Conference ends with commitment to educate 10,000 girls

Bangalore, Karnataka, India
11th June 2007

Global Alliance of Women Leaders formed for implementation

BANGALORE: The three-day International Women Conference organised by the Art of Living culminated on Sunday with a pledge to strengthen the intention and passion for resolving women’s issues and challenges. Following up the pledge, the delegates also drew up a three-pronged action plan to be implemented in their respective countries. To implement the action plan, the conference constituted a special group called Global Alliance of Women Leaders.

Led by conference chairperson Bhanumathi Narasimhan, the delegates stood up and affirmed,

“Let us pledge to always keep alive the strength of our intention and passion to work towards resolving women’s issues and challenges. Let us pledge to build networks globally and locally to search for relevant information on these issues and educate ourselves with tools to resolve them. Let us pledge to be committed to take concrete steps towards fulfilling our action plans.”

Echoing the intention of the delegates, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in his valedictory address, urged the delegates to take up projects to educate at least 50 girl children each in the next six months. He also called upon women to focus on saving the environment. He also urged the participants to plant trees in every corner and be prudent in fuel consumption.

The call immediately resulted in action with 200 of the 550 delegates committing to provide education to at least 50 girl children each. That means that the immediate goal of educating 10,000 girl children set by the Alliance has been met on the day it took off itself. The primary aim of the Alliance will be to empower women around the world. To facilitate this, each participating country will form a local network to address issues concerning female health, education, poverty eradication, environment conservation and other projects relevant to their place.

The conference also drew up a list of urban and rural projects to be implemented in all participating countries based on local needs. Female foeticide, lack of educational opportunities for girls, domestic violence will be some of the vital issues to be taken up by the Alliance.

The three-day conference was marked by some power-packed sessions on issues such as Women in Global Leadership, Women in Business Leadership, Empowering Women, Action for Environment Sustainability, Action for Economic and Social Development, Campaign Against Female Foeticide, Campaign Against HIV/AIDS, Awareness and Value Education, Ancient Sciences and Arts, and Quest for Peace.

Among the 550 attendees from over 50 countries were first ladies, mayors, politicians, members of parliaments, artists, urban and rural women. Understandably, these women had diverse but equally inspiring stories to tell. Cookie Edwards, Director, KZN Network on Violence Against Women from South Africa, brought tears and determination to change the world when she narrated her life story of how she was physically and mentally abused by men including her own father.

“I am not crying for what happened to me. I have become the voice for the voiceless, so that women can unite. With passion to help others, I have been an activist for 20 years,” she said.

The tone and mood of deliberations was captured in a line sung by Hindi pop queen Usha Uthup on the second day.

“It’s time to rewrite the history. For, we have to move ahead.” Listening to the deliberations, it was clear these empowered women are determined to rewrite the history and move ahead. Refreshingly, they didn’t talk about challenging male dominance. Instead, they focussed on what women are capable of and how that capabilities can be harnessed to build a better world. The speakers handled the topics with a view to finding ways of contributing in addressing the pressing problems confronting the world.

In line with the theme of the conference, they displayed a lot of gnana shakti (power of knowledge), iccha shakti (power of intention) to change the world and they seemed fully charged to pool their kriya shakti (power of action). As actor and social activist Nandita Das said,

“Change happens anyway. The question is whether we can hasten the process of change and become the forces to bring about the change we want to see in the world.”

The direction they want to see the world take was very clear in every speaker’s mind.

“Women have stronger intuition and passion. This can be used to transform and save our environment. It’s up to us whether we open our eyes or turn our back to the problem of environment degradation. If we women don’t take responsibility for the environment by becoming vegetarians and promoting organic farming, the world will be in danger,” said Margaretha Guidone of Socialist Party, Belgium. “

Men and women are born with same intelligence. It’s hard to instigate a woman to corrupt practices and she is more flexible in the way she operates. We need to harness these values,” said Vida Manija Cigriejiene from Lithuania.

Saying that women have no hatred, Zata Tashtamirova, Chechnyan Member of Parliament, narrated how Chechen women saved several Russians during the war. Sania Gul, social activist from Pakistan said that women can no more be slotted as stereotypes and Shukria Baraksai, Member of Afghan Parliament spoke of her journey from an underground school teacher to becoming the first female politician in her country. Super cop Kiran Bedi outlined three areas for women to work on – education, peace and environment conservation.

Notwithstanding the heavy agenda, the conference was not an ‘all-work, no-play’ event. The celebratory mood of the conference was captured by the chairperson Bhanumathi Narasimhan when she said,

“What a celebration Bangalore is witnessing, this is what women is all about, enthusiasm and love and that belongingness, oneness that we feel here.”

From a dance recital by Hema Malini and her daughters to hits of Usha Uthup and Hema Sardesai to a dance drama by Rashmi Gopi Hedge, the conference packed in enough right-brain activities that showcased women power. Cultural programs from Israel and South Africa added an international flavour to the festive mood.

The participants also got a taste rich spiritual heritage of India through the Tejaswini Exhibition which was a sublime representation of the inward journey towards perfection, purification and peace. Alongside was an exhibition of items made by women prisoners and rural women from Tripura, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and other states.

Twenty women were awarded the Vishalakshi Award, which recognises outstanding contributions by women leaders in economic, social and cultural spheres.