Letter from Dili


lead-pic-jitw-timorleste-pottery-pride-821x548After a long plane flight, and after too many years of almost getting here, I finally land in Dili, capital of Timor Leste. Stepping off the plane, I feel such emotion as I remember my friend, Harry Burton, who wrote of his arriving here to open the first Reuters office just before a newly independent Timor Leste was declared, and who was later killed in an ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan.

jitw-timorleste-aguida-fatima-amaral-520x780I remember, too, welcoming the first Olympic team of a newly independent Timor Leste when I was managing one of the media centers for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Andrea Bocelli sang to us in the Green Room while the Timorese athletes spoke of training with bags of rocks in the absence of any training equipment. A team of four Timorese athletes took part in the Opening Ceremony in Sydney including marathoner Aguida Fatima Amaral as the only woman in the team. The Olympic flag was carried by boxer Victor Ramos. “I was happy to carry that Olympic flag into the stadium,’’ he said. “But I carry my nation and my flag in my heart.”

kirsty-sword-gusmaoI remember hearing Xanana Gusmao, the first President of Timor Leste speak in Sydney. The room was filled with emotion as he spoke of what it meant to be living in and leading a newly independent nation. And then Kirsty Sword Gusmao, his wife, spoke as she held their baby son in her arms. Her courage, commitment and humanity was so evident, a sign of all that was ahead including her creating the Alola Foundation.

And I remember the women’s group we funded when I was Executive Director of International Women’s Development Agency – they bought a truck to drive round the country using theater to help educate and engage communities on breaking the cycle of domestic violence in the country.

I’m welcomed at the airport by Susan Marx, The Asia Foundation’s dynamic country representative responsible for managing the foundation’s work here. (You can follow Susan on twitter @ TAFRepTimor)

We travel to Pradet, one of the community partners in an important program funded by the Australian Government called The Nabilan: Ending Violence Against Women program as an eight-year intervention aimed at reducing the number of women who have experienced violence, and improving well-being for women and children who have been affected by violence.  In developing the program, The Asia Foundation undertook a baseline survey of over 1400 women and 800 men and, of those surveyed, 59 percent of women aged 15-49 in Timor-Leste have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 47 percent in the 12 months before the interview.

This confirms the urgent need for sensitive, women-centered services, free of stigma, that address the physical as well as mental health needs of women, and also of children who have experienced or witnessed violence in the home. Nabilan supports local partners to increase the quality and reach of services for women and children affected by violence.

jane-dili-2When we arrive at Pradet we’re greeted by local staff including  Manuel dos Santos, PRADET Director, Luisa Reis Marcel, the Coordinator of Fatin Hakmatek and Susan Kendall AM, an Australian social worker who has worked as International Mentor with PRADET since 2002, visiting three times every year for approximately 5-6 months to help sustain the momentum of the program.  Susan reminds me of a humanitarian Lucille Ball in her sassiness and willingness to shake things up in order to secure both funds and justice.

PRADET stands for Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East Timor and the organization provides quality services and psychosocial support to people who experience domestic violence, trauma, sexual assault, child abuse, abandonment, imprisonment and human trafficking, and people living with mental illness in Timor Leste. We hear cases of women who have been incarcerated due to defending themselves from rape and also from miscarriage cast as murder due to leaving the dirt track site of the miscarriage and consequently being jailed for years.

The program works toward long term institutional and behavioral change including working on prevention, services including psychosocial and forensic evidence, and access to justice. This aligns with the national government’s own holistic framework – the National Action Plan on Gender-based Violence. Nabilan cooperates with government, and civil society organizations, and is now developing its work at the community level, which will link prevention and access to support.

In this context, building a movement of women and men working to end violence against women and standing in solidarity with those who come forward is so important.

jitw-timorleste-pottery-young-and-okd-960x639While women occupy 38 percent of seats in parliament in Timor-Leste, women’s engagement is very low at a rural level, with women only accounting for 2 percent of local leaders. In the countryside, women do most of the agricultural work and much of their work is unpaid.  Women rise early, gather the family’s daily water, light fires, cook meals, look after their children and prepare them for school, clean the house, work in the fields and then continue to cook and clean into the night.  In such circumstances time for political representation or any other form of activity has to be fitted in late in the evening, or in rare time off.  

On average, Timorese women have six children, and almost 20 percent of girls are married by 18. Here the groom’s family may pay the young woman’s family in gold, silver or cows, in a way that suggests they are purchasing the young woman. Early marriage further isolates these young women from the opportunity to play an active role in the community and to gain the education and opportunities that will help them realize their potential. Instead, a number will die in childbirth in a country with the highest level of maternal mortality in Southeast Asia while others will suffer from poor nutrition or tuberculosis fueled by cooking over open fires.  Add to this a perpetual state of violence, especially domestic violence. While domestic violence was outlawed in 2010, many men and women still don’t see wife beating as a criminal act.

jitw-timorleste-pottery-group-625x960The following day, at a women-only gathering I attend, the women present share their stories about their own empowerment journey. Some women talk about their awareness of their rights as a result of working with the foundation flowing into their home environment and the counsel they give their friends who are exposed to violence. Others speak of the challenges of feeling such freedom to be fully themselves at work as compared to the traditional roles they are expected to occupy at home, often reinforced by their mother-in-law or other family members.  “When I’m sleeping, my mother-in-law scolds me and says “you should keep awake to give your husband his coffee.” Family interference often triggers conflict, so finding ways to support the development of conflict-resolving communities is important.

Some Timorese women are only now learning that rape is a crime, as a result of the work undertaken to ensure that women are aware of their rights. Even with this awareness there is still hesitancy by many women in taking action due to attitudes by others, including the police, and hence there is a separate community policing program to engage police in attitude change.  Beyond women having access to laws and services that protect them from violence, and to deal with the aftermath, is the need to have access to economic opportunities that give them the income they need. This is crucial so that women have the independence they seek and the funds to keep themselves safe and to provide their children with access to education and health services.

img_3887One of the programs that The Asia Foundation is supporting, thanks to funding from the United States government, is a Women Weavers Program developed with local partner, Empreza Di’ak, an organization founded by a wonderful woman, Ariana Simoes de Almeida and her husband, Filipe Alfaiate.

This program supports Tais weavers to build sustainable livelihoods for the traditional cloth that they weave into an array of garments and products.  By undertaking such work, the women can earn an income which helps them to leave and avoid abusive relationships, secure an education for themselves and family and increase their economic independence.  This work also helps to promote the cultural traditions of Timor-Leste through development of collectives for traditional tapestries across seven of the country’s thirteen municipalities.

jitw-timorleste-passing-traditions-480x320The staff at Di’ak tell me the story of an archaeologist who found remains of an ancient pot and asked around and found these old women who could explain the origins. These women were 92 and 94 respectively and they were asked to teach some of the younger women how to make old pots, and thus reclaim a lost tradition that was on the cusp of being lost forever, a program now called Turning Traditions into Livelihoods. Making these pots and woven garments provides a welcome source of income for communities as well as kindling their self-esteem and pride in what their communities can make and sell. Some of these women have gone from no income to up to USD300 per month and the program has so far positively supported 75% of the women who have participated in the program.

jitw-timorleste-products3-639x960These women artisans in Timor Leste face real challenges to create markets for their products. These include the difficulty and expense of transport, especially for women living on less $1 a day and also the challenges of getting raw material and packaging as well as the high cost of postage. The women are experimenting with creating local products for local markets to augment the more expensive items they create for tourist and international markets. Products for local markets include small bags of compost as something that they can easily train and engage other women in creating.  Other women’s groups create products such as cassava chips to sell at local markets in Dili.

jitw-timorleste-weaving-process-960x638The women weavers program also teaches the women how to sign their names, as 84% of the current members are illiterate, and then there is the opportunity to undertake numeracy and literacy training and to involve other members of their family. Importantly, Di’ak is working to improve the financial and management skills of these women members to support the sustainability of the collectives. Di’ak also earlier created a business community center for training in sewing, music, English, compost and coconut shaping.  It also leads the work to test and pilot new products in small batches – we’re shown the latest test products – seaweed, as a high nutrition food, and bamboo straws, which are both elegant and practical.  I also try on one of the hats the women have made. I instantly feel like I’m some magical being so I buy it on the spot to smiles from the staff.

I share with Susan and some of the D’Ak staff the idea of taking a group of these women to the Santa Fe Folk Art Fair where thousands of artisans and buyers from around the world attend each year to build buyer markets for artisan products. It’s an opportunity to have direct contact with buyers and to learn from other artisans about how to build sustainable markets and supply chains for their products. We also discuss the potential for having an Asian women’s artisan alliance and fair in order to create pipeline buyer markets for women artisans and cooperatives in Asia.

Later, I also reflect on the opportunity to learn from a program in Australia called Desert Knowledge, that is a research and action program designed to learn from remote desert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia and to help them secure economic opportunities to be sustainable.  For instance, Desert Knowledge helped broker a partnership between Aveda and a desert Aboriginal community to grow some of the ingredients for Aveda products. Imagine if there could be an Island Knowledge program that similarly documented the advantages of island communities in creating key products and then did a similar kind of matchmaking between communities in, say, Timor Leste, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

I’m asked to convene a session on approaches to gender with a group of donors, leaders and community representatives.  I say that it’s clear that we need a different way of thinking about gender so that men don’t see it as a zero sum game. Men can’t see women’s empowerment being at the expense of men otherwise we’re never going to gain the buy-in needed by men to achieve the dramatic shifts needed to realize gender equality.  We need to lift up positive models of male leadership as well as female leadership and show how men can benefit by spending more time with their families, and learn new skills as well as creative pursuits.

In this session we talk about the power of the arts and of film to challenge stereotypes and to show women ways to be powerful advocates for change as a way to support strong movements for change.  There is real energy around a regular film event, and even a film festival as an advocacy and influencing forum.

Film is also a powerful medium to capture Timorese women’s own views and voices of their experiences. One such film on the ‘mermaids of Timor Leste’, follows a group of fisherwomen striving to make a living in the coastal village of Adara, West Ataúro in Timor-Leste. The film captures the women’s daily lives and the challenges they face from others in the community as a result of their work as underwater fisher-women. The film depicts the women’s underwater dancing in a context of dramatic social change, where the women are being drawn to different livelihoods not linked to the sea and facing social expectations that challenge their independence from four generations of women doing this work.

I return to the hotel and, in my own mermaid skin, I climb to the rooftop and slip into the pool. Fat drops of rain are falling from a sky streaked crimson and I’m so happy to be here. I splash in the warm water and lie back against the ledge, attuned to the vibrations of life – and also the torpor, that constant tension. And then, kicking off from the shallows, I swim.

Jane Sloane

A footnote for those who don’t know about Timor Leste?

Timor-Leste, formerly known as East Timor, was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years before Indonesian forces invaded in 1975. That move led to one of the 20th century’s most brutal occupations, which claimed the lives of 200,000 people—a third of the population. Timorese men and women fought side by side in the decades-long struggle for independence, which was finally achieved in 2002.


Letter from Hawaii #3

It’s been a time of transition for me in leaving Global Fund for Women in order to commence a new role as Director, Women’s Empowerment Program with The Asia Foundation based in San Francisco. Before I started my new position I had time with friends and family in Australia, then camped in Yosemite before a blissed out week in Kauai.

My singing spirit found fertile ground in Kauai. I was so happy to be back. I’d come from camping in Yosemite, thanks to the organizing and generosity of close friends. In this land of mountains, moonlight, waterfalls, tide pools, deer, bears and starry skies I watched a harvest moon appear, with its portent of new beginnings…

Hanalei_Bay_41In the waters of Hanalei Bay, I reclaimed my mermaid self, swimming near other water folk, many with streaming hair, standing tall on boards and moving lightly across the water. From the shore I watched girls surfing and female open-sea rowers moving strongly across the waves.

Early Hawaiian engravings depict women riding surfboards with legends telling of women often emerging the champions in surfing competitions. Oral tradition recalls that King Kamehameha and Queen Kaahumanu surfed side by side. There was also an early tradition that allowed a man and woman who happened to ride the same wave together certain intimacies when they returned to the beach.

A short walk from the beach at my favorite café, a regular Tiki reggae was underway and I was all in. Dancing felt so natural, light and free in the gypsy energy of the place.

Double rainbows after storms welcomed me for my first few days in Kauai. Each day I found myself in the path of these rainbows as I walked the beach and swam way out. Rows of waxed boards lined up like sentinels against wooden boats on the sand along the shore.

“You’re an island girl,” a local said to me when I told him that I was Australian, had lived in Fiji and kept returning to Kauai. There is something utterly appealing about the oral tradition, the storytelling, singing, ways of seeing and being that comes from the perspective of living on an island.

In visiting some of the local shops I was shockedhaleiwa-surf to hear that none of the quality jewelry on sale from Pacific Island countries was bought from, or made by, women. “Why not,” I asked the owner of one of the artisan shops in Kauai. “Women aren’t making the quality jewelry or talking with us directly about buying – it is all done through the men,” he said. “They are probably playing a support role but it’s not obvious to us as buyers.”

It seems there needs to be much more attention paid to the front facing roles of women as artisans in island communities, and for their playing a lead role in representing artisan traditions.

I thought of the Santa Fe Folk Art Fair and what we could do to support more women from Pacific communities to engage in such important exchanges in order to build supply chains and networks. And what a difference it might make to have a dedicated International Women Artisan Network.

grace-kraaijvangerWith the sustained focus on women entrepreneurs, it’s important to recognize the role that artisans play as creative and economic agents of change. In my own community in Marin County we have some exciting networks to lift up women’s entrepreneurship and talent. One of my favorite networks, called The Hivery, was created by a visionary woman called Grace Kraajivanger. Its subtitle “An Inspiration Lab” and I hope we can foster more spaces like this for women globally.

With so much at stake for women these networks and leadership labs are vital to make women’s leadership and innovation visible and help lead strong campaigns for women’s participation and rights. Here, leadership at every level is important, from country-level leadership to citizen activism for change.

While we lost the opportunity to see the first women appointed as Secretary General of the United Nations, we can anticipate the importance of a first female President of the United States. More opportunities will open up for women’s empowerment, both by the symbolism and import of this event as well as by the sustained commitment Hillary Clinton has shown to advancing women’s human rights and gender equality through decades of civic and political work, and most recently as Secretary of State.

I recently read Ellen Malcolm’s book, When Women Win, on the creation of Emily’s List which is an important book in the strategizing needed to lift women’s leadership to new levels. I’ll be attending an event next week where Ellen Malcolm will be speaking in recognition of the critical importance of funding progressive women candidates in their campaign for office.

Who we elect to office will shape the future of the world and the quest for justice, especially in holding governments to account for the way they treat women and other citizens. For instance, The New York Times reported on the long fight for justice by Mexican women that has culminated in ‘The Women of Atenco’. 11 of the more than 40 women brought formal complaints to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a result of the sustained sexual violence and torture perpetrated by police during a 2006 crackdown ordered by Mr. Peña Nieto, President of Mexico.

maricarmen-mendoza-mother-of-jorge-anibal-cruz-mendozaThe case also reminds us of the violent act two years ago in Iguala, 120 miles south of Mexico City, where 43 students from Ayotzinapa disappeared in the middle of the night after being attacked by local police patrols. With the government continuing to stonewall it is still not clear what happened over 700 days later.

Presidential guard soldiers keep watch during the referendum on a peace accord to end the five-decade-long guerrilla war between the FARC and the state on Sunday in Bogota, Colombia. Colombian voters rejected the peace deal in a very close voteIn my last blog I wrote about the time I spent with the Transitional Justice Institute in Belfast in July this year and what we learnt has happened since the peace agreement in Ireland. While I was there we also discussed the momentum in support of a peace agreement in Colombia – after 70 years of war and with over 250,000 casualties.

And then it finally happened. The government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the nation’s largest guerilla group, reached a deal under which the militants committed to disarm and join the political system. Under the pact, FARC members would surrender their arms to United Nations personnel and reveal the nature of their involvement in the conflict to a special tribunal that would be established and include Colombian and international jurists. Those who admit to grave crimes such as executions and kidnappings would have their mobility restricted for up to eight years, during which time they would be required to perform community service. Those who have committed less serious crimes such as drug trafficking would receive amnesty.

colombian-peace-processThis was obviously not ideal in terms of some crimes going unpunished but it was a compromise to achieve peace and to ensure the victims were able to see those who perpetrated the most vicious crimes being held to account. The agreement was dependent on voters in Colombia supporting the peace agreement and the opportunity to see any end to decades of violence, corruption, fragile institutions and sustained inequality and poverty. However, the majority vote was to not accept the proposed peace agreement due to lack of accountability of those who were the major perpetrators of violence. And so, as a result, peace remains elusive and people’s lives will continue to be assaulted by the continuing violence.

This week it was announced that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in leading the negotiations from 2012 with the Farc guerrillas to secure a peace agreement. As The New York Times noted this morning, the prize is both recognition of achievement to date and encouraging and endorsing ongoing actions in support of the peace process. “The referendum, the committee noted, was against specific elements of the peace agreement, and not against peace.”

The outcome of the referendum in Colombia was similar to that of the United Kingdom with the Brexit vote where people voted to leave the European Union. In both cases the leader of the country was not legally obliged to allow the people to vote on the outcome and yet each chose this option seemingly to give the outcome more legitimacy. Yet moral leadership is about making the right decision with the facts at hand and in recognition of what’s at stake rather than choosing the path of populism, especially when, as in the case of Colombia, over 60% of the population chose not to vote.

bn-qb828_colomb_p_20161002184920It’s important to recognize the role of women in working toward a peace agreement in Colombia. Colombian women activists and movements have sustained their peace activism from the frontlines of local communities. This has included seeking justice for women raped and sexually violated and creating safe spaces for these survivors to speak during the peace talks in Havana. It has meant creating safe spaces for community members to speak about their experiences and the trauma experienced as a result of the sustained violence and for former child soldiers to also tell their stories. It has also meant giving these survivors an opportunity to use art as therapy through painting, poetry, song and writing while also getting training and financial support to start a new life.

Click to download Peace Building Syria 2016 - PDF

In this same way, Syrian women activists and movements have played a critical role in actively working for sustainable peace. A timely and insightful study of Syrian women’s peace activism written by Razan Ghazzawi, Afra Mohammad, Oula Ramadan and published by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation documents how Syrian women have been crucial actors in working for peace and non-violent conflict resolution. The report gives powerful examples of how women are intelligently working to stop violence and the trafficking of children while raising awareness of human rights and legal recourse and building comprehensive networks to sustain the work of peacebuilding.

On returning from Kauai, I step onto Sunrise, my small wooden boat, and put on a CD of The Seekers playing Georgie Girl. This was one of my very first records as a girl, and a song that still gives me so much joy. And when I dance to it, I flip the lyrics and I’m Georgie – the girl who finally gains the confidence to take on the world:


Jane Sloane
Kauai, Hawaii

P.S. Two weeks ago I commenced my new role as Director, Women’s Empowerment with The Asia Foundation and next month I’ll be traveling to see some of the foundation’s work in the field. I’ll be writing short blogs from Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Timor Leste and about  how the foundation is sustaining important women’s movements for change in all that we do. So, please join me.



Letter From Belfast

troubles01I landed in London just as the outcome of the Brexit vote also landed.  Half the plane cheering, and half the plane miserable with shock and dismay. I was in the latter camp. I couldn’t understand why the prime minister had allowed it to come to a vote when the vote to leave the European Union was always a possibility, and now a reality.  Putting it to the vote might have been the right populist thing to do while exercising moral courage is a tougher call.

I flew from London to Belfast and walked out of the terminal.  As a child born in the 60s I was still young when the Troubles began in Northern Ireland. I remember watching scenes unfold first on grainy black and white television and then later in full color.

troubles03Those images of violence and conflict are etched into my psyche so when I see them today, such as IRA fighters in the street, they evoke a stream of consciousness from my childhood when I was trying to make sense of what I was seeing. And yet those images remained frozen in time for me. When I had the opportunity to attend a Transitional Justice Institute Summer School in Belfast focused on women’s transitional justice I applied and was one of the lucky few to be accepted. This was a chance to learn from what women had experienced in Northern Ireland as well as learning from women’s experience of transitional justice in other countries.

Over a decade after a peace deal, Belfast has over 8o peace lines and interface areas separating Catholic and Protestant communities of the city.
Over a decade after a peace deal, Belfast has over 8o peace lines and interface areas separating Catholic and Protestant communities of the city.

What was profoundly shocking was that almost a decade after the peace settlement in Northern Ireland, domestic violence is higher than it’s ever been and the peace walls remain up to keep the peace between neighborhoods and the slogans on the walls include lines such as ‘Prepared for peace, ready for war’.

While the world celebrated the Belfast Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, not enough attention was paid to sustained and rising violence at home and on the streets by those for whom violence was their daily currency. These men hadn’t transcended and transformed their feelings and practice of violence; in fact, in many cases their violent behavior had escalated.

troubles02It’s clear that we need to pay more attention to how men and boys understand being male and exercise their masculinity as much as ensuring women are meaningfully engaged in peace processes and in positions of power.  This is the world’s longest war – violence against women and yet there is not the funding dedicated to in the way there is to a military operation even though the deaths and casualties far exceed any other war. If economists were tasked with capturing the real cost in lost productivity, and health services cost then the figure would be in the trillions.

So what would paying attention to male exercise of masculinity and women’s participation in peace processes look like?  It would mean that men were exercising their power in ways that expand their creative selves rather than denying or diminishing this side. It means they would likely establish more meaningful relationships and experience higher self-esteem.  It would mean that women were better supported in bringing to the table different relationships, ways of seeing and networking and exercising power. It would almost certainly mean and increased and sustained commitment to health care, education, freedom from violence and social justice. It would mean the practice of transforming power and articulating what positive peace looks like to people on the streets and in rural areas.

In an article written by Fidelma Ashe and Ken Harland called Troubling Masculinities: Changing Patterns of Violent Masculinities in a Society Emerging from Political Conflict, they refer to research studies that have shown that schools are instrumental in the formation of masculine identities. Harland and McCready’s five-year longitudinal study in Northern Ireland with 378 adolescent boys in post-primary school found complex and changing patterns of masculinity through the ways in which boys think about what it means to be a man. For example, from the ages of 11–13, irrespective of school type, the majority of boys believed that men should be dominant, aggressive, a good fighter, competitive, powerful, heterosexual, and able to stand up for themselves.

In presenting this research, Ashe and Harland wrote that

‘Violence and violence related issues were considered to be a normal part of young male development and an acceptable way to resolve issues. Those boys who held these beliefs most strongly scored lower in levels of academic motivation/ preference and higher in levels of misbehaviour. In contrast, boys who were less inclined to hold these strong beliefs about masculinity scored higher in academic motivation/preference and lower in levels of misbehaviour.

For the majority of boys, however, their ideas about masculinity became much more complex as they progressed through adolescence. Boys became increasingly confused about what it means to be a man in response to questions such as “a man should hug another man,” or “it’s ok for a man to cry.” One aspect that remained consistent for all boys across the five years was that it was important for a man to display moral and ethical responsibility and provide for his family. Since boys are rarely taught about masculinity or gender, they are often left to their own, or other perhaps more sinister influences to forge their masculine identities. This can mean that some boys and young men remain susceptible, or attracted to,

Since boys are rarely taught about masculinity or gender, they are often left to their own, or other perhaps more sinister influences to forge their masculine identities. This can mean that some boys and young men remain susceptible, or attracted to, hyper masculinity or violent masculinities, either as victims or perpetrators. This is perhaps where interventions supporting boys to question attitudes and behaviour associated with violent masculinities may be most useful. Helping boys to understand and process changing patterns of masculinities could be developed to support a range of social institutions and adults working with adolescent boys.’

Research shows that in trying to live up to masculine norms, many men place a priority on career advancement, sacrificing relationships with family, spouses, and friends—relationships that not only improve quality of life but that can also offer an important source of psychological support in times of stress and help mitigate problems such as anxiety, depression and illness.

troubles04Many men seem to perceive that, although beneficial to women, equality can only come at the expense of men. Other men may fear that no matter what their intentions are, rather than being seen as part of the solution, women colleagues will continue to see them as part of the problem, scrutinizing their every move. Changing this zero-sum perspective is critical to gaining men’s support for gender initiatives. For instance by exposing men to the personal gains when gender in the workplace is addressed.

This may include more rewarding and intimate relationships with spouse and children; freedom to define oneself according to one’s own values rather than traditional gender norms; freedom to share financial responsibilities with one’s spouse or partner; freedom to parent creatively.

A leadership course might invite questions such as what can this organization do to help alleviate men’s fears and encourage more men to become engaged as champions?
Is the company relying too much on women to drive gender inclusion efforts?’
How are men being equipped to assume leadership roles that support an inclusive work environment?
To what extent do all leaders “own” inclusion as part of their leadership responsibilities? How much are men focused on changing their own behaviors to promote inclusion—instead of looking for others to change?
How are men using and advocating for work life balance benefits such as paternity led family leave and telecommuting to manage their work and personal responsibilities?
Are male and female colleagues being judged by different standards (e.g., promotion criteria based more on potential for men and more on demonstrated achievement for women) and are gender-based assumptions being made about staff needs, work interests, and competencies (e.g., she won’t want to relocate because she has a small child; he doesn’t need work-life flexibility; she doesn’t really want to be on the fast-track), checkout the great work by Catalyst in this regard: Actions men can take to create an inclusive workplace (PDF)

p01ynl2qOn the first day of the Transitional Justice Institute Summer School, the renowned academic lawyer specializing in human rights, Professor Fionnuala Ni Aolain, gave the opening lecture. She spoke of the “armed patriarchy” and of the violence it produces being long term, cyclical, destructive and gendered. Professor Ni Aolain spoke of male dominance minimizing or making invisible women’s experience.  Gender is profoundly hierarchical in political settlement processes. It is critical to take seriously “the social stuff” that is often taken for granted in political processes such as the networking and informal conversations that leverage power and position. Sometimes we think the most important thing is for women to get to the table. What we don’t realize is that the deal got done before getting to the table.

This is the case in Nepal where the current increased representation of women in Nepal’s Constituent Assembly (CA) doesn’t mean that women have necessarily increased their meaningful participation in decision-making since women’s opinions even in parliamentary forums are so often discounted or overlooked. Although quotas and reserved seats for women are often an important catalyst for change, it’s important to go beyond such initiatives in order to address the deeper structural issues that often deny women power and participation and sustain their marginalization in different contexts.
Professor Ni Aolain again:

‘post conflict environments are vividly about male systems. There is enormous flux around male identity post conflicts. The international fraternity arrives to “fix” the problem – come with their own gender norms, patriarchal behaviors and they transfer them to this new context. For these reasons we need to assume they are part of the problem. The real challenge – and opportunity – is how to create structures that move societies beyond sharp inequalities and the loss of civic trust.  This means improving meaningful political representation and social and economic protection and transformation. It also means having a plan for rehabilitation and reintegration beyond the demobilization and disarmament.

As Professor Ni Aolain asked, what do you do with “the old guys who stand down”, ex-prisoners – mainly men – who say “this is all that I know. I like being the ‘go to’ person” in terms of their rehabilitation and how they see themselves and their use of power? With this in mind, it means we must be prepared to stand back from deals that are not good for us. A bad peace deal is worse than no peace deal at all. Those that foreclose on transformation are not worth supporting.’

troubles05During our time together, Professor Ni Aolain recommended we embrace what Cynthia Enlow refers to as ‘deploying a feminist curiosity’ and to use this approach to understand what will support dynamic processes that serve women. Check out this really great interview with Cynthia Enlow that captures feminist curiosity in practice, and the importance of a broad curiosity that explores many terrains and takes intersectionality as its cue.

Another speaker at the summer school, Catherine O’Rourke spoke about the way women build and develop their personal and professional relationships, including horizontally and relationally, in ways that open up a range of options for the peacebuilding process that is often different to the way men see and engage in peacebuilding processes.

Aisling Swaine from George Washington University reflected on the approaches to women’s inclusion in peacebuilding and the importance of seeking diverse voices of women outside those known to the system. Critical here is to realize the political activism of women rather than women coming in with halos on their heads.

mcwilliamsMonica McWilliams was a key leader in the Northern Ireland Peace Process and she shared her perspective with us on the difference that peace has made over 25 years. Her sharing was so rich and her perspective so important that I’m including here the raw notes I captured in the rapid-fire state in which she shared her stories and analysis with us.

“People were disappeared – bodies never returned by IRA (war is a very dirty thing) including the mother of 10 children. Scarred, physically and mentally. Displaced, exiled, homeless. Imprisoned, interned, tortured. Segregated, divided, and separated. Women led “The families of the disappeared” – Commission for the location of victim’s remains – asked for interlocutor to come forward and provide indemnity/amnesty for the person. Where one person’s justice is another person’s grievance.
Conflict never going away if you don’t get closure – relief of families when bodies returned 30 years later. It’s easy to put a wall up, it’s hard to pull it down. Our biggest walls are in our heads – same with decommissioning arms. Male prisoners asked in 1986 for a non-academic course on women’s studies (all republican, no loyalists). Over 30,000 prisoners during conflict and 750 when it ended. But no thought given to rehabilitation. Prisoners insisted they were political prisoners not criminals.
Irish diaspora sending funds and arms back to Ireland – geopolitical.
Cessation as requirement for ceasefire – conditions including ceasing rape. Need set of principles, independent timetable, establish a sufficiency of consensus. Women as mediators as much as negotiators. Women on the streets with placards. Harder to get support for their political participation.
New slogans: It’s Over/Time to Build – creating inclusive process for women’s participation. Ensure constructive process to get people to the table. Ensure proposals mean something to everyone at the table. Ensure what is agreed gets implemented. Accept the legitimacy of all involved in the peace process.
Creation of women’s party – Women’s Coalition – due to lack of response from political parties re request for women’s inclusion. Focus on diversity of women at the table. Ensure affirmative action with timetable attached so that it gets implemented. Human rights, inclusion, equality – focus on the three principles you’re going to work on.
Give Women the Vote (green, white, violet colors) and women’s slogan and posters in upcoming elections:  ‘Wave goodbye dinosaurs. Vote for Women’s Coalition Party’.“

Avila Kilmurray spoke of active citizenship being a chaotic and busy space. By the mid-1970s there was a more intentional women’s movement, and this movement helped to secure a Charter of Rights for women in Northern Ireland. This was in direct contrast to the popular attitude of the day, which was “We have to solve the political issues and then we’ll solve the women’s problems”. Women used their relationships and knowledge to drive citizen campaigns and people’s movements. There was a speed of self-organization as communities realized they had to stand on their own two feet and needed their own representation. This resulted in local voluntary community organizations such as the Bogside Community Association and the Ardoyne People’s Assembly that were distinct from civil society organizing largely led by paid NGOs.

This people’s movement was unpopular with politicians and churches due to being seen as challenging power and having a power base. While outsiders created ambitious peacebuilding goals that often set up people to fail, these people’s organizations were grounded in starting with where people were at and focused on people’s needs. These needs involved a response to the reality of grinding poverty, poor housing, domestic violence, rape, law reform, skill-building and people’s representation.  These women’s and people’s groups sought to break down fears and stereotypes by being inclusive of diverse views and perspectives, working back channels and engaging intermediaries including priests and local politicians as well as international women leaders such as Hillary Clinton.

Artivism was also a product of this people’s movement, most visibly through the murals painted on walls across Belfast. While on this summer school, Emeritus Professor and internationally recognized mural scholar, Bill Rolston, took us on a street tour to better understand the history and impact of this mural culture in Belfast. The themes of murals range from the 1981 Irish hunger strike, with particular emphasis on strike leader, Bobby Sands, murals of international solidarity with revolutionary groups and of inspiring leaders such as Nelson Mandela as well as on paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Defence Force.

As Rolston writes, ‘The phenomenon of mural painting grew out of both communities and served a political purpose, that of articulating the hopes and fears, their political identity and ideology of people in those communities. That was their strength. It was also their threat; that is what led to a program to encourage their removal after the peace agreement. Rolston argues instead for an approach of re-imagining the murals that would honor the desire of local people to articulate their politics and identity on the walls.

dorothea-lange-by-paul-s-taylor-1934Documenting movements in the making, including women’s creative and active role, is equally important and one of my friends pointed me to a stunning documentary called Grab a Hunk of Lightning on the life of photographer Dorothea Lange, produced by her daughter. In this vivid documentary, Lange seems the visual equivalent to Studs Terkel in the way she captures a view from the ground on a range of issues covering relocated Native Americans, striking workers, destitute migrants, early environmental depredations, and wartime photos of Japanese Americans citizens forced into internment camps. These images were unsparing and challenging and led the US government impounding them for half a century.

You have to annihilate yourself,” Lange said, “so you can become a vessel…to see what is really there.” In achieving this, Lange achieved a directness and intimacy with her subjects that defined her work and made the case for social justice. She fulfilled the challenge she set herself inside her studio in 1933, to “grab a hunk of lightning.”

Iconic Dorothe Lange migrant mother photographLange also captured the exhaustion of people facing extreme poverty and of leaders of social movements and activists at the frontline. Many of the issues she captured remain critical today, including the increasing feminization of poverty, exploitation of workers, mass populations on the move and the exhaustion and despair of those working at the front lines of social movements for change.

While I was in London last time, I met with Jenny Sutton, the sister of Jacky Sutton who had hanged herself in an airport in Istanbul, after falling asleep and missing her flight, and likely reaching a dangerous panic point because of the sustained stress of her work. Jenny and I talked about the idea of a covenant that NGOs could sign as their own commitment to staff in supporting their decompression from danger zones and depression from what they’d seen and experienced in highly stressful circumstances as much as taking seriously the idea that self-care is a political act.

There is an initiative called The Wellbeing Project that is cultivating a shift in the culture of field leaders and field work toward one that is healthy and supportive of wellbeing. After being incubated at Ashoka for almost two years it is now a co-creation initiative with Ashoka, The Esalen Institute, The Festzer Institute and Synergos focused on supporting the wellbeing of experienced social entrepreneurs, shifting the field of social change, and enhancing the lives of the millions of people touched by the efforts of these changemakers. I hope that similar initiatives are catalyzed to support the work of women human rights defenders and those at the frontline.

In this same spirit of self-care and wellbeing I headed to Vermont for a break. It was summer and time to rest – this was an annual pilgrimage to hang out at summer farmer’s markets, swim in warm ponds, nap under trees, browse a myriad of bookstores and attend the Marlboro Music Festival.

MMF concert-hallThis festival is a place where phenomenally talented young musicians are accompanied by master musicians in rehearsals that become highly celebrated weekend performances over the summer months.

During the intermission on Sundays, homemade lemonade and ginger snaps are served in the garden in a space that serves as an annual reunion for classic music lovers from across the region and the world. The founding of the festival involved refugees from the Third Reich and others who came together to create an environment in which professional players and gifted younger musicians could make music and perform together in a rural environment. Here they invited colleagues to come to, said music critic, Alex Ross, “lose their worldliness, to fall into a slower rhythm.”[
This was also the year we discovered the Yellow Barn Festival in Putney. What joy!yellow barn-lights
Fairy lights marking a pathway to the concert experience.

yellow barn-posterEach night a volunteer artist creates an enormous poster that provides a gorgeous backdrop to each performance.

This was a festival that was formed by two musicians, cellist David Wells and pianist Janet Wells, who founded Yellow Barn in 1969 as an informal summer retreat for David’s students at the Manhattan School of Music. Their neighbors were entranced and one of them named the event for the color of the Wellses’ farm house, cooking meals for the musicians and organizing concerts for the local community. In the following decades, Yellow Barn became one of the finest chamber music training and performance centers in the world, renowned for its musical excellence and its’ deeply creative embrace of art and community.

The night we attended we heard the Jonathon Dormand on cello and Abigail Sin on piano play a composition by Thomas Adès (b.1971) called Lieux Retrouvés (2009) that was one of the most sensual, mesmerizing pieces I’ve experienced. It was an event.


There is something profound about the power of music to transform. My friend, Thatch, sent me a link to this brilliant clip. It features 1,500 Canadians streaming into the Hearn Generating Station in Toronto to join Rufus Wainwright in singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as part of last month’s Luminato Festival.

Reading Maya Angelou during summer in Vermont was the best accompaniment to music festivals:

‘ Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art: to bring our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to admit when what we expected to happen did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and we can invent new scenarios as frequently as needed. ‘

sausalito-01Back here on my boat, this eternal rhythm.  Every night there is wonder, mystery, moonlight, a deep blue rocking sea and a faint tinkling of bells from other boats sending out their own sweet call.

Jane Sloane
San Francisco


[symple_testimonial by=”Issa” fade_in=”false”]From that woman
 on the beach,
dusk pours out
across the evening waves[/symple_testimonial]

Future Health Leaders Conference 2015 – “Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders”

“Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders”


Last November I was invited to give speak at the 2015 Future Health Leaders Conference . It was a wonderful event and I particularly want to thank Shannon Nott for the invitation to speak.

My keynote speech was THE POWER OF MOVEMENTS – A GLOBAL MOVEMENT OF FUTURE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS about the potential, individually and collectively to lead a strong health worker movement to change the world.


Jane Sloane on Women’s Health at 2015 Future Health Leaders National Conference

I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of country, the Gadigal peoples of the Eora nation and to acknowledge the land on which we stand today and to pay my respects to elders past and present. I also want to say what a great privilege it is to be here today at the University where I studied and also because I was present for the creation of Future Health Leaders.

So it’s really wonderful to be invited back here. I particularly want to thank Shannon Nott for the invitation to speak. What I’m speaking to you about today is about your potential, individually and collectively to lead a strong health worker movement to change the world.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-02For me in the last 30 years of human rights work I’ve been guided by a sentiment that was so eloquently captured by the late Kath Walker who later adopted her tribal name Oodgeroo of the tribe Noonuccal. when she said, “as I’ve traveled the world I’ve often thought that one could judge society by the way it treats its minorities.

Where a minority’s been forced to live in squalor, I’ve seen a squalid society. Where a minority has been riddled with disease, I’ve seen a sick society. Where a minority has been without hope, I’ve seen a nation without hope.”

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-03You have the power to come together as a strong health worker movement and change the frame and then change the world. You have the power to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which holds true the right of every person on this earth to have access to health care to have access to health services. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights has most recently been affirmed by the new global sustainable development goals to which Australia is a signatory.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-04You have the power to be a very strong global health movement for change and to change the world in the way that Margaret Meade said, when she reflected, “Never doubt that a small group of committed thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

For me a tipping point moment of change happened some fifteen years ago when I spent a day with Nelson Mandela.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-05He was in Sydney at the time to speak at an event called “What Makes a Champion” and I was leading one of the Olympic media centers for the Olympic Games and I was approached about whether I would be prepared to look after Mr. Mandela for a day.

You can imagine. “Would you mind looking after Mr. Mandela?” “Oh well. Ok.” During the course of the day he said to me, “Jane if you really want to make a positive difference in the world you should focus on conflict resolution and citizen led change.”

If you think about the wisdom of those words since all the conflict that’s happened since, and the number of people led movements that have risen up around the world, you just again reflect on what an incredible individual Nelson Mandela was.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-06From that point really to now, I’ve been on quite a journey and that journey has led me to working with an organization called Global Fund for Women. Global Fund for Women was created some twenty-seven years ago by three women who were concerned about the fact that there wasn’t much money going to support women led organizations in developing countries. The money that was going to support them was largely project based – rather than core funding to be able to sustain the advocacy and the activism. They wanted to change all that.

Since that time we’ve given out about a hundred and twenty million dollars to some 5,000 women’s groups. Just to give you an idea of what that means in practice and the radical idea of trusting women and getting money into the hands of women in order to see transformative change, three of the women who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 were early recipients of funding from Global Fund for Women.

One of those women Leymah Gbowee from Liberia had a dream to end the Liberian Civil War. She used some of the money that we provided to bus hundreds of women into Accra in Ghana where the leaders, the male leaders of the Liberian Civil War were meeting and these women surrounded the compound and Leymah Gbowee grabbed a megaphone and she said, “We women, we’re tired of war, we want peace, we want justice and we are surrounding this compound and we’re not going to let you men out until you make a decision to end the civil war and if you try and come out we are going to bare our breasts.” which is like a hex on men.

Those men stayed in that compound for several days until they finally did make a decision to end the civil war. When they came out, Leymah Gbowee and the other women, they turned their attention to getting the first female president of Liberia elected and that women of course was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

One of our board members at the time, Abbey Disney, who’s the granddaughter of Walt Disney, was so transfixed by this story that she made a film about Leymah Gbowee and the women who surrounded the compound. That film was called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” and at the same time, Tina Brown that legendary publisher in New York approached Leymah Gbowee about writing a book about her experiences.

It was that book and that film that came to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize organizing committee and that was really what helped to get her the recognition that she deserved. That’s what happens when you not only get money into the hands of women’s groups, but when you lift up their voices and their views, so the whole world knows what they’re capable of achieving.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-07Just one other example of an incredible movement for change, closer to home, a woman called Janet Sape. She was concerned about the fact that in Papua New Guinea some eighty-three percent of women experienced some form of domestic violence. Many of these women in rural and remote parts of the country can’t access their own bank account without getting it their husband’s signature. It means that they are trapped in a cycle of violence and they can’t get out of that, can’t imagine a different life or economic independence.

So Janet had a dream. She had a banking background before she went back to working in her community. She had a dream to create a Pacific women’s bank. We provided her the funding to be able to pursue that dream. She worked with thousands of women; she managed to get some 15,000 signatures from women who really wanted to see this bank happen. The problem was she couldn’t get the banking license from the prime minister.

I’m also on the board of Women’s Funding Network in the United States and we have an award called the Lead Award, which is a global women’s leadership award. Global Fund for women flew Janet Sape to the United States to receive this award. She stood up before hundreds of men and women at a global women’s conference and she said, “You know, we women in Papua New Guinea, we thought we were alone, we thought our problems were our own and what I realized standing before you today is, we have a whole global women’s community, a whole movement that has our back and I can’t tell you what a difference that makes”.

We then beamed the footage of Janet receiving the award back to Papua New Guinea, back to TV stations in the country, to newspapers in the country.

By the time she arrived back in Papua New Guinea, she was a rock star. She was on the front page of the papers, she was the lead story in the TV’s news and so sometime after she arrived back, the prime minister invited her to his residence and he signed over that banking licence to her.

Now some two years later she has over 30,000 women who have signed up as members of that bank. That’s what happens when you not only get money into the hands of a group that wants to lead a strong movement for change but you also lift up their voices and their views.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-08That’s what’s really important about the way that we work. We don’t just invest in individual people, in individual leaders; we don’t even invest in individual groups. We invest in strong social movements, believing that’s the best way to be able to change the world.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-09We take our cue from an activist scholar called Srilatha Batliwala who defined a social movement as an organized set of people interested in making a change in their situation by pursuing a common political agenda through collective action. That common political agenda is really critical in terms of the level of change you’re able to achieve.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-10Why are social movements important? Research has shown that broad-based social movements are one of the most effective mechanisms to create and to sustain long-term social transformation.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-11For example, social movements have been pivotal in the adoption of progressive policies, in ensuring policy implementation, in changing a whole political process in changing gender norms.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-12One example of this, you’ll remember the woman in India who was raped. That horrific rape on a bus and the global outrage that resulted from that and the fact that the Indian government then, less than two months later, passed new laws to give new protection to women and girls in terms of sexual violence and domestic violence.

Those laws were only made possible by the years of work by women social movements, women’s groups that were writing policies, drafting legislation, working together to create the kind of environment that could ensure that when this political tipping point moment occurred, everything was ready and able, to be able to enact the change into law. All of that work, of investing in movements for change is vitally important for when those tipping point moments occur.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-13What does a strong social movement look like? One example of that is the movement for Climate Justice. Here a health worker movement has a pivotal role to play with the intersection of climate justice.

For example, the World Health Organization has predicted that in the years ahead in Papua New Guinea alone, it’s likely to face a 95% exposure to Malaria. You can imagine the level of disease and dislocation that will follow in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific countries that are on our doorstep. We’ll see a lot more climate change refugees as a result of rising sea levels and all of the other factors that play a part with climate change.

We’ve already seen that in the Carteret Islands, with members of the population moving to Bougainville. We’re likely to see a whole lot more in the time ahead. You, as a health worker movement, are really going to be at the front line of response.

It’s also really important to pay attention to the gender dimensions of climate change, of health worker response.

For example during the Asian tsunami you may not know this, for every man and boy who died, three women and girls died.

Often for cultural reasons such as women not feeling that they could leave their homes because they didn’t have their husband’s permission or they didn’t feel that they were covered up enough or because they didn’t know how to swim.

Paying attention to those factors, paying attention to what’s playing out in the world with climate change is really critical and connecting with that movement is really vital as well.

To that point, the key components of a strong movement include that connectivity with other movements. It includes having a strong leadership pipeline and diverse leadership so that you’re actually reflecting the diverse perspectives within a movement.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-15It requires a strong grassroots base and it requires a strong organizing structure. It requires the use of multiple strategies which includes convenings such as this, capacity building, outreach, surveys, research, advocacy, (and) the use of social media. It requires a collective political agenda. An agenda that has a focus on shifting power as much as shifting resources and it requires strong alliances not just with established movements but also with emerging movements.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-16One of those emerging movements is the movement to end hyper-masculinity and this image you see here is from a film that some of you might have seen. It’s a film that was created by a US filmmaker called Jennifer Siebel Newsom called The ‘Mask You Live In’.

She conducted interviews with boys and young men in the United States asking questions such as, “What does it mean to be a man, what do you think about when you’re told to man up, what does masculinity mean to you in your life?”

It’s really an absolutely incredible film. I’d love to see a similar film made in Australia, interviews with Australian boys and Australian young men. It would be so interesting to see the differences and the similarities in the responses received.

A couple of months ago I was in Uganda visiting a group that we’d funded about three years earlier. This group was led by a woman who was really concerned about the high number of girl kidnappings, the high rate of child marriage, the high rate of violence against women within the villages where she lived. She started a campaign.

She started going out and talking to male chiefs, talking to police chiefs, talking to elders within the villages, talking to families about imagining a different way of life.

A different way of life where men could drop their focus on violence could actually imagine the deep healing that needed to occur within these villages. She was soon joined by a young male teacher who was really distressed by the fact that his mother was being beaten up every day by his father, that his sister had been disappeared some two years earlier and he also wanted to see a big change in the villages in the community.

Well. I was arriving three years later after they’d been doing this work for some time. I was present for the testimony that a lot of male chiefs stood up and spoke to me about.

One older man said to me, “You know I used to see sex like a cup of tea that I could have at any time. That I could have sex with any young woman, with any girl and I’d even had sex with my daughter-in-law to test the dowry we’d provided, to see whether it was actually worthwhile, and that was my way of life. I realized that it was doing as much damage to me as it was the women in my community.”

Man after man stood up and talked about the changes that they’d made in their own lives and now being mentors to other boys and young men in their communities.

These men, as well as the women in the community, started talking to me about the difference that this had made. That they’d now created their own cooperative dairy, they created their own cooperative coffee collective, that they created a system to be able to transport women with high-risk pregnancies to the nearest villages.

Now every girl with going to school, that the kidnappings that occurred with many children on the way to school had ceased and every boy had made their own compact to not be violent.

They said, “We now want to lead a strong movement across the rest of Uganda. We want more funding because we’ve seen the healing that has occurred in this community.

We’ve seen the healing that occurs when we address hyper masculinity. We now believe that we can engage communities across the rest of Uganda and create the deep level of healing that’s needed to be able to transform our communities and transform the society in which we live.”

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-17You also have a phenomenally powerful role to play in one of the most challenging issues of our time that we’re seeing playing out now and that is the mass migration that’s occurring across Europe. It’s occurring across many other parts of the world because of the heightened level of war and conflict that’s occurring.

Mass migration needs a global health system. I want to share with you what I’ve experienced in several of the Syrian refugee camps where I’ve been in Lebanon in recent weeks; if you can imagine some 25,000 to 37,000 people crammed into a space of less than a kilometre.

These people are living in places where there are live electrical wires just a couple of feet above me and every couple of weeks someone else gets electrocuted from these electric wires, where any drinking water has to be brought into the camps in order for people to be able to drink, where the Lebanese government has banned some seventy occupations so it means that people in these camps have to resort to the most menial kind of work, working with sewerage, working in plumbing, where the women who are pregnant have no access to health care, where many of them are giving birth to children, to babies with deformities and because they have no access to health treatment these babies are being medicated and really left in a vegetative state at the moment, where the level of violence is at an all time high and where the women particularly Syrian women have just normalized the violence.

Some of them said to me, “We think it’s better that our husbands hit us, beat us up, rather than hitting others, rather than them beating up others”, where children are encouraged to scream so that they’re not grabbed and taken away from the camps and sold off to some of the Gulf men in Gulf communities. This is something that’s not normal for Syrian children, they’re not normally taught to scream so they’ve had to change their behaviour, to be able to scream when any man touches them.

Where the women’s groups that we’re supporting have been working with Syrian women to really understand that they have rights, that they have the right not be violated in their community and also again working with men so that they can deal with the level of trauma that they’re facing and understand what’s driving them to be violent every day.

One of the young boys I spoke with in the community who was also a victim of domestic violence. I asked him. “What would you like to be when you grow up?” And he said to me, “I’d like to be a pilot so I can fly away from all of this”.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-18You know these stories are just absolutely heartbreaking of what’s happening in these camps. These people have the right to a different life. They have the right to basic health care, to be able to support them, to be able to imagine a different life in the time ahead. Because if we don’t support these people we’re going to not only deny them their basic human rights, were going to be able to, I guess lead them to a situation that none of them want to be able to see, which is being led into the arms of armed groups, not just ISIS, but other armed groups.

They want to take the first ticket out of there, to be able to get themselves out of this situation because of the level of poverty, the level of disease, the level of despair in these camps is something that no one should ever, ever have to experience.

The problem is, this is just the beginning. What I experienced and witnessed is just the beginning of a great tide of humanity that is pouring into these camps at the moment. You have the power to come together as a global health worker movement and advocate for change, advocate for the right of these people to be able to assume the need and the access to basic health care.

Because health care is a human right, health care is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and you have the power to be able to change the situation, you have the power to change the world. In this respect technology is going to play a massively important role; the power of a mobile phone to be able to change the situation for an individual and a community, the ability of a phone to be able to determine and detect a high-risk pregnancy and for a woman to be able to get the health care that she needs, so that her baby is saved. 20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-19The power of a phone to be able to support girls and women who are in high areas of conflict, such as happened in Haiti, where women devised a 24 hour hotline using cell phones so the girls and young women who were in danger could immediately use their cell phones to be able to get to safety and to identify where they could get help if they’d been raped or abused.

When I spent time with Syrian and Iraqi women activists a few weeks ago in Turkey, they said to me that one of the most important things that would help them in organizing an underground network to keep girls and women safe from ISIS, was a safe digital network, so that they could identify where women were at risk, where they could set up safe shelters, where they could dismantle, where they needed to be able to get out of a space quickly. So the power of technology to be able to keep girls and women safe, to keep boys and men safe and to be able to provide the services that are needed to be able to drive a strong health workers movement.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-20How we use our power is really going to determine our world. How you use your power and the choices we make in the time ahead. How you use your decision-making and how you make a commitment to a strong global health worker movement is really going to shape our world for the time ahead.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-21You have the power here today to be able to change the world. Please join me in this strong, strong vision to be able to change not only the experiences that I’ve seen in the Syrian refugee camps but the experiences of every individual in the world.

20151119-Jane-FHL-KeynoteSpeech-22You have the power to drive a strong global health worker movement.
You have the power to change the world.
I invite you to step up and assume that challenge.

Thank you very much.

Jane Sloane


Transcript by Jools Thatcher – Pretentia



Letter From The Interior


[symple_testimonial by=”Audre Lorde” fade_in=”false”]“Caring for myself is not self indulgence, it is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
A Burst of Light: Essays[/symple_testimonial]


This is a long-time-coming letter, erupting like a dormant volcano, stirred and spurred by a convening of women’s human rights activists in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and held in Batumi on the edge of the Black Sea.

moffatt-cropIt’s a surreal series of flights on smallish planes hopping from London to Riga to Minsk to Batumi that brings me to the convening. By the time I arrive in Minsk it’s late at night and all that greets me is an endless configuration of grey, unoccupied seats in the transfer lounge. I wander over to another area where two structures akin to four poster beds sit incongruously in the middle of the grey compound and next to them are a child sized table and chairs and a gloriously colored pup tent complete with rocket chute.

Settling myself in one of the beds, in an Alice in Wonderland like moment, a woman suddenly materializes before me and informs me that this is part of Etihad’s lounge and am I a member? Am I a member, I wonder out loud, looking in vain for signs of what I associate with an airline lounge. “In any case, you can join for a few hours,” says the woman deciding for me and my gratitude knows no bounds as I curl up for a ‘kip’ so tired and needing a flat line bed.

At last we take flight and then finally I’m in Batumi, on an ink black night and me in an altered state. I sleepwalk through registration and fall into my bed and to a  brief and welcome sleep. I wake to the alarm and to our planning day for the convening, pull the curtains across and stare at the view.

The sea!! The sea!!

(eternal) divine, ethereal, sublime…the constancy of the sea, my elemental home.


I am beside myself with joy in this moment and later, after our planning is done, I reclaim this lightness as I skip waves in my boots and fossick for colored stones as runes for rituals and stories.

At our planning session we spend time with the facilitators, one of whom is an experienced trainer in integral security, as a concept of security that goes beyond just the physical protection of the individual. It takes into account the need to feel safe at home, at work and on the street, as well as integrating the physical and psychological well-being of women’s human rights defenders. It’s the first time in my experience that a convening such as this is so fully grounded and informed by the principles of self-care.

As we commence our convening, we gather in a circle in a room with lots of pillows and mats and for the next three days we take up space across the room with our bodies sprawled out in various positions. It’s such a celebration of this free flow space where we are able to choose with our bodies as well as our minds how we occupy this space.

My mind expands in this space – I connect different thought patterns and make leaps of association in relation to ideas and issues. I think back to the children in the refugee camps in Lebanon who could dream again, experience the reawakening of their spirit life, after doing yoga classes created by a woman who believed in the immense power of body and movement therapy.

During this convening time, we hear from so many women’s human rights defenders and activists who speak of exhaustion and burnout from their work and of the irony of advocating for the safety and security of others while our own bodies fall to pieces. At a time when civil society spaces, and spaces for women’s organizing, are closing down it seems important to find ways to find, fund and affirm the importance of these spaces.

We hear too from speakers whose work has been criminalized by the government and where any travel is dangerous. “When I return home I will be invited to the police office, I will be fingerprinted, I will be sent to the HIV office. I will be interrogated to find out where I went and why I went and how I went,” one speaker said.

“I didn’t realize how much I needed this time until I got here,” said one woman. “I didn’t think we should meet in some fancy hotel but now I realize that having soft beds and spa access is probably exactly what I needed after time in the field,” said another.

Women often seem to experience a sense of guilt when we focus attention on our own need for rest and restoration believing it somehow less worthy than the heartbreaking and devastating stories and situations of women and girls in other countries.

We don’t often enough recognize that we are affirming the right to physical and mental wellbeing of women globally when each of us take responsibility for our own rest and wellbeing.

Self-care is a political act.

Picture2If I had the funds I’d create a Center for Women’s Deep Rest that would be available to women activists and to other leaders in transition. A center for women’s deep sleep and healing, with crayons and paints and strings and clay and instruments available for play time and expression.

What a radical concept, no reports, presentations or training sessions, just a focus on restoration and rejuvenation in recognition of the incredible contribution, talent and expertise of these women, and the desire that they again be able to play a creative and active role in their communities and movements.

Where women can reclaim their playful, joyful selves and rediscover their beauty and complexity in and beyond their activist selves and learn to ensure that rest and recovery time are part of their daily lives and rhythm.

I wish the same for other leaders who are facing a time of transition in order to support them to do this from a position of strength – or at least the aikido idea of strength in the form of flow and surrender. For me, the question continues to be how to find a role where I can practice transformative leadership, without compromising my sense of community, home, and connection to nature.

How to be close to family in Australia, with my parents getting older and wanting to be close to them, and to my brother and close friends, while doing the work I love in the world that is mainly outside of Australia and being steeped in nature to infuse my soul.  And in a global environment that increasingly rewards managerialism, how to hold fast to my big dreaming self?

I listen to an interview with my favorite broadcaster, Phillip Adams, where he reflects on his broadcasting role and says

“We are so bloody privileged to be working at the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) at the one place that actually encourages ideas. We complexify rather than simplify to a slogan, we embroider. It’s not a binary world, issues aren’t yes or no, they are infinitely complex and we have the great joy, the great privilege of working in that context.”


And so it is with women’s movements and women’s human rights activism. The work of challenging and changing structures and systems is deep and long term and necessary. We have to be strong to stay the course in holding ground and gaining ground and in supporting a new generation of activists and advocates.

I recently spent time with graduate students at the University of Berkeley at a session that was supposed to be about career advice on getting involved in women’s human rights movement building and ended up being a deeper dive discussion after a student asked me what one of my biggest lessons in my work life had been.

“Not giving up my own power,” I said

“What does that mean?” asked one student.

“In essence, don’t sabotage your own potential at the very moment where forces converge to take you to a new point in your leadership and influence.
Hold on to that opportunity and influence while being inclusive of others.
Claim this power, as good and vital power and use it as a springboard to realize your vision and direction.”

Back at the convening, I remember a powerful storytelling session I had with a narrative therapist where he encouraged me to imagine an animal totem that I could relate to and then to describe myself in the skin of this creature. I responded by saying I could see myself bounding like an impala across the landscape and my body was leaping with love of life. Like the image of Sybil Shearer, my favorite dancer, and her high, ecstatic leaping in a deeply intuitive response to the natural environment which stoked her creativity.

Bright_sun_1000What would stoke my creativity?

To dance
Work with my hands
Draw with my color crayons
Write poetry on my boat
Join artist India Flint in her textile workshop in New Mexico
Go to a month long yoga retreat at the Sanctuary at Mission Beach

Sleep long and dreamily in Piccadilly

Embrace leadership in a way that more swiftly gets funds and power into the hands of women in communities including seed funding for those women and women’s movements who just need the funds to begin a dream.
Seed funding is as precious as funding to help those wanting to extend and scale their work.

I want to reclaim those lost parts of myself that my dearest mentor, Stella, asked me about. She knew the cost and she knew the rewards when we paid attention to this.

black seaI greet the sea one final time, seeking my eternal threes – three has always been my lucky number. I don’t really know which stones I’ll be drawn to, only that it feels like an alchemic process.

As I reach into the clear, clear sea, I’m drawn to glowing egg shaped stones that are smooth and comforting in my hand. And of course I’m not really surprised – eggs – source of creativity, new life, maternal birth, cracking open.

I remember the story of the monks who deliberately dropped the clay pots they made and then painted the cracks with gold leaf, in the belief that it’s in the cracks that our richness can be found. I turn to go.

Jane Sloane

[symple_testimonial by=” Kobayashi Issa” fade_in=”false”]
From that woman
on the beach, dusk pours out
across the evening waves