International Conference on ‘Women Lead to Change’

National Association of Soroptimist International of India – NASI India, celebrated 40 years of Soroptimist International in India and 25 years of NASI India.

On this occasion, NASI India, partnered with host club SIBC Soroptimist International of Bombay Chembur to organize a fellowship dinner and celebrations in the Regenza Tunga, Vashi on 27th September, 2014. On Sunday 28th September, 2014 an International NASI India Conference was organized in Dr. K. M. Vasudevan Pillai Campus, Sector 17, New Panvel starting at 11.00 a.m.

The theme of the Conference was “Women Lead to Change” The sub-themes were: Women Lead to Change – Human Rights and status of women and girls; Women Lead to Change – Leadership – Economic and Social Development; Women Lead to Change – International Goodwill Peace and Understanding; Women Lead to Change – Education and culture for women and girls; Women Lead to Change – Good health and food security for women and girls; Women Lead to Change – Environment sustainability

The event was flagged off by a glittering inaugural function at the Tunga, followed by an International NASI India Conference attended by over 100 participants from Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Rasayani. The panel of speakers comprised of a galaxy of eminent women leaders, leaders in their own field who have contributed immensely to society in diverse ways.

In her welcome note NASI India President and Councilor said, “Soroptimist International, whose core purpose is to advance human rights and the statutes of women is a leading voluntary, international organization with close to 90,000 members, in more than 3000 local clubs in over 100 countries.

Partnering is the ‘life blood of todays thriving organization. Soroptimist International has long been involved with United Nations and holds general consultative statutes at the United nations and is a recognized nongovernmental organization (NGO) Representing women all over the world, Service and friendship are the bedrocks of Soroptimism.

Soroptimist focus on transforming the lives of women and girls, locally, nationally and globally through 3E’s that is – “Education, Empowerment and Enable.”

Soroptomists also work with other NGOs and also with Friendship links to maximize all its resources to produce remarkable results and we are proud, of our collegial efforts.

American Novelist Edith Warton wrote – “There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle & the mirror that reflects it” For Soroptimists in India, it is significant year as it marks the completion of 40 years of S.I. in India and beginning of 25 years of Nasi – India. The 1st club was chartered in Mumbai, the highlight of our celebration is the conference. With the same theme theme as SIGBI – Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland, our federation who is also celebrating 80 years of S.I. The theme is – “WOMEN LEAD TO CHANGE” – A change that would bring about progress which is essential not only at individual level but at institution level by working together as a team. It is said, “Life is a collection of Changes”. Every change is a challenge.

For 40 years, soroptimists in India have strived to brighten the world by contributing to eradicate darkness of illiteracy and unemployment. Sponsored formal and informal education of girls, adults and tribal people, contributed towards libraries and skill training programs. To lessen the gloom the diseases bring, conducted medical & cancer checkups, sanitary napkin projects for under privileged awareness programs on hygiene, health, prevention of diseases, provided medical equipment brought sanity to sanitation by building toilet blocks. Lighted the stove to reduce acute hunger and poverty by providing nutrition such as grain, food items, cloths and utensils. Ignited the spark of leadership to ensure human rights, equality, equal opportunities for empowerment of women and zero tolerance of all kinds of violence and abuse against women and girls through seminars, workshops and marshal arts. The horrendous rape and murder of Nirabaya and after math has turned the historic tide and we were heard. Soroptimists protested, held peace marches, wrote articles, wrote to government for speedy justice, accountability and change of mindset. Sent suggestion to Justice Verma commission to bring in stringent laws & policies. Still the atrocities are continuing unabatedly, we still need to pursue that they are implemented delivered and mindsets are changed through the inner glow radiating love and harmony, to bring peace, friendship and fellowship. To reflect safe and healthy environment on planet earth created theme parks, organic farms, smokeless chullas, planted trees, herbal gardens, water harvesting and eco friendly bags, ignited a spark of hope, confidence and supported survivors of natural disasters and calamities. To ignite leadership held training programs for under privileged and members. All in all worked relentlessly to enhance the status of women and girls to empower them which is reflected from our wide spectrum of programs and projects. It may be a drop in the ocean of services but the ripples that they make has ignited fresh energy to the beneficiaries.

Dr. Lata Krishnan took over as the vibrant host for the NASI India Conference. A power point presentation of the best projects of SI clubs in India was showcased with a commentary by Namratta Saxena.

The opening remarks were made by the Malaysian Moderator and speaker, Anusha Santhirasthipam International Assistant Programme Director of Soroptimist International from 2011–2013. She spoke on ‘Women Lead to Change – Human Rights & Status of women and girls’ she explained how she provided strategic direction on advocacy and lobbying to SI’s UN representatives at UN centres in New York, Paris, Vienna, Geneva, Rome and Nairobi. She led delegations to UN Summits to negotiate with Government leaders and advocate for law reforms and policy shifts to ensure equal rights and empowerment of women and girls in economic, social, health, employment and environment areas.

Anusha shared how she made history by being the first Soroptimist to make an oral intervention at a UN Assembly meeting in New York on the issues affecting rural women and what is crucially needed of governments. She also made an impactful written statement calling on all governments to end all forms of femicide and female infanticide which resolutions were accepted by the UN Commission on the Status of Women Meeting in 2013.

In her speech Resource Person, Dr. Daphne Pillai Chairperson, Management Board, Mahatma Education Society. Mahatma Education Society is an educational trust which runs 48 institutions encompassing Kindergarten to Post-Graduate education in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Rasayani, she spoke on ‘Women Lead to Change – Education and culture for women and girls.’ Her presentation was rich in content and novelty where in she explained quoting incidents and events from history and literature the status of education for women and how it evolved down the ages before the world wars and post. Her illustrations included the Dandi March where she pointed out the fact that it was the strong willed women who joined in with the men to make the Dandi March a success and a movement of historical importance. She spelled out how the manner, need and necessity for educating women varied from period to period and in continents across the Atlantic. She wove in reflections of poets from that genre and in a very interesting way presented methodically how ‘education for women’ the need, content and manner changed. She went on to speak about the ‘angel in the house’ The angel in the house was the ‘Perfect Wife’ in Coventry Patmore’s poem and women were expected to fit into the mould, which meant they had to be self sacrificing, dutiful, non-complaining, doing house hold chores. She explained how current poetry helped to kill the angel in the house and to put the woman back in the house. She gave examples of poets like Kamala Das, Adrienne Rich and Patricia Beer.

In her speech Resource Person Dr. Sally Enos, Principal Pillai’s College of Education and Research, New Panvel, spoke on ‘Women Lead to Change – Environment Sustainability’ Her opening remarks were striking where she boldly said that we do not have to protect the environment! The environment is capable of taking care of itself. The environment has everything for man’s need but not for his greed! She emphasized that we must not interfere with the environment and that this is where all the problems begin. Through her pictorial presentation she vividly explained how women used natural resources to nurture feed and protect while man used it for creating wealth technology gadgets and luxuries! She concluded that we must follow the Bird philosophy where the bird pecks only a few grains, as much as he needs and leaves the rest for others, unlike the Monkey philosophy where the monkey causes destruction and confusion where ever he moves due to his greed! She further explained that as women we must consume resources only as much as we need. If we buy one new saari, we must be prepared to give away two old ones.

A Pakistani resource person, Talat Pasha Assistant Programme Director Economic Empowerment Soroptimist International spoke on the theme “Women Lead to Change: Friendship and International Good will and Understanding – Peace atour Borders”. She said that we were not created to hate or to fight. We were created to love and to nurture. The question is: are we doing it? Why are we not fulfilling the basic reason for which we were created? It is probably because we have a myopic view of the world. We have become small hearted and do not want to understand the problems of others.

To give Peace a chance, to find a better world for our children it will have to be women who will lead the change: As Vijay Lakshmi Pandit has said: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.”

In her speech, Resource Person , Ashok Mehta ex Executive Director HPCL spoke on the theme, Women Lead to Change: Leaders – ‘Women in Corporate’. “If today women are not climbing the corporate ladder, it is because they are taking the escalator!” But some 30-40 years ago if women were not climbing the corporate ladder, it was perhaps because they were running a hurdle race! As per a recent research by Credit Suisse, more diverse groups make for better decision-making and corporate performance. It is not a case of a greater ability of one gender versus another, yet they found that higher female representation at board and top management, exhibits higher returns on equity, higher valuation and higher dividend payout ratios. Diversity benefits, not only women themselves, but also all stakeholders, corporates, investors and wider economic environment.

In her speech Resource Person Dr. Armida Fernandez Ex-Dean of Sion Medical College and Founder President of NGO Sneha spoke on “Women Lead to Chang – Good health and food security for women and girls” ‘good health’ she explained that merely the absence of disease is not good health. Good health includes the well being of the physical, mental and social condition of a person. As a champion for advocating ‘breast feeding’ she explained to the participants the importance of breast feeding. Dr. Armida shared the several projects undertaken by NGO Sneha. Their work done was commendable and the motivated the participants present.

The conference concluded with NASI Development Officer Anu Wakhlu giving a brief leadership training exercise where she made the participants stand and repeat counting their fingers the line “If it has to be it must start with me”. This concluding leadership exercise emphasized the fact that any change that has to be brought has to start with “ME”

To initiate our ‘Go Green NASI India Project’ three trees were planted on this occasion. As per the old African saying one tree for fruit, one for beauty (flowers) and one for shade. NASI President Annette Mascarenhas with all the NASI India members planted the trees along with the other SI club members and conference participants to commemorate 40 years of SI in India and 25 ears of NASI India. This NASI Project was conducted just before lunchtime on the conference day in Dr. K. M. Vasudevan Pillai Campus.

President Elect Shreelatha Narayan proposed the vote of thanks. She was generous in thanking all the NASI India committee members and host club for organizing a wonderful conference and tree plantation activity. Concluding her vote of thanks she very interestingly summed up to give us the central idea of the conference filtering for us the essence of the conference as delivered by various speakers.

All the SI members and conference participants dispersed with joy in their hearts. This marked the closure of the celebrations and projects that had started the previous day 27 September, 2014 celebrating 40 years of SI in India and 25 years of NASI India celebrations at the Tunga Regenza, Vashi. The celebrations comprised of violin recital by the professional artist Mabel Chan Pillai and cultural dances by students of the Panvel Campus. Past NASI India Presidents cut the cake and past NASI India President SheelaRao raised the toast. She recalled old memories and shared with us old stories of how SI started in India and the beginning of NASI India. The oldest SI member in India Daphne Periera was present on this occasion.

Hi tea was served at 4.00pm and the participants went home cheerfully gleaming with positive energy and a wonderful gift hamper sponsored for each of the 100 participant by ITC. The hamper comprised of 1kg multi grain atta, and packets of assorted biscuits. We thank ITC for the kind gesture.A special thank you to the press particularly to Times of India NIE – News paper in Education for covering our event and the enthusiastic Soroptimist sisters Annette, Lata, Rema and Kshiti along with SIBC host club President Reni and her team of SIBC members who worked relentlessly and enthusiastically to make it possible.

We appreciate the good wishes and encouragement from SIGBI President Margaret Oldroyd SIGBI President Elect Jenny Vince and all others who wished us well.

We thank Dr. K. M. Vasudevan Pillai for throwing open his campus – Dr. K. M. Vasudevan Pillai Campus, Sector 17, Panvel, for our use and for all his support and motivation.

The conference was a success!