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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London

Sunday 11 April 2010

The second day of the two-day conference moved towards celebrating women of the present and the future, providing current examples of outstanding women achievers, and inspiring delegates to achieve more in the years ahead.

CELEBRATING WOMEN OF THE PRESENT: Learning from outstanding women achievers

The morning began with traditional Hindu prayers, setting a soothing, spiritually uplifting ambience to the opening session.

Following a short introductory video, eight participants enacted real-life incidents of problems women face due to a lack of basic life-skills. Combined with personal testimonies and multi-media presentations, the scenarios addressed important issues and provided valuable awareness.

After a short break, the delegates reconvened for the keynote address by Chief Guest Mrs Sarah Brown, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP.

After being introduced by local Labour MP Dawn Butler, Mrs Brown began her keynote address by saying: “It is indeed such an honour to be here at this truly stunning temple. I can entirely understand why it is often referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, but I suspect what keeps thousands and thousands of people coming back here is not just how beautiful a building it is, but the warmth of the welcome and the compassion of the community.”

Herself one of the country’s most successful women – managing to balance being a loving mother and supporting wife, a dynamic businesswoman, and a person of deep personal faith – Mrs Brown went on to share her experiences of meeting inspiring women around the world, adding: “The women who have made the deepest impression on me are the people who show the determination to help others.”

Drawing upon the conference’s theme, Mrs Brown emphasised the crucial role women play in our modern society, and chose to “focus on the future, as the needs there are so urgent”, urging the delegates to have the “courage to dream about a better future and then set out to make that future come true.”

[A full transcript of the keynote address is available here.]

Delegates thereafter broke to attend their chosen seminars. Leading experts offered practical tips and guidance on matters related to education and careers, finance and the law, and the family. [Click here for more information about the seminars.]

Lunch was integrated with a cooking demonstration by award-winning celebrity dietician Azmina Govindji. Presented in collaboration with the British Heart Foundation, the demonstration helped to guide delegates on preparing tasty yet healthy Indian food.

This led to a relaxation session offering opportunities for women to enjoy, experience and learn from a variety of activities, including:

Massage & Herbal Therapy Nail Art
Hair Therapy Mehndi Transfer
Hairstyling Sari Draping
Facials Threading
Make-up Garba Lessons

Delegates reconvened again in the assembly hall for an inspiring set of presentations by an impressive panel of outstanding women achievers. Hailing from various professional backgrounds – Arts & Culture, Business & Finance, Engineering, Public Services, Science & Medicine, Social Enterprise, and Volunteerism – they shared personal experiences and invaluable insights about succeeding as a woman in the world today. [Click here to learn more about these presentations and the presenters.]


CELEBRATING WOMEN OF THE FUTURE: Building an aspiring vision for women

The conference then proceeded towards the final aspect of the theme: the future.

Panellists comprising distinguished women from various organisations, including BAPS, were interviewed wherein they discussed the way forward for women and shared their thoughts, hopes and aspirations on how to build a brighter future for everyone. This enlightening session consolidated many of the learning outcomes from the previous sessions.

A further concluding summary of the conference’s key messages was provided by Renaben Amin, a leading member of BAPS National Women’s Forum, UK. She reiterated: “Although this conference is drawing to a close, this is really only the beginning…. We need to harness our energy and enthusiasm today to create a better future for ourselves, our families, our country, and the whole world.”

After pictorial highlights of the two days and a stirring closing video, a symbolic showering of flower petals inside the assembly hall provided a memorable finale to the closing session.

To cap the event in true celebratory fashion, dinner was followed by traditional Raas-Garba (an Indian folk dance) to the accompaniment of live music.

The event was overwhelmingly applauded by both the delegates and invited guests.(A selection of their comments will be available to read shortly.) It saw the fruition of months of planning, preparation and execution.


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