The phrase “Gather the Women” literally entered the public domain in November 2001, when the domain names GatherTheWomen.net, com and org were reserved by Carol Hansen Grey. Grey was serving as the Executive Director of Women of Vision and Action (WOVA), a non-profit organization based in California that provided a network for women leaders who shared a commitment to “be the change you want to see in the world”. During the months leading up to November, Grey had experienced a compelling phenomenon: numerous women contacted her describing the same vision that we needed to begin to gather the women of the world. Though these women came from diverse backgrounds, all shared a deep passion for awakening the power of women in service of a better world.
When she continued to be contacted by women who envisioned a need to gather the women, Grey used her computer skills to set up an e-list in June 2002 so that these twelve women could begin an on-line dialogue. This was the start of the Gather the Women Steering Committee, which worked to define priorities for global action, exchanging more than 23,000 e-mails over the next year and meeting twice for lengthy planning sessions.
The Work Begins
Their initial goals included:
- Create a website which would serve as an interactive communication hub for the women of the world, where women could share news of their successes and learn from one another.
- Invite women of the world to create gatherings to commemorate March 8, International Women’s Day. Women would be encouraged to create events large and small suited to their economic needs, spiritual beliefs and cultural values, posting news of their events on the website. Eventually, this idea developed into plans for a week of events beginning 3/3/03.
- Outreach to women using the basic tools of grassroots organizing with one new twist – the internet as global communication tool.
By the end of that first March event, the Steering Committee had much to celebrate: the website now hosted over 4,700 women from 67 countries as registered participants and listed more than 450 events in 23 countries. The three core Steering Committees members who staffed the initiative (two as volunteers) were kept busy answering e-mails and telephone inquiries from around the world. Women were drawn to this open container, which was described by GTW Events Coordinator Marilyn Nyborg: “We seek not to change minds but to connect hearts.” GTW was launched; without any funding and without ever having printed a brochure, the movement had reached women on every continent.
The next phase of Gather the Women was already gaining momentum with the February 2003 announcement of the First Gather the Women International Congress to be held in San Francisco in October 2003. The Congress took Gather the Women to the next level by creating a model to involve and connect the many diverse global women’s organizations. Gather the Women invited other organizations to partner in the creation of the Congress and to bring delegations of women from their networks. Kathlyn Schaaf, 2003 Executive Congress Coordinator, could barely keep up with the expansive flow of creative ideas generated through these collaborative partnerships. “We had a lived experience of the abundance that is available when we work together. Collaboration does not divide our resources; it multiplies them.”
Among the organizations that joined the Gather the Women Global MatrixTM in 2003 were Millionth Circle, Peace X Peace, Foundation for Conscious Evolution, AYA Partners, Pathways to Peace, Earth Luck International, Spiral Muse, Women of Wisdom, Red Web, and Women Rise for Global Peace.
The 2003 Congress was a huge success, drawing 330 women from 26 countries representing more than 25 partner organizations. Numerous ongoing collaborative projects grew from the three day event.
Gather the Women continued to expand, drawing new individuals, regional coordinators, and partner organizations into the matrix. Each year since those initial events, International Women’s Day celebrations and Fall Congresses have continued to be held across the United States. In 2004, Gather the Women launched the 6 Congresses in 6 Continents initiative, an effort to support women leaders on each continent in establishing regional networks of women and women’s organizations. GTW has continued to participate in new initiatives each year. To date, GTW has touched the lives of thousands of women all around the globe.
Gather the Women is the place of opportunity. It’s where the “women at the well” gain the tools of virtual reality. It’s where we begin to see our numbers and our strength and come to understand that together we are, in fact, unstoppable.
— Patricia Smith Melton, Founder, Peace X Peace