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Empowerment, Engagement of Women at South Asian Young Women's Leadership Conclave

By Archana Sharma
Posted on :
11 February 2017
Posted on :
11 February 2017

With a surge of thoughts going within, I set to write this piece. Mind which clings to its comfort zone so passionately is suddenly restless with encounter of myriad issues. The South Asian Young Women Leadership Conclave held at India Habitat Centre rekindled issues more emphatically which are discussed with a mundane regularity otherwise. This event was organised by Canadian High Commission in India and had National Commission for Women, Women's Development Cell, Miranda House and Women's Feature Service as Partners. 

This event engaged active leaders from the field of politics, business, corporate world, non-governmental service and judiciary to inspire, empower the aspiring young vibrant women delegates from our neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and India. The combination of National and regional perspective on Women rights goes a long way in the real engagement and empowerment of women. 

The welcome and Introduction by Jess Dutton, Deputy High Commissioner of Canada to India, was phonetically delightful as he added a new dimension and earned many fans from the participants. The twitter account was flooded with huge followings in no time.


The opening address by Pratibha Jolly, Principal of Miranda House aptly justified the high energy of youth who have an innate ability to nurture dreams and achieve them.

The first session of the day captioned as Women in Leadership dwelt primarily on gender equality, empowerment of women through their induction in Leadership roles.

Meenakshi Lekhi of BJP very strongly said that she is against gender based educational institutions as they tend to widen the discrimination between the two genders. Every female is a feminist rather more than a closet feminist, so a sexual assault incident should be discussed more by a man. Indian ancient wisdom recognises a soul which is beyond gender.

Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson National Commission for Women, spoke that current female struggle is not about equality but equal opportunities. She stressed on the need for development of skills, competency and believing in yourself.

The short tea break paved way for second session which was Women in Politics. This focussed upon Empowerment, engagement and participation of women in political and democratic processes. This was a panel of young, suave, intelligent, well attired new generation politicians who immediately had all attention drawn to their discussion. 

Dr.Syeda Hameed, Women's Right Activist and ex-member of Planning Commission, was the moderator of the session who spoke about several reports on political representation of women. How strongly they raised this issue by putting it across as, No dilution no diversion.

Soon Jay Panda, National spokesperson of Biju Janta Dal, took over and spoke about Women’s Reservation Bill which isn't passed as yet. However he is a firm believer that change is a process and there already is a paradigm shift as seen in various reports published on the issue from time to time.

Sushmita Dev, National spokesperson of Indian National Congress, gave a fierce view against quota for women similar to what Renuka Ray and Hansa Mehta had voiced earlier.

Shazia Ilmi, spokesperson from BJP, very interestingly came up with Sarpanch pati and Rabri Devi Syndrome. She deftly pointed out that current strife isn't between men and women rather it's against the patriarchal belief system. Too much food for thought had the strong abdominal rumblings and food for stomach was sought for.

The post lunch session was on Women as Agents of change in society with Kamla Bhasin, Founder of Sangat, a South Asian Feminist Network as moderator. The renewed energy and enthusiasm of her voice was too infectious. She said, I am not the boundary rather a crack on the wall. 

Mein Sarhad pe Khadi dewar nahi, usme padi Daraar hoon.

Meena Wilson, Executive Director Genpact Centre for Women Leadership-Ashoka University, mentioned Athena Doctrine. It speaks that the world is headed in a direction of feminine leadership. She sought to bring people across generations together.

Shehla Rashid, Student Activist of Jawaharlal Nehru University, very sharply condemned the media for the misguided portrayal of feminism. Female inclusion in all spheres of life isn't only important for political correctness but accuracy too.

Vinita Bhimbhet, President, FICCI Ladies Organisation, spoke about assistance offered to women for business at grassroots level also. Leadership according to her is an attitude, a philosophy.

Then the charismatic Karuna Nandy, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court rose from her chair to have direct connect with the audience. She spoke of deathly persistence of patriarchy in society. Feminism as a term has more inclination towards discrimination. She stressed on collaboration, networking, transforming anti sexual policies into equality policies. She said in lighter vein about the threat of danglers to stalkers.Then there was this wonderful group of young women delegates from our neighbouring nations sharing their ideas, aspirations and hopes on women’s issues.

Jalila Haider , female lawyer, Activist from Baluchistan, Pakistan narrated the violence, strife stories of the Baloch community. She offers free legal aid to women and out of her earnings has empowered around hundred women.

Sharanya Sekharam, Research Analyst, Activist from Sri Lanka said how the end of armed conflict isn't the end of the conflict. The long years of a strife torn society has seen women as victims and lot needs to be done.

Adila Ahmadi, Women's Rights Advocate from Afghanistan, very rightly said that men and women should support each other. Around 87% of women in Afghanistan are victims of violence.

Suraiya Yosufi another Women Rights Activist from Afghanistan collaborated to Adila's view by saying that they have a long way to go on the road to women equality. She stressed upon the need for grassroot strategy.

Wangchuk Dema, Youth and Young Women's Social Advocate, from the country which ranks highest on happiness index, ie Bhutan said that gender disparity exists in Bhutan though it’s improving. 

Fathimath Isha Afeef, Youth Activist from Maldives, shared how influential is Bollywood in her country that their thinking is shaped by them. In Maldives people consider religion as a miracle fixer of all problems. She felt that young people are marginalised and need mentors. Feminist Movement awaits a takeoff in her country.

Then Shreya Illa Anasuya, fiery writer, Activist from India shared four different stories and called for affirmative actions. The need to reach out to more marginalised women like disabled, queer and Dalit was highlighted.There was an interesting discussion during Q&A round, followed by vote of thanks by the Official from Canadian High Commission. It was a wonderful event with beautiful amalgamation of some brilliant ideas. Such events give continuum to the idea of Women participation and equality.

About The Author
Archana Sharma

Resume speaks of a career in HR, armed with a Management Degree with a career which spanned for more than 15 years. Now following heart's pursuit on a journey from being a writer in closet to a published writer. Publications include articles in leading national newspapers, online blogs. An avid traveller seeking refuge and solace amidst Himalayan magnificence and sublimity.

Resume speaks of a career in HR, armed with a Management Degree with a career which spanned for more than 15 years. Now following heart's pursuit on a journey from being a writer in closet to a published writer. Publications include articles in leading national newspapers, online blogs. An avid traveller seeking refuge and solace amidst Himalayan magnificence and sublimity.