Women redefine ‘Harmony’ at the International Women’s Conference

Afghanistan

The Art of Living hosts 800 delegates from over 59 countries

BANGALORE, Feb 10. 2014. “Don’t ask someone to give you the rights. Just step up and take it up” was the message from The Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to thousands of women who watched him live at the event titled ‘Unlimited Potential: Limited Opportunities’.

This unique online interaction saw an eclectic mix of women leaders including Social Activist Dr. Kiran Bedi; Olympic Boxer Ms. Mary Kom, Environmentalist Ms. Vandana Shiva, seeking answers from the spiritual Guru on myriad themes ranging from women security, balancing work and life, status of women in society, raising children, peace, harmony and role of media.

“Media has two important roles: report the reality and at the same time create a hope for the future,” Sri Sri said in response to CNN’s News Editor Tannika Gray.

Held as part of the celebratory finale to the Sixth International Women’s Conference, which was held at the Art of Living International Centre from 7th to 9th February, the event garnered participation from 93 countries.

Over 800 delegates from over 59 countries attended the three-day conference. Prominent names  included 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.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, the delegates explored the ways of building harmony despite differences. Israelis networking with Arabs, Pakistanis with Indians, urban women with rural women, many barriers came down, hearts melted.

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 delegates also got practical experiences of harmony with the founder of the Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar leading them to meditation. “Harmony comes from within and it needs to be cultivated from childhood,” he said. He also called for coordinated efforts among all stakeholders to work for women empowerment and preventing violence against women. The conference also saw renowned fashion designers took part in a panel discussion titled, 'Making Happiness Fashionable'. The eminent designers unanimously expressed that fashion was created out of a space of happiness. They emphasized fashion goes much beyond designer labels and shared how right looks can make one feel great.

Rina Dhaka, Vineet Bahl, Anamika Khanna, Namrata Joshipura, David Abraham, Monica Shah, Vera Savarra of Milan and Sheikha Hend Faisal of UAE were among the fashion designers who took part in the animated discussions.  

Taking part at the conclusion of the three-day proceedings, Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw made a strong case for appreciating womens' role in changing the order of things. “Although this is an interconnected world, a lot of information is dividing us, misleading us. As women, we are the one who can make the world a better place. We are the chosen ones in society who know what nurturing is. As women climb up the strata, unfortunately, they seem to resign themselves from the mainstream. We are not leveraging our education as we should. That would make the world a very different place, she said.  

Women  who  have  contributed  to  societal  welfare,  change  and  awareness  were honoured with the prestigious Vishalakshi Awards, instituted in the memory of Sri Sri’s Ravi Shankar’s mother.

The IWC supports: 

  • 404 rural and  tribal schools currently educating  40,000 children.   

  • Education  for the  girl  child   

  • Rehabilitation  of  female  prisoners    

  • Campaigns  against  female foeticide  

  • Vocational training for Iraqi widows  

  • HARA – HIV-AIDS Awareness in Rural Areas