Beijing Circles Conference to welcome Ambassador Swanee Hunt as keynote speaker

August 26, 2008

The Honorable Swanee Hunt, founding director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and former ambassador to Austria, will be the keynote speaker at Beijing Circles Conference sponsored by the Episcopal Church and Episcopal Divinity School.


Scheduled for September 26-27, the conference will explore ways women around the world can work together to address issues of poverty, education, health, and gender equality faced by their global sisters. The conference will run from 5:30-9 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday. The conference fee is $25 which includes dinner on Friday, continental breakfast and lunch on Saturday, as well as a copy of Hunt's book, This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace." The event will be held on the Episcopal Divinity School campus located at 99 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The program begins on Friday evening with dinner, followed by a panel discussion centered on how women's leadership can work to restore God's creation using the Beijing Platform for Action as a blueprint. Panelists include Phoebe Griswold, one of the founders of Anglican Women's Empowerment; Lallie Lloyd, author of Eradicating Global Poverty: A Christian Study Guide on the Millennium Development Goals; and the Rev. Jane Gould, a participant in the 4th World Conference on Women during which the Beijing Platform was adopted. The panel will be facilitated by Kim Robey, program officer for Women's Ministries and Leadership Development at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

The conference continues on Saturday, with the keynote address by Hunt. The former ambassador, who describes her mission as working "to achieve gender parity, especially as a means to end war and rebuild societies as well as to alleviate poverty and other human suffering," will speak about her work with Bosnian women who are reconstructing their society following years of devastating warfare, as well as the contributions she sees women bringing to the table when working on social change at the local, national, and global level. Following lunch, there will be an opportunity to learn more about the Beijing Circles movement, and an Episcopal Eucharist service. People of all faith traditions are welcome.

The EDS campus is handicap accessible. Guests are encouraged to take public transportation as parking is limited. Participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging, though some guest housing may be available at EDS. Contact Penny Smith at or 617-682-1542 for housing availability.

Episcopal Divinity School is a respected center of study and spiritual formation for lay and ordained leaders with a strong commitment to justice, compassion, and reconciliation. EDS, formed in 1974 with the merger of Philadelphia Divinity School (founded in 1857) and Episcopal Theological School (founded in 1867), offers doctor of ministry and master's degrees, as well as certificates in theological studies. Located on an eight-acre campus just a few blocks from Harvard Yard, EDS is a member of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine eminent theological schools, seminaries, and departments of religion.




About Ambassador Hunt
Swanee Hunt directs the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she also teaches courses on bringing women into formal and informal peace processes. President of Hunt Alternatives Fund, she also chairs The Initiative for Inclusive Security (including the Women Waging Peace Network), which advocates for the full participation of all stakeholders, particularly women, in conflict prevention and resolution. She has conducted trainings for women all over the world, including 70 of the highest-ranking women in post-war Iraq and 130 women leaders in Sudan. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Austria (1993-1997), is active in Democratic politics, and has supported hundreds of non-profit organizations through her private foundation. She is a widely published columnist and has authored two books: the award-winning "This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace" and a memoir, "Half-Life of a Zealot."


About the Beijing Circles Movement
The Beijing Circles movement began in 2005 when, at the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York, an assessment was done to determine if progress was being made toward resolving 12 critical areas of concern regarding the status of women -- areas identified in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women, sponsored by the United Nations and held in Beijing, China. The areas identified ranged from the increasing burden of poverty on women, violence against women, stereotyping and gender inequalities, and lack of respect for the human rights of women. The 12 areas were then adopted into the Beijing Platform for Action. While the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women noted some progress in 2005, it was clear that there was still a long way to go.

These events inspired a small group of women from the Episcopal Church to dedicate themselves to finding a way to stay focused on addressing these issues. They began inviting their U.S. sisters to gather, with the sole purpose of educating themselves, and others about the Beijing Platform for Action. They called their gathering a Beijing Circle and from that, and their subsequent commitment, the Beijing Circles were born. Beijing Circles seek to empower women to work to resolve some of the problems by offering a variety of plans for action and advocacy.

Beijing Circles are now being formed across the U.S. by women who want to learn how other women around the world can work together to address issues of poverty, education, health, and gender inequality faced by their global sisters. The Circle provides a unique faith-based opportunity to raise awareness, both individually and collectively, of the possibility of change for all women. It seeks to empower women to pursue the implementation of positive outcomes by offering a variety of plans for action and advocacy. The conference at EDS will serve to show others how to begin their own Beijing circle while reflecting on the progress made by the movement thus far.


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