• Catherine Hansen

Women in circle can have a global impact

"The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life." – Jane Addams American civil rights activist Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 1931


My experiences in Doha, Qatar last week will continue to unfold inside my soul and on the written page over weeks, months, years and possibly my entire lifetime. Through the perspective of my work with women (the only way I see the world these days), I’m in awe of the courage, intelligence, skill and strength that women bring into everything they do. This ophthalmology training for women from conflict zones brought together a select subset of qualified women and provided them access to surgical training that any surgeon would covet. The intensity, curiosity and rapid progress they made with their precision and confidence will bring benefit to all the patients they touch throughout their long careers. The ripple effect of the actual training will be felt far and wide.

However, the most profound realization for me, last week, was that each of the women who were part of this transformative program, became more themselves in the presence of each other. They were, essentially, ‘in Circle’ and the collective experience created more personal and professional growth than the lectures or labs would have instilled on their own.

It’s a phenomenon I’ve been observing and attempting to describe for two decades. I’ve seen it many times during large group presentations, small group learnings, medical student lectures, intimate dinner programs and many, many times with fellow female residents over cheap midnight coffee. It’s not the content of the conversation but the fabric that weaves it together. It’s a magical energy that makes every experience more embodied and fuller. It’s a secret sauce that elevates a program to success and prolongs its longevity. It’s the icing that multiplies the impact. But it’s not always present and the ingredients that bake it into the mixture of the message can be evasive. It’s related to the individual, the collective and a sacredness that synthesizes all the parts into a whole. If a group can create this cooperative experience, the shift that occurs for the women involved is more than understanding a concept, it’s a foundational shift at the level of their personal identity. Each woman who is willing to open herself up to the possibilities will walk away a different person; forever changed by the collective. In Doha, last week, I watched this happen for the attendees and, as it transformed them before my eyes, it also changed me. I feel implicated to be part of spreading this rich, fertile soil for women to germinate together in more places, more often. I feel excited that a collective experience can become contagious and root out the weeds that threatened its growth. I’m emboldened by the bravery I saw in the women in Doha - after all their trials and trauma, they’ve triumphed and, in doing so, they make anything seem possible. I'm a better person because I have known, and shared time with, them. Women are the bedrock of the world. Together we can do anything.

Individually, we are the mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. Collectively we become empowered to shine our light into shadows previously hidden away, revealing space for truth and love. Locally, we are a community in conversation and camaraderie but globally we are an unstoppable force for good. I am forever changed by my experience in Doha, Qatar and I look forward to sharing more stories as I continue to sift and settle all that I learned and the ways it has already fueled the expansion of my work, bringing women into Circle for our global rising.

Click here to learn more about the program.

*Photo credit (middle): Orbis International: https://www.orbis.org/en