The meeting, part of PEN's International Congress, was chaired by Ekbal Baraka, Chair, assisted by former chairs Judy Buckrich and Lucina Kathmann; the Minutes were prepared by Lucina Kathmann.
The pamphlet about the history of the Women Writers Committee was passed out. The new website www.piwwc.org was introduced. An idea to create a directory of individual women writers in all areas was changed and refined to result in a call for reports on the conditions for women writers in each area.
There was a spirited discussion of the fact that in almost 100 years of its existence, PEN International has never had a woman president. How do we change this? Some of the women attending said that even if a woman is elected soon, which we all hope, it is still a scandal that this situation has gone on so long. Many ideas were floated as to how to help get a woman elected at the next presidential election. We all agreed to talk about this matter with our centers and other contacts. We would like at least one strong candidate, if not more.
The Diversity website page devoted to members of the women writers committee is now functioning again. The site was hacked this year, delaying this project. This page is for the purpose of the women writers of PEN getting to know each other through our work. Anyone may participate.
We reviewed the standing orders of the committee. Paul Finegan from the London office joined us in this phase. We made a few changes. Judy Buckrich will circulate the new standing orders with the changes. One effect was that according to the revised standing orders we needed an elected secretary, treasurer and other board members. We have had an informal executive, which we can keep, but this is a formal structure. Elections quickly put the following in place: Lucina Kathmann, secretary, Judith Buckrich and Sarah Lawson, executive members. We were unable to find a treasurer as we have no experience with a budget, though we understand that we might be getting money and thus requiring someone responsible to account for it and we will find a way to fill this post.
Sarah Clarke from the London office then joined us to talk about using international organizations, particularly the UN. Tsung Su of the Chinese Writers Abroad PEN and Lucina Kathmann of San Miguel, Mexico, PEN have been attending the meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York since 1996. This last year PEN was able to read a statement in a formal meeting, the first time PEN has been able to get the floor in that body. The theme this year was violence against women, a theme of universal importance with which PEN has a particular competence: violence against women writers. Getting the floor was a great advance. Sarah's professional help and expertise in this organization certainly was instrumental in the PIWWC's enhanced powers.
Haroun Siddiqi joined us in representation of the International Board to tell us that there is finally money raised for staff and other help specifically for the committees. We are invited to think of ways that the board can help us. Later John Ralston Saul and Takeaki Hori joined us briefly. Their message was like Haroun's, that now there is staff and resources to help the committees and they invite us to make requests.
Ekbal proposed a conference in Egypt for next January, this would be a case in point of a way the office could help the PIWWC and it is being followed up. Paul Finegan is the particular staff person in charge of committees.
We began the individual reports which are always the highlight of the PIWWC meetings.
The meeting lasted a half hour longer than scheduled. Hardly anyone was willing to leave even though organizers of the next events kept encouraging us.