Conference Focuses on Women in Third World


They came from across the United States to talk about AIDS in Africa, poverty in Latin America and problems that confront women throughout the world.

“There’s just a wonderful thing that happens when women get together with their hearts to find ways to help those less fortunate than us,” Susan Baker, the wife of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, told the 200 women gathered Friday at the Sutton Place Hotel. “This conference helps us to open our eyes to the different ways we can do this.”

Baker was Friday’s keynote speaker at the second Women of Vision National Conference, a three-day event that focuses on the challenges faced by women in the Third World. The conference continues today. Women of Vision was founded six years ago by a group of Orange County women concerned about the plight of poor women in the world. Since then, six other chapters have been formed in the United States.


Organizers of the Newport Beach conference said they hope to educate women who are interested in advocacy work by showing them how to become active in their community, work with the homeless and start their own local Women of Vision chapters.

“Sometimes we get so comfortable in our own world that we don’t necessarily know what the plight of the poor is like and what we can do to help,” said Penny Wood of South Laguna, one of the organizers. “We just need to expose our women to this so that we could do our part to help raise awareness.”

The conference features speakers in advocacy services and an array of workshops on topics such as the victims of the civil war in Bosnia, doing business with women artists, Palestinian women and mutual cooperation, and understanding through prayer and religion. Participants also discussed last year’s U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

“For anyone who cares about what’s going on in the world and the needs of women and children, this is the place to find out,” said Gail Ochs, a former Newport Beach resident who now lives in Spain and who returned to Orange County to attend the conference.