A new initiative to bring together women entrepreneurs in South Asia has begun on the right note with the “successful” visit of an Indian delegation to Sri Lanka this week.
“This is our first visit. A women’s delegation from India will visit all South Asian countries. We had great interactions with a variety of women entrepreneurs here,” Harbeen Arora, president, Creative Living Foundation and head of the 12-member delegation of SAARC Women’s Initiative for Peace and Prosperity (SWIPP) told The Hindu, at the conclusion of her visit here. “Our next visit is to Bhutan, and then we will discuss on visiting other South Asian countries,” she said.
Pakistan, she added, was definitely on the agenda, and an early date would be fixed after consultations. The only country that the delegation might not visit could be Afghanistan given the current situation in the country, she said. In just over a year from now, Dr. Arora expects a collective of women from a variety of backgrounds across South Asian borders working together and building partnerships in many diverse fields. The process would help women immensely since skill sets differ from country to country, and women could take advantage of better systems and processes to aid their businesses, she argued.
The women delegates from India are from various backgrounds. They include Usha Agarwala (higher education), Rupa Raje Gupta (vernacular architecture), Rachita Malik (home fashions), Manju Agarwal (Himalaya industries), Honey Gopal (Assistant Director, ASSOCHAM), Kusum Gulati (arts management, retail sales professional), Ketaki Malhotra (top-end HR and business solutions) and Seema Khosla (designer kitchen solutions).
In Sri Lanka, over a 6-day period, the delegation met women entrepreneurs, and leaders in diverse fields such as trade, investment, politics, media, arts, public health, well-being, science and technology, environment and academia. The delegation had group and individual meetings with the National Chamber of Commerce, businesswomen and entrepreneurs, including the retail giant store ODEL proprietor Otara Del Gunawardene. The delegation also met the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Ashok K. Kantha.
“The objective of SWIPP is to strengthen economic and cultural cooperation among countries in the South Asian region, through a unique all-women platform and perspective,” she said. The delegation has invited a group from Sri Lanka to visit India, and had requested Mr. Otara to head the group.