slumping power line, to the amazement of the marines assembled there.
On another occasion, the snipers tensed when they heard movements in the direction of a smoldering building. A cat sauntered out, unconcerned with anything, but making his rounds in the neighborhood." This, too, belongs in the Apothecary. That sense for the small, the fragile and the exquisite ...
Since 1976, the International Women's Writing Guild has furthered the authentic voice through writing. It recognizes the logic of the heart, the ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between the known and the unknown. IWWG sponsors many conferences and workshops throughout the United States and internationally. No portfolio necessary.
For further information about the IWWG, which sponsors about 100 workshops yearly, see the
website or write to the International Women's Writing Guild, PO Box 810, Gracie Station, New York, NY,
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Music Credit: Two Gales Are Blowing, Vocal Traditional Bulgaria