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close this bookEmpowering Women and Children (WWSF, 2002)
close this folderWomen's Section
close this folderCircles of Compassion
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentGuidelines
View the documentWorkshop Report
View the documentCalendar 2003



WWSF is pleased to share with the NGO community, UN agencies, and civil society at large the idea of creating circles of compassion and 'the Millionth Circle 2005', a movement for a dialogue process leading up to the 5th UN World Conference on Women in 2005. A circle dialogue is a special kind of conversation with the purpose to learn and reflect about important subjects and experiences in a non-confrontational way, and find solutions.

During the 5-year Review Conference on Social Development (June Geneva 2000 Forum) WWSF and NGO leaders discussed how to engage in a dynamic preparatory process towards the 5th UN World Conference on Women in 2005 and promote dialogue circles with women and men around the world for the purpose of achieving the Beijing development goals *.

Birth of the concept 'The Millionth Circle 2005'

As a follow-up to the inspiration, a first circle meeting was convened in California in March 2001 (25 women attended from the USA and Europe) to discuss the creation of 'The Millionth Circle 2005' concept and re-introduce the ancient circle methodology in community dialogues and meetings. The idea was born out of many synchronicities and WWSF grasped its potential. A core group was formed to see how the various aspects of circle work can be made more available not only locally, but globally. The group focused on a large and heart-filled vision how to bring this into the world and produced a common Statement of Intention.


Circles encourage connection and cooperation among their members and inspire creative and compassionate solutions to individual, community and world problems. We believe that circles support each member to find her or his own voice and live more courageously, and intend:

- To seed and nurture circles, wherever possible, in order to cultivate equality, sustainable livelihoods, preservation of the earth and peace for all.

- To bring the circle process into UN accredited NGOs and the UN World Conference on Women in 2005.

- To connect circles so they may know themselves as a part of a larger movement to shift consciousness in the world.

WWSF is committed to encouraging the formation of Circles of Compassion as a way to bless and help bring the much-needed changes to the world.

The metaphor 'Millionth Circle' taken from Jean Bolen's book with the same title captured our enthusiasm to inspire the growth of circles with the purpose to change the world and ourselves. Circle meetings over time can be a process that transforms and an experience that heals. They teach us to relate in a new way where no one is inferior or superior.

Countdown to 2005

The metaphor 'Millionth Circle' taken from Jean Bolen's book with the same title captured our enthusiasm to inspire the growth of circles with the purpose to change the world and ourselves. Circle meetings over time can be a process that transforms and an experience that heals. They teach us to relate in a new way where no one is inferior or superior.

NGOs participating in the 45th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York (March 2001) actively discussed the need to have a 5th UN World Conference on Women in 2005. They called on governments to reconfirm their commitment to the Beijing Platform of Action PFA, and develop further strategies to meet the new and emerging issues that are of great concern for women around the world. The central aim of the 5th UN World Conference on Women should be an appraisal of the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing PFA and the Outcome Document of the UNGASS on Beijing + 5. The declaration can be obtained from

Let us recall that in 1975 a UN World Conference on Women took place in Mexico City; in 1980 in Copenhagen; in 1985 in Nairobi; and in 1995 in Beijing. China hosted a watershed event in the history of women's rights. Over a 10-day period, more than 40,000 participants from 189 countries took part in one of the largest global conferences ever held. The conference galvanized the global women's movement and forged partnerships with governments and international organizations in their struggle for global gender equality, development and peace, and emphasized the crucial link between the advancement of women and progress for society as a whole.

* 12 critical areas of concern identified in the Platform for Action (PFA) also known as the Beijing goals for the 2005 review

1. The persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women
2. Unequal access to and inadequate educational opportunities
3. Inequalities in health status, and unequal access to and inadequate health-care services
4. Violence against women
5. Effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women
6. Inequality in women's access to and participation in the definition of economic structures and policies and the production process itself
7. Inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels
8. Insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of women
9. Lack of awareness of and commitment to internationally and nationally recognized women's human rights
10. Insufficient mobilization of mass media to promote women's positive contribution to society
11. Lack of adequate recognition and support for women's contribution to managing natural resources and safeguarding the environment
12. The girl-child.

What is a Circle

In her book 'Women Circling the Earth', Beverly Engel offers a powerful guide to fostering community, healing and empowerment. A circle is not just a gathering of people who sit in a circle on the floor or a meeting where the chairs are arranged in a circle. Circle meetings provide simple, yet powerful tools to help teach people how to communicate more honestly and openly. What we wish to promote is an alternative to box-like hierarchical structures and confining systems which dominate today. Among other things, circles can help us to:

- Listen without judgment

- Foster cooperation and understanding

- Help implement creative solutions to problems

- Bridge differences

- Help settle disputes and reach consensus

- Encourage reconciliation and apology

We live in a world that cultivates separateness between people. When people join together in circle, they become keenly aware that such separateness does not really exist on a deeper level. Circles help alleviate the feeling that we stand alone against the harshness of modern society. They remind us that we are all one.

Circle Guidelines

Circles provide a replenishing and sanctuary place and can be considered laboratories of grace where people can learn to relate in a way so conflicts and problems can be resolved. To participate in a circle, all you need is the desire, the willingness to attend the meetings, and agree to follow the guidelines. Each group determines their own rules but there are some universal circle guidelines that all agree help circle meetings to function more successfully for all participants. They include:

- Create the circle as a sacred space

- One person speaks at a time (in most circles a talking piece (stone, stick or bowl) is passed around the circle and you speak only if you are the one holding the talking piece)

- Speak and listen from the heart (heart consciousness)

- Encourage and welcome diverse points of view

- Listen with discernment instead of judgement

- Shared leadership and resources

- Decide together how decisions will be made

- Work towards consensus when possible

- Offer experience instead of advice

- When in doubt or need, pause and silently ask for guidance

- Decide together the parameters of confidentiality

- Speak from you own experience and beliefs rather than speaking for others

- Open and close the circle by hearing each voice (Check-ins and check-outs)

Circle meetings are excellent places for people to learn positive lessons about power. Circles rotate leadership so that each member gets a chance to experience the role of the leader. There is no hierarchy, only interactive, distributed leadership and accountability.

Create your own Circle of Compassion

Invite your friends, colleagues and acquaintances and make sure to ask that people make a commitment to working within the circle to achieve the group objective. We encourage you to focus on the twelve critical areas of concern mentioned above by making them your rallying points, thereby participating in the preparatory process leading up to the 5th UN World Conference on Women in 2005. Appeal to all women and men of goodwill and to all those in power to focus on the promised Beijing goals.

Women with experience in circle methodology can bring circles into communities. Each new circle represents one more on the way toward the 'Millionth Circle', which is a symbolic number, contributing to change commonly-held perceptions of what matters and what is possible. Experienced circle facilitators are available to help you start off in organizing your own circle.

You may wish to add a spiritual dimension to your Circle

A prayer-meditation component in your circle connects members to each other at the soul level, deepens the group, reveals what really matters to the members, and brings spirit into the circle and through the circle into everyday life. When opening the circle, use a go-around fashion to encourage each person to share briefly what is closest to their heart and what is most important in their lives at that particular moment. To close the circle, acknowledge any situation that was discussed and in need of a remedy and have the circle give it its blessings. Close with a final go-around. It is important to provide ample time for silent prayer or contemplation before closing. Each person is free to pray in his/her own way. Circles are not intended to replace already-established religious practices.

Tell us about your Circle(s) of Compassion ( and we will publish your activities in our Global Newsletters and on our web site


WWSF wishes to acknowledge all the pioneers in circle work who have helped bring this idea whose time has come to the world, such as the Chakra Circle, the Circle of Seven, The Women's International Dialogue, The Millionth Circle phenomena, PeerSpirit, Women Circling the Earth, Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture, Visualizing Alternative Structures Video, and others. In addition we honor all the wise women everywhere, young and old, who continue to gather in circles as a way to bring the spirit of community closer together in their circle of hearts.

To order CIRCLE CALENDAR (s) 2003 contact.