Speaker: Sri Lanka: Ms. Otara Gunewardene; Pakistan: Ms. Ameena Saiyid; Nepal: Ms. Charu Chadhai; Myanmar: Ms. Kyi Pyar; Bangladesh: Ms. Farzana Chowdhury
Venue: ITC Pala
Date: 16th February, 2018
The Ladies Study Group as a Women’s Organisation that looks for every opportunity to showcase women’s empowerment proudly presented ‘An International Conclave’, hosting prominent women guest-speakers from India and the five neighbouring countries celebrating ‘Shakti Beyond Borders’!!
The ladies study group Celebrated ‘Shakti Beyond Borders ‘with a unique presentation of Sand Art by artist Baadal Barai created live, showcased on the screen to the mesmerised audience.
“You empower a woman, you empower a nation” said LSG President, Namrata Sureka in her opening speech. She introduced the illustrious panel as ‘dynamic torchbearers’ for women empowerment.
India representative, Ms. Ruchira Gupta, Emmy-winning filmmaker and activist moderated the event. Ruchira Gupta is an Indian sex trafficking abolitionist, journalist and activist. Gupta is the Founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide – a grassroots organization in India working to end sex trafficking.
Ms. Gupta stated that the Indian sub-continent was truly empowered, although lagging in socio-economic growth. Male dominance, dowry deaths, abandonment of widows, lack of education for women were few of the many problems at hand.
As a moderator, she questioned the distinguished panel the challenges they faced, advised steps in the progressive direction, their dreams for their daughters and managing motherhood.
Indian delegate said Kamala Chatopaday, who challenged Mahayana Gandhi during the ‘Salt March’ was her icon.
Sri Lanka representative, Ms. Otara Gunewardene, entrepreneur, philanthropist and fashion icon founded Sri Lankan fashion and lifestyle store, Odel. Gunewardene was the first female entrepreneur to take a company public in Sri Lanka.
Ms. Gunewardene confessed of starting her business to raise funds to save the animals, protect the environment thereby saving the world. She was proud of her country where literacy rate is 92% , equal to men and women. In her opinion, poverty was the main hindrance for a better life. “I never thought of myself as a woman pushing my dreams; I feel that was my strength,” stated Sri Lankan delegate.
“The sole purpose of life is to be who you truly are,” said Sri Lankan delegate. Regarding children, she quipped, “Let them be!”
As a Buddhist, adapting detachment made her sell her profitable company in order to save the planet for future generations and thereby creating awareness.
Sri Lankan delegate’s mother, running a school of 3500+ special children inspired her as her role model in addition to Mother Teresa.
Pakistan representative, Ms. Ameena Saiyid, is the managing director of Oxford University Press (OUP) in Pakistan. She became the head of OUP Pakistan in 1988, becoming the first woman to ever head a multinational company in Pakistan.
Ms. Saiyid stated, “Perseverance is what matters for women.” She narrated the challenges faced as a working women in her primitive society, not being granted maternity leave, the bets within the company on her survival as the MD and their sole purpose was to instigate her to throw in the towel.
“Struggle needs to be sustainable,” stated Pakistani delegate. She felt inflation was the main ingredient in pushing more women folk in the work force. In her opinion education is the main tool and will be instrumental in giving opportunity to the huge pool of talent which is untapped in Pakistan.
Nepal representative, Ms. Charu Chadha is the consultant for the FNCCI Excellence Awards. She is the editor of MEDIA 9, which produces Business 360 and World of Women (WOW) magazines. A strong proponent of free markets and liberty, Charu has over two decades of experience in journalism, marketing, communications and events.
Ms. Chadha professed, “Career chose me, I didn’t choose the career.” She said she felt segregated in a country where 10 year old ‘kumari’ is the goddess. She questioned the inequality between genders, wanted to share stories and search for answers primarily for herself. “We need to redefine success,” said Nepal delegate. She believed the genders complimented each other and we should be careful in not crossing the fine line of feminism. Her personal anecdote for transformation was a fight to perform the last rights for her father.
Nepal delegate quoted, “I am a strong woman because I was raised by one.” She advised to turn tears into strength and to be economically empowered.
Myanmar reprentative, Ms. Kyi Pyar is the MP, NLD Kyauktada Township, Yangon Regional Parliament, ACYPL: 2014 Spring Legislative Process + Governance Fellows Program (LFP) She is an eminent Activist in Yangon, Founder of ‘Better Life Charity Organization’ and works for Children from Orphanages in Ayeyarwaddy and Bago Regions.
Ms. Kyi candidly confessed the military rule till 2010 in her country was detrimental in the growth of the economy. She got involved in politics, against her family’s wishes to bring about change in every sector. She happily stated the significant increase in women participation from 4% in 2010 to 14% in 2014 general election in Myanmar. High child rape in her region was a big concern and it is her aspiration to see more women in powerful positions in the world.
Myanmar delegate blamed the political situation of her country in her wedlock decision. She feared being jailed as a politician and therefore did not want the responsibility of a child.
Poor education and poor economic system kindled a fire in her to join politics, in anticipation to bring about a positive change in society.
Bangladesh representative, Ms. Farzana Chowdhury is the Managing Director and CEO of Green Delta Insurance Company Limited, and Mohammad Adnan Imam FCCA, Managing Director of Genex Infosys. Having spent over two decades in the insurance industry, she is now providing commercial insurance schemes directly aimed at improving economic security for women.
Ms. Chowdhury candidly stated all women across borders face challenges. She was advised while working for a NGO to leave decision making to the men, which antagonised her to come out of her comfort zone, break barriers and thereby providing women with ‘One service platform-insurance’ in her launch pad.
Personal anecdote for transformation for the Bangladesh delegate was the moment she was being refused to intern in an Islamic Bank.
Bangladesh delegate was inspired by her mother to live her dream, face challenges and to be a leader to love people.
The distinguished panel was unanimous in their belief that in order to build communities, we need to work together across borders rather than work in isolation. The gathering in full strength witnessed a powerful interactive engagement by powerful women of the sub-continent as never seen before in LSG.
‘The forum witnessed an inclusive celebration of womanhood … celebrating the oneness of womanhood’.