On 23 February 2018 at Bengaluru, women from 60 countries including 250 delegates, 75 speakers, 100 rural women, 60 young women from over 30 colleges, the 8th edition of the International Women’s Conference got off to a graceful start at the magnificent Vishalakshi Mantap at The Art of Living International Center drawing a global viewership of over one lakh on social media.
Amidst the presence of over 500 powerful and courageous women, the conference saw addresses from prominent dignitaries including D Rupa, IGP, Karnataka, Arundhati Bhattacharya, former chairman, State Bank of India; Chetna Gala Sinha, Founder-Chairperson Mann Deshi Bank and Mann Deshi Foundation, Rani Mukerji, Indian Actress, Dr. Jiko Haveni, first female speaker in the Fijian Parliament.
“Spirituality transcends gender,” said Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar while addressing the conference. He also batted for women to lead religious and spiritual organizations. “Gender equality should be honored in all countries. The process will be faster and smoother if there are more women religious leaders to do it.”
Women achievers from diversed fields- finance, politics, music, medicine, social service, arts and entertainment were awarded with the Vishalakshi Award for their impactful and noteworthy contribution for making a difference in their professional and personal spheres. The ceremony also recognized the role of men in empowering women especially in rural areas by felicitating them through the Acharya Ratnanand Awards. These biennial awards have been instituted in the memory of service rendered by Gurudev’s parents to society. These awards celebrate not only efforts of individuals but also the principles of human values that the awardees embody.
“The possibility of something new arises in our life only when we step into the unknown, to explore a higher calling,” said Smt.Bhanumathi Narasimhan, Chairperson, International Women’s Conference.
Titled, ‘Life: A Mystical Journey,’ the 3 day conference is a congregation of accomplished women achievers, artists, policy-makers and sportswomen among others, to explore ways to amplify the message of peace and empowerment, including spiritual tools.
Concurring with the theme of the conference, Rani Mukerji, award winning actor said, “My goal as an actor has changed. It’s not about winning awards or setting the box office on fire. It’s about telling stories with the potential to create change.”
This year, the IWC’s, prime focus will also be to create open defecation free districts in India. In phase 1, the organization has worked towards sensitization and awareness about use of toilets in 12 gram panchayats across 7 states. In Phase II, 4000 toilets will be built.
Day 2 and Day 3 of the conference kept up with more invigorating sessions and stories of exemplary women like Jian Abdulla Merani, Founder, Ronahee Foundation, Kurdistan, Ms. Raseel Gujral Ansal, lifestyle designer, Dr. Vijitha M. Eyango, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Leadership Initiative at UCLA and Arundhati Bhattacharya, former banker, Shaikha Al Shaiba, a para-athlete.
The detailed list of Awardees is given below :
Vishalakshi Awardees :
1. Dr Asha Naik, Medical Superintendent, at Narayana Hrudayalaya Multi Speciality Hospital.
2. Chetna Gala Sinha, Founder Mann Deshi Bank and Foundation, Economist, Farmer and Activist.
3. Anupama Hoskere, Director Dhaatu Puppet Theatre, preserving the art of Puppetry and oral
4. Shaikha Al Shaiba, Para-athlete from Bahrain.
5. Dr Padma Subramanyam, Classical Bharatnatyam Dancer, scholar, author and Padma Shri awardee.
6. B Saroja Devi, celebrated actor who has done movies in Tamil, Telegu and Hindi; Padma Shri
7. Anuradha Paudwal, Bollywood Playback singer, Padma Shri awardee.
8. Sunita Gupta, Founder Kadam Foundation, Board Member of Kent RO purifiers.
9. Sunita Suri, Executive Director Hyatt Goa, pioneer in hospitality sector.
10. Amla Ruia, Water conservationist, Aakar Foundation.
11. Dr DK Hari and Hema Hari, Founded Bharat Gyaan.
12. Suvina Shunglu, Administrator Sri Sri Academy, Kolkata.
13. Deepa Dave, Senior Art of Faculty, teaching in North East region.
14. R Sundari, Sand Art Curator.
15. Arundhati Bhattacharya, Former Chairman of State Bank of India.
Acharya Ratnanand Awardees :
1. Dr PV Rao, Cardiac surgeon, at Narayana Hrudayalaya Multi Speciality Hospital.
2. Sairam Iyer, Dual Voice Singer.
3. Commander K Suresh, retired from Indian Navy, fought 3 wars, now Trustee of Sri Sri Ravi
Shankar Vidya Mandir Trust
4. Dr Y Lingaraju, National Director for Art of Living’s River Rejuvenation project.
5. Dr Prabhakar Rao, proponent of Sustainable Agriculture.>