Community leaders and local politicians look at what women have achieved, and how far we have to go
The ladies wing of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Sydney came together recently to commemorate the successes of women, past and present, at the inaugural International Women’s Day celebrations at the Rosehill temple.
The event was officially opened in a traditional Hindu manner, as the dignitaries lit the lamp after a brief prayer and warm welcome to the guests.
The befitting theme ‘We have made it’ was introduced to the audience by reminding everyone about the struggle of great women of the past – those who promised and have delivered a better tomorrow.
Around 200 women were present to celebrate the day, including special guests Julie Owens MP, Julia Finn MP, Mala Mehta OAM, Dr Bandini Mittal and Dr Gurprit Ganda.
After offering prayers, everyone stood up in unison to applaud and acknowledge their mothers and all other women who have touched their lives significantly.
This was followed by a presentation on successful women who have inscribed their names to the pages of history. Among them were Rani Lakshmi Bai, Mother Teresa, Kalpana Chawla, PT Usha, Mary Kom, Sunita Williams, Jhumpa Lahiri and Lata Mangeshkar.
This day was not just about honouring these stars, but also providing an opportunity to hear from leaders of the local community. They spoke about their own pathways to success, and also the strategies they see women use to challenge the frameworks that still prevent them from reaching their full potential.
As rightly put by Julie Owens MP, “While many of us are making it and doing quite well, there are still so many women who are not being given the opportunity to contribute the way they should be able to, to make this world a better place.”
Reiterating the message she gives each year around International Women’s Day, she said, “While some of us are doing well, there are many more whose talents, abilities, strengths and courage this world is wasting everyday because we don’t create the paths for them to shine.”
Sadly, not all women enjoy the same freedom that we do, as is reflected in the statistics from the UN: one in three women around the world will experience violence in her lifetime.
Real change can only happen when women are empowered. It is estimated that across the world, gender parity will be achieved only in 2133, noted Dr Gurpreet Gupta.
Julia Finn MP highlighted in her speech that here in Australia, women earn 17 per cent less than men and gender equality at senior levels in the workplace is yet to be achieved.
In terms of women’s success, she stressed the importance of elevating women at all levels and having equal access to opportunities.
Speeches from Mala Mehta OAM and Dr Gurprit Ganda also provided encouragement to the audience.
The event ended with a small skit on Rani Lakshmi Bai and a video about the excellent community work being carried out by BAPS.
While women have come a long way, a lot more needs to be done. With a feeling of empowerment and drive for bringing further change, everyone felt bittersweet, standing together and proudly saying, ‘we have made it’ in our own small and mighty ways!