Friday, January 24, 2014

‘Indian Women as the Guide for the World at crossroads’ – Women’s Convention in Chennai



‘Swami Vivekananda 150 Women’s Convention’ with a vision to rearticulate and self-introspect on the Indian concept of womanhood has been initiated in Chennai on 23rd January, 2014 being the Punyathithi of Swami Vivekananda.  The theme of the convention being ‘Indian Women as the Guide for the World at crossroads’ initially started with a lighting of lamp by the woman achievers from different walks of life. Thousands of women from all walks of life converged at Narada Gana Sabha Hall, Chennai.

Dr. V Shanta, in her welcome address, gave a clarion call to women in India—in the words of Swami Ji “Awake, Arise, Stop not till the goal is reached”—a call to women to be part of what is happening around them, to bring back values and principles in life and for women to understand and appreciate their respective roles and responsibilities.  She also quoted the songs of Mahakavi Bharatiyar on women.
She highlighted the importance of ‘empowerment of women’ which can be achieved only by women by helping themselves, rid themselves of the inferiority complex that permeates the mind of Indian women.

(Dr. V.Shanta, Chairman of Cancer Institute (WIA).  She belongs to the distinguished scientific family of India in Chennai—the Nobel Laureates Sir C V Raman and Dr. S Chandrasekhar.  Dr. V Shanta dedicated herself, in the field of medicine, was in the WHO Advisory Committee. She is the recipient of many awards including prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service (2005), Padma Shri (1986) and Padma Bhushan (2006).)

Dr. Padma Subramanyam, Chairperson, Organising Committee of Swami Vivekananda 150 Women’s Initiative, in her welcome address, gave a short brief on the origin of this convention. She cited various contributions of women in vedic times namely Gargi, Avvaiyar (Sangam period), Karaikkal Ammaiyar (Saiva Nayanmars), Brahmavadini, Andal (Srivilliputhur), Queen Akka Mahadevi (Karnataka), Meera (Rajasthan), Rani Padmini (Chittoor), Velu Nachiyar, Jhansi Rani and gave an outlook on how women are high in religious, spiritual and temporal traditions.  Due to rise of women’s rebellious emancipation movements in the west, the women of west are said to be unhappy more than before their fight for rights. While referring to modernity, she claims that west-centric modernity at the expense of traditional, moral and ethical values of the orient is unacceptable.

(Dr. Padma Subramanyam—a dancer, research scholar, choreographer, singer, music composer, teacher, author and indologist.  She is the member of the Expert Committee, Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India.  She is recipient of several awards Padmasri, Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Akademi Ratna (Fellow) and various recognitions in the field of dance and culture.)

Mrs Rajashree Birla, in her thematic address, quoted some stark facts on cases of female infanticide and the morbid stories that we see in newspaper on women abuse.  As per Thomson Reuters Foundation report, India ranks 6th in ‘World’s most dangerous countries for women’ for the reasons cited female foeticide, child marriages, trafficking, assault and domestic servitude.  She insisted to collectively look into this problem, deal and annihilate it, as we owe to this country and to ourselves. 
She reminded the audience with the pages of history, where our women folk are enterprising.  (Kadambini Basu (first woman doctor), Sister Subbalakshmi (first lady graduate), Karaikkal Ammaiyar, Andal and Akka Mahadevi. She enticed that this convention will bring a paradigm shift among Indian women when they are at crossroads. 

(Mrs. Rajashree Birla, born and raised in Madurai, is a Director on the Board of all the major Aditya Birla Group of Companies.  She has been spearheading various development projects and was also conferred with various awards to name few— ‘The Economic Times’ Corporate Citizen 2001-2002 Award’, ‘The Seva Shiromani Award’ ‘The Woman Achiever 2001’  ‘The Pride of India’ Award etc. She is also a Chairperson of Advisory Board of University of Kanchipuram, ‘The Research Society for the Care, Treatment and Training of Children in need of Special Care’, and prestigious Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams Development Advisory Council and a trustee of various foundations.)  

Prof. Prema Pandurang enlightened the audience on the Indian concept of womanhood which is highly spiritual. Referring to Swami Vivekananda, “Swami Ji prescribed an unforgettable panacea for the betterment of society—that is respect to women”.
Further, “If you do not raise the women who are the living embodiment of the Divine Mother, don’t think that you have any other way to rise…….. any attempt to modernize our women, if it tries to take our women away from that ideal of Sita, is immediately a failure, as we see every day……”

(Professor Prema Pandurang is the founder President of Samskriti and Kshetropasna Charitable Trust and Founder Trustee of Shree Chakra Foundation.  She is eloquent and wields a powerful pen; stimulating thought and inner peace. Participated many international conferences and she cuts across all articial barriers of religion, age, caste, creed etc. with her soul-inspiring discourses.)

Speaking about his mother who raised his stature, the factory of Dharma Sri Gurumurthy said, “Indian economy was essentially family based and woman centric.  This is in contrast to the rights-based and duty based approach of the West.  The savings-based model of the Indian economy had women forming the backbone.  This is in contrast to the investment-centric and materialistic western models.  He said the huge savings of Indian households has enabled the government to borrow from it for infrastructure development, while in a country like the US, almost every citizen is in debt and the government borrows three-fourth of the world’s savings. 
In India there is no gender conflict like in western countries.  When the Swiss allowed their women to vote in 1972 India already had a woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.  When the Swiss Parliament refused their women the right to vote, India’s largest state already had a woman as Chief Minister; that too a state that had only 20 percent literacy. He said despite the belief that female feticides existed in rural areas, the sex ratio told a different story.  While in rural India, the sex ratio is 947 females to 1000 males, in towns it is 926 and in metros 918.  In modern Indian cities like Ludhiana and Chandigarh, it is 900. Illiterates have kept up female population alive.   
In the Western view, the family itself is a contract, a terminable one. There is nothing called society, said Margaret Thatcher.
Bahuka, the advisor of economics has been rejected in India and followed in US making half of American families state-dependent and dysfunctional. He also quoted the views of Jagdish Bhagwathi, an economist that the contribution of Indian families has led to structural change in the economy; its trade to GDP ratio has tripled.

The convention concluded with an oath to resolve the views of Swami Vivekananda on women and become a contributor and exporter of Indian thoughts to the world. Ms.Nivedita Bhide, All India Secretary, Swami Vivekananda 150th year celebration Committee was also present with other dignitaries in the dais.

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