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OWLC in Action

Pioneering Media Literacy Activist Jean Kilbourne Is Juno Resident

1 month 1 week ago

Jean Kilbourne, internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on images of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising, recently stayed on Omega's campus as a Juno Leadership Resident with the Omega Women's Leadership Center (OWLC). 

Kilbourne's most recent film, Killing Us Softly 4, was screened at the Ram Dass Library to a large audience of staff, participants, and local residents. The film, which explores the dehumanizing images of women in mainstream advertisements, was followed by a question and answer session.

Jean began her work in the 1960s, exploring the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women and eating disorders. She launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems, an original idea at the time that is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs.

Jean has transformed the way organizations and educational institutions around the world address the prevention of many public health problems including smoking, high-risk drinking, eating disorders, obesity, the sexualization of children, and violence against women.

This year, Jean is an inductee into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca, New York, along with nine others, including Eleanor Smeal, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Barbara Iglewski, and Martha Graham

Find out more about Jean Kilbourne

Can Spiritual Practice Heal Racism?

2 months 1 week ago

In a recent interview for the Huffington Post, Omega asked meditation teacher and author Tara Brach, "What is the path to healing for a society with such deeply rooted racism, fear, and anger?" 

Speaking about how a spiritual practice, specifically in her Buddhist sangha, can help to build unity, Tara explained, "For those of us in the dominant culture, it's challenging yet essential that we respond to the hurt and anger that has built up through generations of violence against people of color....If we can be present and kind toward our inner states, we will start seeing how we create separation from others."

Tara shared in a detailed and personal way the work that her community is doing to open communication and take action in responding to white privilege and racism. The need for connection and vulnerability is one she highlighted, noting, "Honest dialogue creates the groundwork for healing and awakening from the painful trance of separation. It can reconnect us to our sense of interconnectedness and caring." She recommended educating ourselves about history and experience as a key practice in growing our understanding. 

Ultimately, Brach feels the intersection of spirituality and social justice lay in practicing an intention of awareness and solidarity in our actions and responses as individuals, communities, and as a society. "There will be no healing until those of us in the dominant culture join in solidarity with people of color to end institutionalized racism," she said. 

For details about how her sangha is working on inclusion and self-awareness, and recommended resources, read the full Huffington Post interview 

OWLC Visits the Baskin Feminist Archives

2 months 2 weeks ago

The Omega Women's Leadership Center (OWLC) team, including cofounder Carla Goldstein, recently visited the home of respected feminist activist, bibliophile, and collector Lisa Baskin, to view her life's work: a feminist library that spans five centuries of women's history.

The collection represents an unprecedented gathering of mainstream women’s history and literature along with lesser-known works produced by female scholars, publishers, scientists, and activists. Most items were created between the mid-15th and mid-20th centuries, such as correspondence by legendary suffragists and abolitionists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s handwritten publicity blurb for Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Highlights included the standing writing desk of Virginia Woolf—painted by her nephew Quentin Bell—and a needlework sampler by Charlotte Brontë.

The OWLC team was filled with wonder and gratitude. "Words will never be enough to honor the experience," said Lys Swan, the community outreach coordinator. "I am awash and aglow and agape—full and satiated and inspired," was how Sarah Urech described feeling in the space. Carla noted, "On our way home we each expressed the feeling that this was a Once In A Lifetime experience of great magnitude."

The team coordinated their visit in the final days before the collection was acquired by The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, where it will live as the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture within the Rubenstein Library.

The collection will become available to the public at the end of August 2015.

View a slide show of the OWLC's visit to the archives.

Read Duke's press release.


Omega Announces 35 Nonprofits to Receive Organizational Retreat Grants

3 months 2 weeks ago

“Connecting a Community of Change Leaders” is the Focus for Omega’s 2015 Service Week, May 25–29


RHINEBECK, NY–In an ongoing effort to support nonprofits in the Mid-Hudson Valley region and beyond, Omega is hosting its 11th annual Service Week, May 25–29. Omega today announced the names of 35 nonprofits being awarded a working retreat on Omega’s 250+ acre campus, including room and board, a meeting space, use of campus amenities, and a private consultation with the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON), a partner in the program. Participating organizations lead their own working retreats that build and strengthen relationships, and give time and space for strategic planning and networking.


“Nonprofits play a critical role in our society, yet constrained budgets often don’t allow for the critical time needed for reflection and planning,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer at Omega. “For more than a decade Omega has opened our campus free of charge to our nonprofit peers, so they can be revitalized and better serve their communities and constituents.”


Omega’s annual Service Week is comprised of two sessions: the Strengthening Communities Summit (May 25–27), and the Women Serving Women Summit (May 27–29). The Strengthening Communities Summit prioritizes organizations that address a range of social, economic, or environmental issues in the Mid-Hudson Valley region. The Women Serving Women Summit, hosted by the Omega Women’s Leadership Center, supports organizations working to positively impact the lives of women. The participation of Mid-Hudson region nonprofits in Service Week is funded in part by a significant grant from the Dyson Foundation.


“Omega’s Service Week provides a unique environment for those who work in the nonprofit community to reflect on the meaning and importance of their work, strengthen their bonds with one another, and develop strategies for organizational success,” said Doug Sauer, chief executive officer of NYCON. “To add value to the experience, NYCON’s expert staff will be available to offer supportive guidance and assistance.”

This year’s focus, “Connecting a Community of Change Leaders,” is aimed at deepening collaboration and leadership by offering organizations the opportunity to meet, connect, discuss, and identify possibilities for the future.


Omega is pleased to award 2015 Service Week retreats to the following organizations, which are actively engaged in creating a more compassionate and sustainable world:

Strengthening Communities Summit (Session 1) Recipients:


Mid-Hudson Valley Region Organizations:


AWARENESS
Basilica Hudson
Beacon Arts Community Association
Chefs’ Consortium
Citizens for Local Power
Community Voices Heard
Family of Woodstock
Glynwood
HeARTs Speak
Hudson Valley Seed
People’s Place
Re>Think Local
Spark Media Project (formerly Children's Media Project)


Additional Organizations:


Arts and Resistance Through Education (ARTE)
Conference of Churches @ The 224 EcoSpace
Global Potential
Youth Communication


“Using the discussions we had and the plans we made at Omega, we were able to come back and address long-standing distrust and acrimony in a new way. Six months later, there is a marked, positive difference in our work,” said 2014 recipient Richard Heyl de Ortiz, former executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), Ulster County. “Service Week helped us realize and build on our organizational strengths, which in turn allows CASA to manage and embrace change.”


Women Serving Women Summit (Session 2) Recipients:


Mid-Hudson Valley Region Organizations:


Grace Smith House
In My Mother's House Resource Center for Women
Project MORE (Model Offender Reintegration Experience)
Putnam/Northern Westchester Women's Resources Center
TMI Project
The Washbourne House


Additional Organizations:


Ancient Song Doula Services
Caring Across Generations
Center for Survivor Agency and Justice
Gender at Work
Harlem Wellness Center
PINE (Permaculture Institute of the Northeast) - Women in Permaculture
Planned Parenthood of the North Country
Pleiades Network
Sheltered Yoga
Take the Lead
Women Make Movies
Youth Media Project


“The effects of the Summit continue tangibly through our annual operating plan goals developed at the retreat and more intangibly through our improved relationships with each other as a direct result of being able to spend that time together, especially because our team is spread throughout the country and we have limited travel budgets,” said 2014 recipient Kavita Bali, senior director of strategic partnerships and alliances at Care USA.


For more information about Omega Service Week, contact:

Marta Szabo, Strengthening Communities Summit, 845.266.4444, ext. 403, martas@eomega.org

Elysabeth Swan, Women Serving Women Summit, 845.266.4444, ext. 414, lyss@eomega.org

For more information about Omega, visit eOmega.org and follow Omega on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+.


About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation’s most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 250 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world. eOmega.org

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Undoing Racism

4 months 19 hours ago

“We are socialized to think we aren’t part of the solution to racism, but we begin to gain power to make change when we decide to take responsibility,” said Berwick Mahdi, one of three trainers for the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, a nonprofit collective of multicultural, antiracist community organizers and educators.

Mahdi, Annie Rodriguez, and David Billings recently spent three days in the Hudson Valley leading a group of 30 people through the People’s Institute's renowned Undoing Racism training. The training centers on a process of critically analyzing systemic racial oppression, rooted in an historical understanding of the role of race in constructing U.S. society and based on the premise that it is one of the root causes of poverty. David Billings, who has been facilitating Undoing Racism for more than 30 years, said that a foundational question for the People’s Institute is, why are people poor?

“This training led us through experiential exercises to explore issues in ways we normally don’t and led many of us to gain new understandings of what racism is and how it functions,” said Susan Grove, Omega’s community engagement manager, who participated in Undoing Racism. “We began by thinking deeply about poverty, and came to see we often believe that individuals or even whole communities are solely responsible for their conditions. Looking at the systems that shape poor communities and communities of color gave us a new lens to see how decisions made outside of these communities powerfully shape people’s daily experiences within them. Recognizing that racism is more about these oppressive systems than individual acts of ignorance or meanness empowers us to organize a more effective response.”

The 50 community organizers and educators who form the People’s Institute collective have reached more than 500,000 individuals and groups across the U.S. and abroad.

Learn more about the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond 

Changing the World One Story at a Time

5 months 1 week ago

On March 11th, Omega Women's Leadership Center community engagement coordinator, Lys Swan, attended the event, "Changing the World One Story at a Time" at the permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN in New York City. The event was a collaboration between Gender at Work, the TMI Project, (both former Women Serving Women Summit attendees) and Hivos. The event, free of admission and open to the public, presented 12 women's rights advocates including Veronica Vera (Ecuador), Kalyani Menon-Sen (India), Henadi Riyad (Jordan), Douglas Mendoza Urrutia (Nicaragua), Momal Mushtaq (Pakistan), and Kwezilomso Mbandazayo (South Africa).

The speakers performed powerful stories about gender and institutional change that they crafted during the TMI Project/Gender at Work's Women's Rights Storytelling Collaboratory to bring a face to women's issues and struggles experienced at the intersections of culture, ethnicity, gender, and religion. Stories were interspersed with interactive discussions with the audience.

Lys commented, "Sharing our stories allows our voices to be heard by a wider audience, relieves us of the burden of silence, engenders greater understanding and compassion, and helps us easily identify our commonalities, bridging differences through shared experience."

This event was one in a series of offerings during the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held March 9–20 at the UN headquarters in New York City. The CSW is the fifty-ninth annual session and includes representatives of Member States, UN entities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the world. The main focus of the session is "a review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women." 

Omega Celebrates International Women's Day

5 months 2 weeks ago

On March 8th, the world again honored International Women’s Day, celebrating women's achievements while also acknowledging the challenges that women still face. 

Calling for solidarity as women continue to work for equal rights, on Saturday March 7th, the Omega Women’s Leadership Center cosponsored the 5th Annual International Women’s Day Walk at the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York. Organized by the Women's Leadership Alliance of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event commenced on the Poughkeepsie side of the bridge at 9:00 a.m. 

Speakers included president of Vassar College Catherine Bond-Hill and Minister Lauder Smith of House of Hope, who rallied the crowd saying, "True leaders invest in people. The greatest act of a leader is mentoring. Who are you reaching back to pull up?"

View a photo album from the event

Learn more about International Women's Day 

A World Where Every Girl Is Valued

11 months 4 weeks ago

The Chattanoogan recently covered an inspirational local school visit made by Jin In, a 2013 Omega Women’s Leadership Center (OWLC) Intensive and 2014 Women Serving Women Summit participant. 

Jin encouraged the students to vision “a world where every girl is valued and supported to realize her full potential” and “to shift fundamental mindsets and ignite tomorrow’s women leaders.”

For Jin, this is not an abstract notion but a deep call to action rooted in her own childhood, when her widowed mother moved them from Korea to the United States. Through a mentor in her youth, Jin learned that destiny is not determined by gender, but by actions. Now Jin is a mentor, spurring young women to believe that the most powerful force for change in the world is themselves.

Jin In has spoken to organizations and at conferences across the world and worked with the UN Commission on the Status of Women to promote the leadership of young women. She hopes that by speaking to young women directly, she is “passing the baton” to future leaders and change agents.

“The best foreign policy is to develop future leaders, and education is the best platform to teach leadership,” she says. 

Read the full article

 

OWLC Attends Netroots Nation

1 year 1 month ago

Omega board member, Jamia Wilson, and cofounder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center and chief external affairs officer at Omega, Carla Goldstein, attended the 9th annual Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, Michigan. At the gathering, more than 3,000 people convened to attend over 80 panels and 40 hands-on training sessions, a film screening series, and other events covering technology, politics, and activism "designed to educate, stimulate, and inspire the nation’s next generation of progressive leaders." The speakers included Elizabeth Warren, who gave the keynote address. 

Netroots Nation aspires each year to bring "thousands of bloggers, newsmakers, social justice advocates, labor and organizational leaders, grassroots organizers and online activists together to make new connections, hone their organizing skills, share best practices, and build stronger relationships with others working on the issues they care most about."

Over the weekend, Carla and Jamia also participated in a walk to raise awareness of the ongoing water crisis for Detroit residents. 

 

OWLC Advisory Council Member Edit Schlaffer in Zanzibar

1 year 3 months ago

Recently, Omega Women's Leadership Center advisory council member Edit Schlaffer visited Zanzibar, the island off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, where debates around their constitution and a referendum concerning unity with the mainland are fueling cultural and political radicalization that has especially impacted women and families. Young Zanzibaris have taken to the streets in violent protest led by UAMSHO, meaning the Awakening. Tying together her experiences there with events around the world, Edit reflects on the realities of terrorism, the fate of the Nigerian school girls kidnapped, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and makes a call to action to the mothers and women of these regions while there is still an opportunity to prevent further radicalization. 

 "We can't let the violent extremist hijack the local narrative....This is the entry point to build up the resilience in mainstream society and encourage the strength to stand up and say: 'No, your agenda is not our agenda'....We need to look at the first line of defense which are the families and particularly the mothers. The home is the place where the excitement and frustrations of the adolescents can be dealt with and channeled. This is the only safe place where early warning signs can be addressed and responded to in an empathetic and constructive way....

[Women] need to bring their voice and concerns to the fore. They need to be active in their families and communities to build resilience and create alternatives to external influences, which might lure them into divisive directions. Given their unique perspective and position in the heart of their communities, their expertise needs to be recognized and used across all levels of society both formal and informal.

This is about humanity now, it is time to stand up and defend our fabric of life. If half of humanity is left behind and left out, it won't work."

Read the full article on the Huffington Post

Learn more about the Omega Women's Leadership Center

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