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Temple woman attends U.N. talks on violence

  • Barbara Thorngren of Temple has been invited to join thousands of women who will be gathered in New York this weekend for a UN gathering on the status of women. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Barbara Thorngren of Temple has been invited to join thousands of women who will be gathered in New York this weekend for a UN gathering on the status of women.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Barbara Thorngren of Temple has been invited to join thousands of women who will be gathered in New York this weekend for a UN gathering on the status of women. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

TEMPLE — On Saturday, thousands of women will begin to converge in New York City to participate in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Women of all walks of life will be chiming in on the main issue brought to the fore this year: violence against women and girls. Among them will be Temple resident Barbara Thorngren.

Thorngren was invited to the gathering as part of her work with two organizations: the International Public Policy Institute, a non-governmental organization that consults with the U.N. Economic and Social Council on peace-building policies and the Gather the Women Global Matrix, a network of women’s organizations. Thorngren said she was shocked but thrilled to receive the invitation.

“It was very exciting,” she said in an interview at her home Tuesday. “I was like, ‘Me? Really?’”

The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meets yearly in order for nations to report their latest findings, and for organizations to develop policies and actions. This year, the focus is on violence against women, sex trafficking and domestic slavery.

“If you look at where human trafficking and the sex trade has gone in terms of an international industry, it’s horrific. There’s drugs, arms and human trafficking. How did we get here? This is going back to the slave trade, and we know better. These are human beings and women and girls and children we’re talking about,” said Thorngren.

The forum is also an opportunity for organizations, such as the International Public Policy Institute and Gather the Women, to share ideas and learn from other, similar groups. Thorngren is a facilitator and advocate of the Alternatives to Violence Project, a program she administered at the N.H. State Prison for Men. The project is exactly what its name implies : an intensive program that looks at alternative release strategies for anger and stress, and helps work through issues using what is referred to as “circle work,” which is essentially sitting down in a circle to talk about the issues.

“It’s worked since human beings started to get together — have a fire, get together and listen. And if we learn to listen in a way that’s valuable, we can transcend some of the major challenges we have,” Thorngren said. Thorngren has found the tactic works not only in prison, but in a range of communities. She used it as the basis to found a new program of studies at Nashua Community College called Peace and Social Justice. She has even contributed a chapter to a new book, “Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource,” scheduled to be released in 2013 about the success of the strategy at Nashua Community College.

Thorngren and the other members of her delegations will be bringing the idea of circle work with them to New York to offer what they’ve learned about its benefits to other organizations attending the U.N. gathering. Sharing these concepts, and learning what has worked for other organizations is a key part of the process, said Thorngren. “We need to understand that for a lot of countries this is an opportunity for women to get together and find others to support them in their work. It’s great no matter where you are, whether it’s New Hampshire or Africa,” she said. “I think it’s important that as Americans we find networks around the world. I think the sharing is so important.”

The goals of the U.N. Commission are mainly to exchange ideas in order to develop new policies and strategies to reduce and end violence against women.

Thorngren also hopes the gathering will become a catalyst for more discussion in the future. One of the goals of the commission is to plan a 5th Women’s World Conference. The last conference was held in Beijing in 1995, and plans to bring about another have yet to come to fruition. “I’m really hoping we’ll have a committed group willing to work in duration to make the Women’s World Conference a reality,” Thorngren said.

The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women will take place at U.N. Headquarters in New York City. Main panels will begin on Monday and continue through March 15. Thorngren’s organizations will run multiple panels during the conference.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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