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International Women’s Day Celebrated in the United States

United States-2018-03-08-International Women’s Day Celebrated in the United States

United States—March 8 is UN International Women’s Day, and several local chapters of the Universal Peace Federation (UFP) in the United States celebrated it with the intention of highlighting the work of women in different fields of endeavor. The celebration of International Women’s Day was designed to provide awareness of the many issues women are facing around the world, to close the gap between the genders, and to give hope to girls, mothers, and grandmothers. It is meant to be empowering; thus the campaign theme for 2018 is #PressForProgress.

In Columbia, Maryland, UPF-Washington, DC, and the Maryland Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives held an International Women’s Day Forum at the North American Division of the Seventh Day Adventist Headquarters on March 8, 2018.

Jennifer Gray, director of the governor’s Interfaith Office, opened the gathering by welcoming the 100 or more guests. Rev. Janelle Johnson offered a prayer to begin, and greetings were given by Mr. Johnson from the Seventh Day Adventist Headquarters, who informed the group that this was the first big gathering to use the auditorium in the denomination’s new building. Steve McAdams, director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives greeted the group on behalf of Governor Larry Hogan. Tomiko Duggan, director of public affairs for UPF-USA, offered a historical look at the development of International Women’s Day since its creation by the United Nations in 1977, connecting this local event with the worldwide movement to raise awareness of the “necessary benefits that women bring to every level of society.”

Several speakers were invited to share their thoughts. The first speaker was Ms. Cheryl Wood, an award-winning international motivational speaker who gave an energetic and passionate talk about being “enough” to do great work. She was followed by Dr. Haideh Sabet, a neurologist who teaches at Georgetown University Medical Center and is also an activist for human rights. The third speaker was Dr. Marissa Leslie, the medical director for Adventist HealthCare Behavioral Health and Wellness Services in Rockville, Maryland, whose goal is to educate people on the importance of attending to both their physical and mental health.

Dr. Zainab Chaudry, a Muslim who serves as liaison for the Council on American Islamic Relations in Maryland, focused on conflict resolution. Next came Patricia Celis, the bilingual content coordinator for Casa de Esperanza, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking.

The sixth speaker, all the way from Nigeria, was Catherine Uju Ifejika. She is a very successful businesswoman who is the current chair and CEO of Brittania-U Nigeria Limited, a petroleum company for upstream exploration and production in Nigeria. The first female to serve in both of these positions, she said that if anyone challenges her and tells her she can’t do something, then she will do it, anyway. The seventh speaker was Cassandra Ferguson, a radio-talk show host who began by saying, “As women, we have to be ready and stay ready.” She exhorted all to “celebrate each woman’s talents and inspire others.” And the final and eighth speaker was Megan Enriquez, founder and CEO of TRUE Conversations, an online platform for “facilitating transparent, real, uplifting and empowering conversation around life’s professional and private, most stigmatized issues.” Being the last speaker, she summarized what had been said previously and encouraged everyone to celebrate each one’s words. The event concluded with lunch and much networking.

Although the night was very cold on March 16 in Manassas, Virginia, the atmosphere inside the conference room was warm and embracing. Mrs. Barbara Moseley-Marks, UPF executive director for Virginia, welcomed our guests and members with her usual charm and humor. Dr. William Selig gave the invocation the gathering “In Celebration of Woman.” Mrs. Michiko Yokoyama, coordinator of the American Clergy Leadership Council for Northern Virginia, and her team provided a lovely light dinner that included Tomiyo Pierson’s sushi dishes, which added an international flavor to the meal.

The program was very special, filled with laughter and lighthearted moments. Insightful speeches were presented by two very dynamic women dedicated to global peace. The first speaker was Mrs. Shashi Chopra who gave a presentation on her interreligious work as an Indian Hindu woman. Among her various activities is the Gandhi Global Family USA, of which she is the founder and board member. She is also the founder of the Shashi and Ravi Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1982 to provide women and children financial support for education and health. In 2012 she travelled with a delegation from Virginia to India to develop interfaith relations between the Hindu and Christian communities there.

The next speaker was Mrs. Fawzia Abbass Etemadi, an Afghan Muslim peace activist and an Ambassador for Peace. She has held major leadership roles in both government and nonprofit sectors that include the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Afghanistan Foundation, the Afghan-American Electoral College, Rotary International and the Muslim Women’s Association. She shared about her participation in the recent International Leadership Conference 2018 in South Korea, giving a sincere testimony of the leadership of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon Moon. She prepared the audience for Dr. William Selig’s presentation of Dr. Mother Moon as a woman leader who exemplifies peace on the world level and of UPF’s 2018 Africa Summit for Peace, Unity and Human Sustainable Development in Senegal. The program concluded with Mrs. Moseley-Marks explaining the campaign to honor marriage by holding World Peace Blessing programs.

In Columbus, Ohio, UPF-Ohio and the Ohio chapter of the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) cohosted a celebration on March 17 at the Whetstone Park Shelter House. The program was guided by Mr. Christopher Fox as the master of ceremonies. Mrs. Nadya Hinson, Chairwoman of WFWP Ohio, gave an enthusiastic overview of the international work of WFWP. As an early pioneer of WFWP, she held everyone’s attention by expressing her passion for the founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, and her vision of women over the years to continuously plant the seeds of true love around the world. The theme of the celebration was “We Are the Answer…Peace Starts With Me.” Although the weather forecast called for a mix of snow and rain, the weather had minimal effect on the 40 participants. The atmosphere was warm and embracing inside the park shelter house.

Mrs. Nicole Ghazi of the Noor Islamic Center gave a clear and eloquent presentation about the “Status of Women in Islam.” All present certainly gained a fresh perspective of the issues that continue to stigmatize women of the Muslim faith as well as the faith itself. Sr. Barbara Kane of the Dominican Sisters of Peace was the second speaker on “Women and Peace-Building,” presenting various examples of the Sisters’ work in the community. Their commitment to peace touches individuals, families, and leaders in ways that are quietly progressing for the benefit of all. Ms. Alisia Davis of Patchwork Ministries spoke about using a simple but powerful approach to the challenges we face daily: Rather than thinking, “I have to” do something, think, “I get to” do something, being appreciative of having another breath and a chance to be alive.

The lunch was provided by Freedom A La Cart, which houses and trains survivors of human trafficking in functions of catering and preparing chef-inspired meals. There were lots of salads, gourmet sandwiches, fruit and cakes. Many plates were piled high! During lunch, table groups filled in empty frames of ideas for Peace with the theme “Peace Starts with Me.” Excitement filled the air with each table reporting their collaborative results. Every participant, young and old alike, contributed their perspective while deepening new relations. Two musical offerings by Joel Kaplan and Laila Sarr capped the conclusion of the lunch and prepared everyone for the final remarks and group song, “Let there be Peace on Earth.”

After a 30-minute break of fellowship and the room was transformed into a quiet space to enjoy yoga for beginners taught by Isha Kriya Meditation.

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, the tandem team of Emiljun Rapada, local coordinator of UPF-Elizabeth and Christine Rapada, chairwoman, WFWP-Elizabeth, hosted “Women’s Day: Health and Wellness” on March 31 at the Elizabeth Family Church. With support from the community and other great contacts, various health, wellness, and beauty practitioners came to provide their services to the attendees for free. After a brief video introduction and presentations of both the host organizations, attendees were free to roam around the room and visit each exhibitor.

Dr. Victoria Uy, a certified acupuncturist. gave some medical procedures to those who were not afraid of needles. She also introduced moxa and cupping healing techniques to relieve pain and stress. Meanwhile, Rev. Geoghes Tegha and his wife Josefa introduced holistic approaches such as massage therapy and reflexology. Local distributors of Atomy, a very popular Korean beauty product, came to provide facials and other beauty treatments.

An international lunch buffet was served, and everyone felt happy for attending this unique event.

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