Lessons on empowerment

Image from the first day of the International Women’s Conference with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, (left side of Sri Sri) Anuradha Koirala, (right side of Sri Sri) Dr Jiko Luveni, Chetna Gala Sinha, and Rani Mukerji   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“The possibility of something new arises in our life only when we step into the unknown, to explore a higher calling,” began Bhanumathi Narasimhan, Chairperson of the International Women’s Conference, at the inaugural session, held at the Art of Living International Centre on Kanakapura Road.

The eighth edition of the three-day conference brought together women from over 60 countries, including over 250 delegates from around the world, apart from 100 Indian women, 60 students from across 30 colleges and 75 speakers.

The conference, which usually takes place every two years, is a gathering of achievers, artists, policy-makers, sportswomen and the civil society to ‘explore ways to amplify the message of peace and empowerment, including spiritual tools’.

The inaugural session, titled ‘Intuition, Innovation, and Creativity’ featured six speakers from across the world including Chetna Gala Sinha, Founder-Chairperson, Mann Deshi Bank and Mann Deshi Foundation; Anuradha Koirala, Governor, Province of Hetauda, Nepal and Founder- Director, Maiti Nepal; Anne Lene Hompland, Founder and Chair, Oslo Peace Week Norway; Dr Jiko Luveni, Speaker, Parliament, Fiji; Rani Mukerji, actor; and Susana Balbo, MP, Argentina.

Opening the session, Anuradha spoke of her journey with Maiti, a non-profit organisation that protects girls and women in Nepal from domestic violence, trafficking and various forms of abuse, exploitation and torture.

“It was only after Nepal became a democracy that people started speaking about human (especially women and children) trafficking in Nepal. As a teacher, I used to listen to these stories but I didn’t know how to help. They were all speaking about it from five star hotels when the problem was in the villages and the streets,” explained Koirala, who began her work following interactions with trafficking survivors who were on the streets.

“I think it is time for religious leaders to talk about gender equality. Without gender equality, this is not going to stop. I would like all of you to join hands to make this society trafficking-free.”

Actor Rani Mukherji lent a straightforward perspective, talking about her career as an actor. “As actors, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the minds of audiences through the stories we bring to life. I have been fortunate to be part of thought-provoking content that has touched millions of hearts. My next film Hichki, is one such film that speaks of turning disadvantages into advantages,” shared the actor.

“I feel that my goal as an actor has changed. It’s really not about winning the best actor award or about setting the box office on fire. What drives me is telling stories that have the potential to bring about social change.”

Dr Jiko Luveni, Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji, also shared the message of empowerment, speaking about her journey from a life-altering event to becoming the first woman dentist in Fiji, a golf and table tennis champion, an activist fighting for the prevention of HIV to a Parliamentarian.

“My message is, when you allow yourself to experience physical and psychological empowerment either through intuition or by creating innovations, you gain confidence to achieve excellence in your goals and your life becomes an interesting and successful adventure. My second message is: no matter what your age is, aspire to be a leader, not to have followers but to create leaders at different levels of society to value humanity, to be influential in making a difference.”

Anne Lene Hompland, Founder and Chair, Oslo Peace Week, Norway, also reinforced the message of valuing humanity, sharing the events that led up to the establishment of the peace organization. Her journey, she shared, began in India nearly 23 years ago after being selected for the ‘Understanding Across Borders’ programme among hundreds of other women.

“Last year, we looked at the challenge of urbanization, about how we can not only look at smart cities, technology and green cities but also about how we can create cities which are about people. We are looking at how we can change diversities, while focusing on living together despite differences,” she explained.

“As many of you know, more than 70 per cent of the population is predicted to live in cities by 2050. And we are already facing so many challenges as we live closely today. We need to address this, but with people first. We believe that people are forgotten in the minds of technologists. Their approach must put people on priority and look at how technology can help us develop peaceful environments.”

In keeping with this vision, she plans to organise a World Peace Exhibition in Oslo in 2021.

“I am now travelling the world, learning what I didn’t learn 23 years ago here in India by asking the world if they want to have a peace expo in Norway to share solutions and knowledge in 2021.”

The Vishalakshi Awards for women achievers from across fields and the Acharya Ratnanand Awards, recognising the role of men in empowering women, were also distributed as part of the inaugural session. These awards have been instituted in memory of the contributions made by parents of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and his sister, Bhanumathi Narasimhan, to society.

Who won the awards?
  • The list of Vishalakshi Awardees for this year includes Dr Asha Naik, Medical Superintendent, at Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital; Anupama Hoskere, Director Dhaatu Puppet Theatre; and Shaikha Al Shaiba, Para-athlete from Bahrain

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 8:43:03 AM |

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