Heart to Heart | Street Jazz

Monday, November 10, 2008

Heart to Heart

Posted By on Mon, Nov 10, 2008 at 8:45 AM

Some years ago, Eureka Springs resident Barbara Harmony attended the NGO Forum on Women, held in China. Though press accounts tended to downplay the event, by many accounts, the event was a significant event. Harmony is also involved in the Water Center, in Eureka Springs, which is a conservation education group. To learn more about their work:


This is an excerpt from my book, “Ozark Mosaic.”

Heart to Heart
Local woman attends Chinese-hosted NGO Forum on Women
Written by Richard S. Drake

Reading most press accounts of the recent NGO Forum on Women, held in Huairou, a town outside of Beijing, one sees an image of a dark, rain-drenched, tented area, surrounded by hulking concrete buildings, giving off all the ambiance of Detroit on a muggy day. Much has also been made of the supposed incompetence (as described in the September 18 issue
of Newsweek) of the Chinese hosts.

Not so, according to Eureka Springs native Barbara Harmony, who recently attended the forum as a representative of the Water Center in Eureka Springs. In existence for fifteen years, the Water Center is a group advocating clean water.

Harmony says that, in reality, the NGO (Nongovernmental Organizations) conference was held in a resort-type town capable of supporting about 150,000 people, surrounded by mountains and a beautiful lake.

All of the residents stayed either in houses or apartments.

The NGO conference ran parallel to the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women, also held in Beijing. Attendance at both conferences was figured at 50,000 participants. Even before it began, the conference  was under attack from conservative elements in the United States.

The last major conference on women was held in 1985 in Nairobi, and promoted forward-looking strategies for the advancement of women. The accompanying 1985 NGO forum was attended by more than 15,000 women.

Harmony feels that the recent conference made it "totally clear that women are not going backwards in terms of equality."

She also spoke convincingly of very real "heart-to-heart connections" made in China during the conference, which sponsored an amazing 5,000 workshops. At some points, there were a thousand workshops going on in a single hour.

Indeed, a brief glance at some of the workshop titles includes subjects as diverse as:"Women, Water and Environmental Sanitation," "Role of Women in Bio-Diversity Conservation," "US Feminist Perspectives on the Psychology of Trauma," "Women in the Agricultural Economy of Africa" and ""Women and Men in Partnership."

Harmony also said that, although English is considered to be an international language, many of the workshops, lectures and panel discussions were not in English. Sessions covered areas such as economics, education, spirituality and the arts, to name but a handful.

Harmony was at the conference as part of a larger group known as "Women for Water," of which the Water Center in Eureka Springs is a part.

They sponsored a workshop every day of the ten-day event. Some of these workshops consisted of meetings in which women shared their personal stories dealing with the clean water issue, while other sessions dealt with strategy.

Some press accounts implied that the Chinese hosts were doing their best to keep the event hidden away from the eyes of the resident population, but if true, that would seem to be an unlikely event, as thousands of Chinese women were present, not only as delegates, but also as interpreters.

Harmony feels that the Chinese government went the extra mile to make the delegates feel comfortable. She saw several statues depicting women in several communities. In fact, all of the women at the NGO forum were transported to Beijing for the opening ceremonies of the United Nations Conference.

The event featured a large blimp flying overhead with the official logo of the NGO forum, and the Chinese hosts passed out white silk scarves to all 50,000 women attending the ceremonies.

Harmony says that it was a stirring sight, seeing all of the women waving their scarves. Large
balloons were tethered over the stadium, and five hundred doves were released into the air.

Harmony also spoke highly of a six-hour program dealing with the results of nuclear testing. She made the point that a strong theme of this forum was that women are opposed to violence, and very concerned about it.

There were some complaints, however. One Indian delegate, while acknowledging the seriousness of the dowry situation, wished that more people were aware of the fact that India requires that 30 percent of any political body be made up of women.

Harmony says that the forum has caused her to "think about everything on a global scale."

She also wants to think more about the global, practical uses of water. She reminded me that, while the United States has 20 percent of the world's population, we use 80 percent of the Earth's resources. She is determined to see that people are educated, so that they might change their ways.

Perhaps the NGO forum logo says it best. According to the program book: "the logo depicts eight women dancing. Each has her own energy and dynamism. Each one is tied to the other through a common center. Thus, they all together generate more energy and power than each of them could generate singly. The logo celebrates women as risk-takers, doers, and active shapers of their own destinies."

Ozark Gazette, October 2, 1995




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