To read part 1, click here.
Tuesday morning, I made my way back to the Armenian Center to the Umuado Igbo Nigeria and in Diaspora’s event entitled “Managing the Challenges of Women and Girl Empowerment in Nigeria.” I found Francis who introduced me to the other women on her team. She handed me the program for the event and I saw that I was scheduled to be the FIRST panelist to speak! So much for my plan.
So many of the contraceptive programs offered to Africa come with forced ideological colonization. As the only white woman on the panel, I was keenly aware of my desire to empower them by offering information and walking alongside them to live the fullness of their culture without imposing mine.
The rest of the panelists spoke eloquently and emphasized the need for action rather than just talking about solving problems. As they spoke about the issues women face in their culture, I was even more humbled by realizing my own privilege.
During the question/answer time, a woman who was seated in the back stood up and introduced herself as Malcolm X’s youngest daughter. I am certain that the surprise on my face was evident as my mind raced to realize, “THAT Malcolm X?!” My slight awe quickly vanished as it became clear that she intended to try and take over the event by monopolizing the mic. She did, however, touch on the idea that action was needed, so when the moderator was able to take back the floor, she refocused onto this theme of the event.
Francis then directed a question toward me. “Women in Nigeria don’t use Billings because they don’t know how it works. What do we DO? How do we get started?” I explained that getting started is not difficult, but that all they would need is one trained teacher to teach a group of women to become instructors so that they can teach others, and it can ripple throughout the country. I also mentioned that Benin already has a WOOMB affiliate and that they may be an excellent resource for getting trainings started.
After the event, Francis expressed to me that she knew a Catholic woman who she was sure would be on board with this, and she is going to keep in touch with me to help them along the way. I also told her about the WOOMB International Conference to be held in Benin next year, and that it would be an excellent opportunity for those that they teach to become more connected and inspired.
These women were joyful, dynamic and lovely inside and out. As we chatted more, the moderator came over and I learned that she has seven children. I grabbed her hand and said, “Me too!” Francis laughed heartily and said, “So the one you are carrying will make 8? You should have two more and then you will have 10!” What a contrast to the shock and disdain of many in our culture at so many children. How beautiful to see their love and encouragement of large families!
Tuesday evening, three women from our team attended an NGO reception. It was an amazing opportunity for networking, and more informal discussions. The women in attendance were having a marvelous time, and were chatting up a storm. We talked to so many people, and were amazed at the openness of everyone to what WOOMB offers.
I also had an opportunity to speak with Susan O’Malley (Chair of the Executive Committee of CSW) that night. When I handed her out postcard she recognized it instantly, and remembered that we had asked for two parallel events, but she thought they had only approved one. I cheerfully announced that we had been given both events and how thankful we were for that opportunity. She shifted her weight to one leg, looked at me with skeptical eyes and said, “So, does it really work?” I smiled and confidently replied, “Yes, it actually does work!” I went on to explain a brief history of the Drs. Billings, Odeblad and Brown and Billings efficacy statistics. She shared that she had gotten pregnant on the IUD, Pill and trying the Rhythm method with the Pill. I quickly interjected, “Oh, now, we aren’t the rhythm method, the science is totally different.” I gave a very quick rundown of the ovarian hormones effects on the cervix and sensation, changing vs unchanging patterns. She thought for a moment, looked at the card again and said, “I need to go look at your website again, that’s interesting.”
I was thrilled at the length and honesty of our conversation.
Wednesday offered more opportunities for passing out postcards and networking. I spoke with a women from “Pleasant Gathering,” and was able to attend their parallel event. They are a faith based group from Nigeria who rescue women out of sex work and give them a marketable trade to make a living. They also were interested in how Billings education could help the women in their program.
As with the other women from Nigeria, these women were open and loving, grabbing me by the hand and leading me around to introduce me to everyone in their group.
Wednesday afternoon provided a good opportunity to relax a little bit. We were able to find some treasures at the CSW Artisan Fair where women from all over the world brought their handmade items to sell. We also got to enjoy a little bit of New York by attending a taping of the Stephen Colbert Show, and walking through times square. It was a nice change of pace before gearing up for our last event in Thursday.
I spent Thursday morning passing out more postcards, and inviting people to our event. When it came time for us to begin, I was disheartened at the number of people in the room. I had talked to so many people that had expressed what seemed like a genuine interest in coming. But, my spirit lifted as time went on, and the room filled with familiar faces. I was excited to see Destiny Herndon De-La-Rosa (Founder of New Wave Feminists) come in. I had connected with her a few weeks before CSW and invited her to come. Allison did a fantastic job directing the event, and each panelist spoke well of their personal empowerment. Monica presented the slide rule excellently as well. The audience was engaged and again followed up with thoughtful questions. Even after the event had finished, we all stayed around talking for quite some time.
The WOOMB team went to dinner all together that evening to debrief from the week and get started planning for next year.
I am so very thankful for the opportunity to represent WOOMB International at
the United Nations for CSW63. I believe that the team this year was strong, supportive of one another, and effective in spreading our message. I look forward to being able to represent WOOMB to the UN in the future.
Thank you to all of you who supported me and helped me take the Billings Ovulation Method to the United Nations!
I arrived at in New York on a redeye flight on Monday morning, March 11th. I promptly went in search of coffee, which while a cup was successfully found, it wasn’t Seattle coffee by any stretch of the imagination! Nevertheless, the caffeine and excitement started to kick in while I waited for the sun to rise. I ventured into NYC via the transit system and was able to find my way to the Armenian Center, were WOOMBs first event was to take place later that morning.
Before I came to New York I prepared and rehearsed my elevator speech to talk with people about how WOOMB International empowers women with natural fertility management. The team told me that in the past, when they would say they what they represented that people would just turn around and walk away from them. It was my goal to tell the truth in a language that would connect with my audience.
When asked what I do, I replied, “I represent WOOMB International which promotes a sustainable and eco-friendly method of birth control.”
When I entered the Armenian Center that morning, things were very quiet. I didn’t immediately see any teammates, but I started talking with a woman named Francis from Nigeria. After hearing her talk about her NGO and the need for health education for women in Nigeria, I pulled out my prepared line. I continued to say how WOOMB could help with the initiatives she spoke to me about. She was so excited about it that she invited me to come speak at their event the following morning! I was shocked, but happily accepted. My first interaction at the United Nations had landed me a speaking gig, which was quite the encouragement for this little introvert to continue to be bold and network throughout the week!
I was energized as the morning went on and I met up with the WOOMB team and the panelists that were coming to speak at our first event. The room filled with 20-30 young men and women who listened intently to our speakers skillfully explaining their area of expertise. Many good questions at the end of the presentation spoke to a good level of understanding and interest from the audience.
We found out after the event that many in attendance were with the group “Universal Fiat” accompanied by some Sisters from Nashville. It was delightful to see a few habits running around the UN spreading joy.
I attended a few other events that day, passing out postcards and using my one-liner to start up conversations about what WOOMB is. As I waited in line to get my UN grounds pass, I struck up a conversation with a young law student who was from Seattle. He was fascinated by the idea of natural birth control and very inquisitive. Conversation meandered from NFP to relationship and marriage advice as the line crawled through the building. Everyone around us was relatively quiet, so I am certain that many more people got an earful that morning!
Once armed with my pass, I was able to go into the United Nations building. It felt very official to scan my pass and get to go places that tourists were not able to go. But it was also humbling because there were plenty of places that delegates could go that my badge couldn’t get me into.
I attended a couple of events that afternoon before heading back with my teammates to a house in the Bronx where we were staying for the week.
That night I stayed up late trying to prepare for my talk the following morning. I had little idea what the Nigerian event was actually going to focus on, so I decided to gather lots of statistics and points that could be used in a talk but were in no particular order. This was not the way I was used to preparing for a speech! But my plan was to listen to the other panelists and put together a talk on the fly from my gathered points that could speak to their topics of discussion.
When I felt that I had enough talking points gathered, I finally settled into bed. My jet-lagged body had little trouble surrendering to sleep. Little did I know of the phenomenal day that lay ahead.
Story continued in part 2