Welcome to Gather the Women Global Matrix

Gather the Women Global Matrix™ (GTW) is a global sisterhood that connects women through circles. We create a safe place to share our true selves. Meeting in circle, we find our voices, claim our power, and celebrate our self-worth, leading to personal and planetary transformation.


Translations by GTW sisters around the world:

Somos una hermandad global que conecta a las mujeres a través de círculos. Creamos un lugar seguro en el que compartir nuestra verdadera esencia, nuestro verdadero “Yo Soy”. Al reunirnos en círculo, encontramos nuestras voces, reclamamos nuestro poder y celebramos nuestro propio valor, en pos de una transformación personal y planetaria.


Wir sind eine globale Schwesternschaft, die Frauen durch Kreise verbindet. Wir erschaffen einen sicheren Platz, um unser wahres Selbst zu teilen. Indem wir uns in Kreisen treffen finden wir unsere Stimme, behaupten unsere Macht, feiern unseren Selbstwert und führen wir persönliche und planetarische Transformation an.


De visie van Gather the Women.
Wij zijn een mondiale vrouwengroep dat vrouwen verbindt door middel van cirkels. We creëren een veilige plek waarin we kunnen delen wie we werkelijk zijn. In de ontmoeting in de cirkel ervaren we onze eigen stem, recht en kracht, en vieren we onze eigen-waarde hetgeen ons leidt naar persoonlijke en planetaire transformatie.


Tuli entabilo y’obwaseluganda ebuna ensi yonna nga egetta abakazi okuyita mu buboondo bw’enkulungo. Tutondawo ekifo ekitebenkevu okugabana ekitufu kyetuli mu buntu. Okukunganira mu kaboondo k’enkulungo, tuzuula amaloboozi gaffe, okwediza obuyinza bwaffe, era n’okujaguzza ekyo ekisanira era kyetuli, okututusa kukukyusibwa kw’embeera eyasekinoomu era n’ensi yonna.



הצהרת חזון: 

אנו אחוות נשים עולמית המחברת בנות חווה דרך מעגלי נשים היוצרים מקום בטוח לשיתוף כנה ואמיתי. 

הפגישה במעגל מאפשרת לנו למצוא את הקול האותנטי שלנו, את כוחות הנפש הייחודיים, ולחגוג את ערכנו העצמי לכדי טרנספורמציה אישית וכלל עולמית.


We invite you to download our Guidelines in How to Form a Circle
Be inspired to create your own circle!

Save the World. Gather the Women.


By Barbara Belknap

My heart is pulled towards the women in war ravaged countries around the world. Today, August 8, 2014, there are Yazidi women on Mount Sinjar in northeastern Iraq clutching their hungry and thirsty children close to them. Some mothers have watched their children die of thirst. The Yazidi are only the latest in a painfully long history of women’s suffering. I do not diminish the suffering or the role of the fathers, but it’s the mothers I wish could be spared the constant impact of warfare.

When Jean Shinoda Bolen wrote, “Gather the Women, Save the World”, the battle for women had already been a long one. I’m taking liberties with the title to this essay, but I think she’d be ok with that.

Women in the Mideast have not started any wars since Cleopatra, but the world has witnessed them bearing so much of the brunt of these conflicts. Watching the PBS NewsHour in June, I saw huge Russian tanks roar through the narrow ancient streets of Baghdad. The alwomeninburqaandboy-Qaeda fighters “at the wheel” were oblivious to the stream of men, women, and children heading away from the fighting. One man’s head was up above the tank’s open hatch and he had a victor’s smile on his face.

My heart broke as I watched mothers fleeing with their terrified children in that narrow space between the rumbling tanks and the walls. Most of the mothers’ faces were completely hidden. One woman, wearing a full black burqa, stays etched in my mind. She balanced a tightly packed woven basket on her head with her right arm, and carried a baby with her left arm. A little girl around four years old had a tight grip on her mother’s billowing robe. Two young boys with curly black hair ran alongside. As a mother myself, I remember thinking, “What if the little girl loses her grip on that robe with those tiny fingers? What if the two boys can’t keep up with their mother, and get lost in the throng of identical burqas?”

There appeared to be just as many women covering their hair with hijabs, leaving their faces uncovered and, in my worried opinion, safer to keep track of their children and vice versa. Meanwhile, the huge tanks were rumbling through the streets just inches away with drivers oblivious to the fleeing families.

I wrote a poem about a particular scene on PBS that I saw that June night that I cannot erase from my mind. I call it “Maelstrom”.

Maelstrom, conflagration, chaos
The mother shrouded all in black flees
A basket holding their lives balanced on her head
Wide-eyed children cling to her robe with tiny hands
Monster tanks are crawling through the ancient streets
Cocky young men with itchy trigger fingers in control
Nothing will be left standing but the oil
and the bitter seeds of another war sown deep.

What can we do? It seems like eons ago now, but Malala Yousafzai is the courageous young Muslim woman who stood up for a girl’s right to an education in 2012. The Taliban responded by shooting her in the face. She was fifteen. In July 2014, the world saw the terrifying leader of Boko Haram and his gang kidnap an estimated 275 girls and threaten any girl who goes to school. By mid-July 2014, Malala was filmed literally striding through a village school in Nigeria with her book under her arm. I heard her saying in a strong voice, “Of course, you must learn how to read.” She met with the school girls, and then took her time posing for pictures with them. That is courage. (http://malalafund.org/blog/)

To finish this on a more optimistic note, I am a long-time member of the PFLAG Juneau Pride Chorus. On Tuesday night, a small group of us met to vote on music for the 2014-15 Season. I was so happy to see that one of those songs is “Malala”. We’ll be singing the version arranged by Joan Szymko. Take a few minutes to watch this short video and feel hopeful that, indeed, we can gather the women and save the world. It’s just going to take some time.

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The List

Jean Shinoda Bolen in a joyous dance after a long day of serious discourse.

Jean Shinoda Bolen knows how to have fun! (International Peace Conf. in Dallas. Photo by Barb Belknap)

The Conveners working together on a new mission statement. Lake Tahoe, 2013.

The Conveners working together on a new mission statement. Lake Tahoe, 2013.

When the GTW Conveners worked with Jennifer Ball at their retreat, they birthed a list of values for themselves that would serve our families, our workplaces, our non-profits, and the world. Jennifer is a co-author of “Doing Democracy with Circles: Engaging Communities in Public Planning”, a consultant, and a member of Gather the Women Canada.

Here is the list:
Open-heartedness, choosing what’s important and what to let go of, forgiveness, kindness, non-judgment, accepting people where they are, integrity, vulnerability, respect, trust, loving, loyalty, reliability, being present, a sense of being worthy, fun, and authenticity.

I can picture mom, dad, the kids, two life partners, or a group of roommates printing off the list, sitting down, and discussing these values one by one. Then they anchor it on the fridge with colorful magnets. Maybe they stick bright stars beside the values they will see every time they open that refrigerator. The same could be done in the office, the day care center, the senior center, and just about anywhere people spend time together as a group.

A challenge for me, as an extrovert, is “being present”. My mind is always jumping around. It always has. Sitting in circle using Circle Principles has taught me to stop thinking about what I’m going to say next and “listen with intention”. When I took the Circle Principles course in 2004 with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea on Whidbey Island, Washington, Christina told me, “Barbara, you’re like a kitten with a ball of string.” It was a kind way of telling me that I needed to be listening to what the other women were saying, not thinking about what I was going to say next, and that I could register something mentally without being compelled to share how I felt every single time.

The eighth word on the list is Vulnerability. It is defined as “easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally; open to attack, harm, or damage.” In circle practice, I believe vulnerability means allowing yourself to open up and be your authentic self. When women sit in circle and the bell rings, they often begin to cry softly before a word is said. They aren’t quite sure why their eyes begin to sting, then tears fall, but they are feeling vulnerable in a perfectly safe space. Maybe it’s the first time they have experienced a safe haven like the circle. They trust us to create that space.

As Conveners, or board members of any organization, a high value is reliability. We do the job we said we will do. Organizations unravel when tasks go undone, duties fall by the wayside, commitments are forgotten, and meetings are blown off. The old model of putting the burden all on one person is the quickest way to kill off trust, and expedite the slide towards disintegration.

“Choosing what’s important and what to let go of” was second on the list of values. How many times have you been in a meeting, glanced at the agenda, and thought, “Again? Really?” If the agenda is in Word and you just change the date, and one item is always tabled, maybe it’s time to rethink it. There are times when the person who was passionate about that idea is long gone, yet it lives on. Let it go.

Adding Fun is so wise. My litmus test for getting involved over the past 22 years since I retired is, “Does this suck the energy out of me, or does it give me energy?” If I feel depleted every time I leave a meeting, no matter how worthy the cause, I resign. If I feel energized, I stay. It took me a while to learn how to say no, but practice makes perfect.

There is a quote by James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson, a Research Director at the University of Saskatchewan, at the bottom of the list: “To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.” Put that on the fridge, too!

Thank you to all the GTW Conveners and to Jennifer Ball for carving out the time to put into words the values that we hold in our hearts.

Having fun dancing in Racine, WI, at the 2012 GTW gathering.

Joy is dancing in Racine, WI, at the 2012 GTW gathering.


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Indra's Net Over Time


By Barbara Belknap

“Suspended above the palace of Indra, the Buddhist god who symbolizes the natural forces that protect and nurture life, is an enormous net. A brilliant jewel is attached to each of the knots of the net. Each jewel contains and reflects the image of all the other jewels in the net, which sparkles in the magnificence of its totality.” – Buddhist teaching. Thoreau called Indra’s Net the “infinite extent of our relations”.

I believe I first heard of Indra’s Net from Jeanie DeRousseau. We were at the 2006 Gather the Women North American gathering at the University of Victoria in the lovely city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Jeanie had a huge image of a net with sparking jewels at each knot up on the screen behind her. Jeanie is an anthropologist with a scientist’s inquisitive mind, and a poet with a gift for finding just the right way to explain inexplicable things. Indra’s net was the perfect image for what Gather the Women was creating.

Today, in mid-July eight years later, I’m thinking of Linda Higdon, who lives in Wisconsin, and Mona Al-Faara who lives in Gaza. I met Linda at a 2008 Gather the Women gathering at St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Cloud, Minnesota. We sat next to each other at one of the big round tables in the dining room. Linda is from Wisconsin and so is my mother, so we chatted about Wisconsin and how we came to be sitting next to each other in Minnesota. As I remember it, Linda was one of the speakers and talked about connecting American women to other women in war-torn countries via teleconference. Intrigued, I signed up.

Dr. Mona Al-Faara of Gaza was one of those women who stayed up into the middle of the night Middle East time to talk to American women spanning all five time zones in the United States. I was awed by all the women, but Mona struck me as one of the bravest human beings, man or woman, I’d ever heard speak. She described driving the length of Gaza delivering food to children at various nursery schools and primary schools. It would often be their only meal of the day. Gaza is so tiny, 6.8 miles wide and 32 miles long, that she would drive the length of it every day on her rounds.

Today, with the news full of terrible images from Gaza, I Googled Dr. Al Faara and found her at http://www.windowintopalestine.blogspot.com. The headline was “Urgent message from Dr. Mona Al-Farra in Gaza”. She cites her organization, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, and the water purification systems they are installing in schools. I donated $50 to the umbrella organization.

Yes, it is political. Yes, it is controversial. However, I cannot forget her voice on the phone years ago when I asked her how she could keep going through all the infighting between armed groups and the constant danger of airstrikes from Israel. Her response was, “An activist never gives up.” I have had that sentence on the back of my cards ever since.

When I saw Linda Higdon last November in San Francisco at the Alchemy gathering, we hugged and I asked her how she was doing. She said something to the effect that she just didn’t know if anything she had done made a difference. So, I pulled one of my cards out of my purse and showed her the quotation on the back. Her eyes filled with tears. She hugged me and said, “Thank you.”

We are all connected as human beings. The women we meet in our gatherings touch us and we touch them. Each of us is a brilliant shining jewel in a net cast around the world.


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