In 1993, I had the extraordinary opportunity to interview His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. I was a freelance radio journalist then, stringing for Canada’s largest Broadcast arm, Broadcast News. I was deeply interested in the recent Land Claims case of two of Canada’s First Nations people, the Gitxsan – Wet’suwet’en of Northern British Columbia, and was conducting a series of interviews with some Hereditary Chiefs of these two nations.
The Gitxsan – Wet’suwet’en had just gone through a three year court case, Delgamuukw vs the Queen, and been told very bluntly by B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Allan McEachern that their rights to their traditional lands had been “extinguished” upon the arrival of the European settler centuries before.
My plan for the interview was to speak with the Dalai Lama about the struggles of the Gitxsan – Wet’suwet’en and Indigenous Peoples around the world endeavouring to reclaim their hereditary land. Imagine my delight when, just before it was my turn to interview him, I saw him exit the interview room with the very chiefs I had been interviewing.
After our introductions to one another, I asked him for a comment on Indigenous People’s rights around the world to their hereditary lands. I will never forget his response; he cast his head back and laughed right from his belly. He said something to the effect, “Well, you’re asking the right person. I was kicked off my land in 1959 and have never been allowed back since.” His laugh threw me off guard for a few seconds. I wasn’t expecting it. However since that day, I have called him the Jolly Lama because he laughed a lot during our time together.
Our conversation meandered into discussing the environmental movement. He was intrigued when I told him that the modern-day environmental movement actually began in 1970 in Vancouver with the maiden voyage of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior. He was obviously concerned about the environment.
And then he said something to me that I will never forget. I no longer have the cassette tape I used for the interview, but I also will never forget what he said (and I paraphrase here). He told me that men will take the world to the brink of destruction and that it will take the women of the world to bring us back from that ledge. He laughed again and told me that if I wanted to help, I should gather women from around the world and encourage women to speak up, to use their voices to help to save the world. I don’t know if he actually used the word army, but I came away from that interview with the idea of building a gentle army of women to save the world!
That interview was almost 30 years ago, and I have been steadfastly trying to build that gentle army of women. It has not been an easy task. First of all, I had to develop a global reputation where I would have access to the women of the world and then have the clout and credibility to speak to them and engage them in this movement.
Working with iSAW in conjunction with my new program for women, Your Brave Voice, I believe we are finally on track to actualize this long-held mission. Women are so remarkably brave and courageous. We need to come to the table with our perspectives, our points of view. They are sadly lacking.
When I consider the fact that women are 100 years away from parity with our brothers, my heart sinks. That’s four generations away. I find this to be unacceptable. Not only is it not good and fair for our daughters and granddaughters not yet born, it is also devastating for our sons and grandsons.
My dear Sisters, the time has never been better than it is right now for us to speak up. To speak to be heard. And to speak to be seen. We have been silent long enough. We have been invisible long enough. It is time for us to come together and join in the conversations on wars and injustice, politics, business, policy making, and world affairs in general. It is time for us to speak up in our communities, our places of business, in our homes. The world so desperately needs our voices. The world is waiting for us.
Throughout history, we have heard his-story. Now is the time for herstory. Now is the time for us to bring our stories to the table, stories of courage and bravery, stories of healing and love and beauty. I have long said that too often arms are defined as the weapons we use in war and violent confrontation. It is time for us to remind the world that arms really are meant for hugging each other and for holding our babies and children.
I do not mean in any way to bash men. Men are our brothers. It’s not men’s fault that we have been quiet for so long. It is that, for whatever reasons, many of us have opted to remain silent.
The absence of women’s voices in the world, in the boardrooms, in global affairs is deafening. Of course, there are centuries of socialization that have kept us quiet. There are very real fears of ramifications if and when we speak up.
But dear women, when we create a community of women, with the support of extraordinary men, we can lift up our voices without fear, without retribution.
I am so thrilled and honoured to be a thought leader for this beautiful iSAW organization. We are on track to support women around the world; to help women learn to actualize themselves and to live their dreams; to lift women up through our loving kindness and support of each other; and to be a part of women taking the lead.
As we enter the New Normal in the next year, the world will be a different place. We all know we can’t go back to the way things were. Things weren’t so good! Let’s be honest. But now, as we enter a Brand-New World, let’s make sure we are a part of creating a Brave-New World. Let’s lift up our voices. Let’s lift each other up. Let us join hands and sing our stories that have been buried in our hearts so long.
Let’s make the Dalai Lama’s wish come true. I ask you to join me and my sisters and brothers of iSAW to make the New Normal a Beautiful Normal. As the Indigenous chiefs I have interviewed taught me, “Let’s do it for the children not yet born!”
Sohar, Sultanate of Oman