GOPIO International Women’s Conference a success

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By Rekha Rajvanshi

Women rights and empowerment have become burning issues these days. On the one hand women have achieved a lot in all spheres of life, and on the other hand a large percentage of women are still victims to issues like gender inequality, women’s health and safety and domestic violence.  To address such women’s issues GOPIO organized a one-day International Women’s Conference at Sapphire Function Centre, Blacktown, Sydney, on 9th November 2013.

The theme of the conference was women of Indian Diaspora – opportunities, empowerment and challenges. The conference was well attended by delegates & invited guests throughout the day. Speakers ranging from 25 to 80 years old shared their life experiences with the audience.

The conference started with universal prayer, followed by Lucky Singh (Co-Chair of the conference) introducing the Chairperson Suman Kapoor, who welcomed all with her dynamic opening comments. She introduced the keynote speakers Hon. Minister Judith Collins (Ethnic Affairs Minister, NZ, National Government) and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (MP from NZ).

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Mrs. Judith Collins, in her inspirational speech, reiterated the importance of confidence and advised women of breaking the imaginary glass ceiling they create around themselves. She also highlighted the achievements of women in the society i.e. the celebration of the 120th anniversary of women’s suffering with events across the country in NZ, women achieving in so many sectors of society ”“ commerce, politics, in the legal world, literature, science, arts and sports. She said that all women, including those of Indian descent, have played and will continue to play an important role in New Zealand’s story. She mentioned the important day in 1893, when women first won the right to vote, but said there are still inequalities to address and challenges yet to overcome which she hopes government initiatives will address.

Mrs. Suman Kapoor and Mrs. Lucky Singh expressed their views on domestic violence, commenting that domestic violence happens to everyone and everywhere, in all races, all religions, all income and education levels.

Shoba Ingleshwar then sang an inspirational song “Tum Asha Aur Wishwas Hamare”. Mrs Kapoor (Chair) introduced all the speakers for the session. Aman Singh spoke on issues for youth in Australia. According to her, raising self-respect and pride for all young women is the most important thing to do. Another speaker, Amrit Versha, a specialist in Domestic and Family Violence, community development and human rights education showed her documentary on domestic violence. Bala Thomson (Wellington NZ) a GOPIO supporter since its inception (USA) encouraged women to speak their minds and stand up for their rights. She was an awardee of queen’s service medal (QSM) 23 years ago by the Government of New Zealand for her services to the Indian community. Rekha Rajvanshi, a teacher, poetess and writer, presented an informational PowerPoint presentation on domestic violence in India and Australia. She reflected on the various forms of domestic violence and recited a poem on a rape victim’s life journey, which touched the audience’s heart.

Shruti Arya (Student leader Sydney) spoke of the dreams of the Indian Youth, envisage and the real struggle beyond economic/cultural/language. Dr. Neerja Arun Gupta, the principal of Bhartiya Vidya Seth R A College of Arts and Commerce, Ahmadabad and Senate member, spoke about the glory of women in ancient times and the injustices in recent times. She explained various significant roles that women played in ancient times, and that today women deserve equal respect in social, economic and domestic environments. Dr. Mortaza Sham (Hamilton, Waikato University NZ) was the last and only male speaker, who spoke on the Indian Muslim Women and the question of Integration.

Ms. Rupali Rastogi and Mrs. Neeru Singh also presented their views.   A vote of thanks followed with a few words by Dr. Neeraja A. Gupta, co-chair of academic Council GOPIO International. Mrs. Suman Kapoor thanked all the speakers and attendees for making this conference a grand success. She invited all to attend the GOPIO Convention, New Delhi, on 5-6 January along with PBD 7-9 January2014.

The conference concluded with an inspirational speech by Hon. Minister Vayalar Ravi, with a sumptuous dinner and networking.

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