It’s an opportunity to teach peace to a classroom of thousands, an opportunity Cal Lutheran professor Hoda Mahmoudi could not pass up.
“I have a personal passion for empowering people to understand that we as a global society don’t have to continue dealing with one another with war and violence and destruction,” she said.
Mahmoudi and Betty Reardon of New York’s Columbia University will present a workshop on global peace at a forum of 36,000 women from non-governmental organizations meeting just before the United Nations World Conference on Women is scheduled to begin Sept. 4 in Beijing.
The forum, from Wednesday through Sept. 8, will meet 35 miles north of Beijing in a small rural town called Huairou.
Mahmoudi, a member of the Bahai faith, said people must learn to become “world citizens on the planet.” Women, she said, can help that happen.
“Women have been at the forefront of peaceful resolution throughout history,” said Mahmoudi, who teaches sociology at the university. “In this century, with every world war that took place, there were women’s groups rallying against the wars.”
Through her workshop, titled “Community Reconstruction, a Consensual Framework for Global Peace and Security,” Mahmoudi hopes to encourage women attending the forum “to rise and put an end to this old system of war.”
Because the time and cash commitment are substantial--$1,200 to $1,400 for air fare alone--Mahmoudi is one of only a handful of politically active Ventura County women who are able to attend the meeting in Huairou.
Lynne O’Hanlon, president of the Simi Valley branch of the American Assn. of University Women, left for the forum on Thursday. O’Hanlon, a professor of computer science and physical education at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, said the agenda includes several topics that coincide with her interests.
“I am interested to hear the way different people advanced in management,” she said, referring to a Women in Management seminar. “Another facet of the conference focuses on sports and athletic training. With all those dovetailed into one conference, I thought, ‘Wow, this has my name all over it.’ ”
Sunny Atkinson of Oxnard was working hard last week to raise enough money to pay for her trip to the forum. She had raised $400 by Thursday through an antique show and sale.
“I was at the first forum 20 years ago in Mexico City, and women are still saying the same things now: The patriarchy [in society] must end.”
She said she wants to attend to share in the experience and to make a video documentary of it.
Atkinson, who was born in Shanghai in 1939, said she looks forward to returning for the first time to the land of her birth.
“In a way, it will be like going home for me.”
She called it ironic that China is hosting the world conference on women. “They sell women there,” she said.
But Sheila Cluff, owner of The Oaks at Ojai, said she hoped that the women at the conference concentrate less on existing human rights violations in China and more on changing the world a little at a time.
“We’re there to focus on women’s rights on a global basis,” said Cluff, who could not attend because of a business scheduling conflict.
“What we think of as cruelty in one country might be cultural traditions in another country that women might not want to change.”