With women from all walks of life from 59 countries, it was surely a place to connect. But the matter didn’t end there. As the 6th International Women Conference opened today at the Art of Living International Centre, it became obvious as a platform for connecting people beyond gender, parties, ideologies and any other divisive barriers.
As the opening session of the 3-day conference progressed, hands were shaken, thoughts were provoked, hearts were melted and true connections were made. But it wasn’t just about meeting; it was more about creating harmony among opposites! And that’s the theme of the conference.
The agenda for this confluence was set by the chairperson Smt. Bhanumathi Narasimhan in her opening remarks. “Everything in this universe has a purpose and we have a higher purpose. Recognizing that and valuing life is what is harmony,” she said amidst a round of applause. Highlighting how harmony can be created despite differences, she said, “A jasmine can be near a lotus or a rose. They don’t compete, they simply are beautiful. When we all come together like this, it is harmony.”
Awarding the voice of harmony, the Art of Living announced the institution of the Vishalakshi Global Award by honoring singing icon Asha Bhosle with the first award. In her acceptance speech, she narrated her journey of life and how success comes after struggles. She lauded Sri Sri for his endeavor of spreading harmony all over the world.
The Art of Living also felicitated Priyanka, the first-female driver of Namma Metro, who got her education thanks to free school run by of the Art of Living near its International Centre.
Echoing the theme of harmony despite differences spokespersons of BJP and Congress Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi and Ms.Rita Bahuguna Joshi shared the dais. In her address, Rita Bahuguna highlighted the harmonious aspect of India’s culture and tradition. She also spoke of harnessing the women’s ability to face challenge and called for standing up against violence against women. Meenakshi talked about resorting to Dharma to sort all problems and need for taking responsibility. She appreciated the art of Living for hosting this conference at a time when women are subjected to violence of many kinds. She was confident that the deliberations in the conference will result in concrete steps.
Stressing on the role of harmony in building nations, former President of Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said, “Morality of parents, spirituality of leaders can change society. A leader who stands for harmony can move hearts. A leader has to be magnanimous and not vindictive.” The First Lady of Sri Lanka Shiranthi Rajapaksa also shared her experience of working with women and highlighted their inner strength.
Giving a practical experience of harmony to the gathering, the founder of the Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar led the gathering to a guided meditation. In his address, Sri Sri said, “Harmony comes from within and it needs to be cultivated from childhood.” He also called for coordinated efforts among all stakeholders to work for women empowerment and preventing violence against women.
Her Excellency Dr. Husn Banu Ghazanfar, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan; The Honorable Ms. Hijran Huseynova, Chairwoman of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan Republic, Azerbaijan; The Honorable Ms. Aliza Lavie, Member of Parliament were eminent people who spoke on the inaugural day.
Over 800 delegates from over 59 countries are attending the three day conference. Prominent names attending the conference in the coming days will include, Irina Rukina, Co-chair, Counsel of Consolidation for Women’s Movement, Russia; Ms. Shirin Fatah, Political Leader, Iraq; Ms. Kathrine Aspaas, Journalist & Writer, Norway; Ms. Cathie Burton, Spokesperson, Council of Europe, France, Strasbourg; Ms.Tatyana Poronova, Deputy Governor, Murmansk Region, Russia; Ms.Tanika Gray Valbrun, News Editor, CNN, Atlanta, USA.