From 'I Can' to 'I Will'

Alabama, United States
8th February 2009

Was the Mantra of the Art of Living’s 3rd International Women’s Conference

BANGALORE: “Each one of us knows what to do. We have to now make it happen. We have to now move on from ‘I can’ to ‘I will’, resolve to wipe away terrorism and spread the message of peace,” said Mrs. Kavita Khanna, legal and financial advisor, at the valedictory session of the International Women’s Conference at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore today.

The uniqueness of the conference was characterized by its pro-active approach. Primarily what emerged was that the solution to all challenges lay in education. Apart from continuing with the education of the girl child, the conference also resolved to have more such conferences in different countries to address more local issues such as the role of women in politics and economics. Last year, the national chapters of the Art of Living had organized women’s conferences in Washington DC, New York, London and Germany.

More than 750 women from over 68 countries, including 250 from rural India, participated in this three-day conference titled, “The Light of Leadership – Integrating Global Perspectives” organized by the Art of Living and its sister organization The International Association for Human Values. The conference, like the last one two years ago, was dedicated to educating the girl child and all proceeds will go towards this cause.

Motamma, former Women & child Welfare Minister for Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje, the current Women & Child Welfare Minister for Karnataka, Tejasvini Sri Ramesh, member of Parliament, Kanakapura and also Tejasvini Anant Kumar, President of Agamy Chetana Trust, Dr Nagambika Devi, Commissioner of Education department Bangalore, Pramila Nisargi, ex – Chairman National commission for women, Yashoda Bopanna, Deputy Director of Public Instruction. Local villa gram and palika panchayat representatives, Dancer Rashme Gopi Hegde, Preetha Reddy, MD of Apollo Hospitals, Erika Mann, Member of the European Parliament, politician Carol Martin, legal and financial advisor Kavita Khanna, environmentalist Vandana Shiva, Nafisa Sadik, author and ex-special advisor to the UN-secretary general from Pakistan also participated in the conference.

The most heart-warming moment of the conference was when the delegates gave a standing ovation to the parents of martyr Sandeep Unnikrisnan, who laid down his life to save thousands at the recent terrorist attack at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

At a time when the world is facing socio-economic challenges, the conference addressed relevant issues like Conflict Resolution, Counteracting terror - Woman as a peacemaker, Role of women in overcoming the global financial crisis, Leadership: Geo-Political Considerations, The Ethical Leader in Workplace among others.

Vandana Shiva, noted physicist and environmental activist said, “I do believe that the energies in the universe are feminine energies. That’s why we call it ‘Shakti’. Each one of is a centre for change.”

The Vishalakshi Awards instituted at the First International Women's Conference in 2005 in memory of the mother of H. H. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar were given to women who have worked selflessly to make a difference in this world last year. VISTA India, an NGO working for upliftment of villages in south India, was given the Beacon of Light award for 2009. Apart from this Art of Living teachers and volunteers working in faraway places like remote villages of Africa and working tirelessly during natural and man-made calamities were awarded this honor.

Many key issues such as female foeticide, child labor, domestic violence were discussed and solutions were sought. The delegates were enthralled by cultural performances by Smt Hema Malini, Smt.Shobana Chandrakumar, Ms.Usha Utup, Ms.Zila Khan, Rashmi Gopi Hegde and Yoko Mama.

“I have attended many conferences but the spirit of happiness, belongingness was very unique here. Everyone was participating. Otherwise people get bored. The feeling of belongingness between the people present, the love was strikingly unique. There was a lot of respect for men. It was not a feminist sort of a conference. There was dance, meditation, discussion, cultural programme. It was a complete experience,” said Sabrina Pace from Argentina.