The 7th Lokmat Women Summit

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We have today women making a transformative impact in the world. Extraordinary Women doing extraordinary work to challenge the position that they were in once upon a time. A time when they had to face injustice, suppression and experience a feeling of inequality. But it was also a time when as the saying went “We Women are our own worst enemy.” The time has now come to change it all. We have the MeToo movement that has rocked the media and has brought the women out of their shell. Why restrict ourselves to a MeToo movement?

As the anchor Richa Anirudha stated, “whether it be a triple talak, or a sabrimala we all need to have the same view. Let us not leave all to only discussion of issues, let us take steps to resolve the issues.”

Richa Anirudha the anchor

In Dushant Kumar’s words, “sirf hungama khada karna mera maksat nahi, meri kosish hein ki ye surat badalni chahiye.” (It is not my intention to create a rukus or chaos. I intend to change the look/face of it).(And it will happen).

And to change this look Lokmat had its 7th Summit at the Westin on the 26th of October,2018.

The expression for the day was, ‘Sahbhag Partnering for a better tomorrow.’

The program began with a Shakti Vandana performance by Tejaswani Sathe and her troupe. The women who were seated there were asked to arouse the power within, to recognize the power within.

Tejaswani Sathe with her troupe performing Shakti Vandana

It was soon followed by Deep Prajwalan (lighting of the lamp) by all the speakers.

Rekha Sharma, Marie Leontine Razanadrasoa, and others – lighting of the lamp

 Prashant Dixit, Editor, Lokmat Pune addressed the crowd stating that they had gathered there to instill belief in the women that Lokmat is there to empower them. It has been a while that Lokmat has been on this journey. Lokmat has not just been speaking of empowerment of woment but has been acting upon it.

Prashant Dixit Editor Lokmat Pune

It has held till date 6 Women Summits, each working on the issues that women have been facing. He proceeded to mention the 4 major campaigns that Lokmat had focused on in the past.

  1. Aata Baas!…meaning Enough Now! It was a successfully driven campaign, seeking for the security of women.
  2. To promote women journalists. Women also have the right to question. However he mentioned that change can take place only when the government brings in changes in policies and rules. He went on to cite an incident of a woman who sold her mangalsutra only to construct a toilet in the village. Selling her mangalsutra needs courage to do so, especially in a village. Lokmat immediately took measures at a national level, and today no woman needs to sell her jewelry to make a toilet. The municipality will help. Once again the Lokmat Campaign was successful.
  3. Transgender Laxminarayan Tripathi was invited by Mr. Vijay Darda to the Parliament where he presented the issue in front of the parliamentarians. This is another big achievement taken by Lokmat to make others aware of the grievances these transgenders experience.
  4. #MeToo  is an important platform for women. It has allowed our women to open up and raise their voice against crime. Lokmat will always support the cause of women, not just get stuck in talks and discussions. The MeToo movement is a revolution and all should participate. He suggested that now from a MeToo we should chant WeToo. This is not a compromise but it is out of respect for women and pumping respect and confidence in them.

Lokmat says today women are more confident and self reliant and can make their careers. Lokmat is constantly working towards igniting self respect, confidence and leadership qualities in women.

‘WeToo together shall make a change.’

Rekha Sharma……..next addressed the audience. She began by saying what needs to change is the thought process of the society, the mentality of people towards woman. Change in Policies and law only will not help.

Rekha Sharma Chariperson National Commission for Women

She went on to make comparisons of how when a girl is born she is given a doll to play with, and then marriage is drummed into her thoughts. Where as a boy is given toys that are to do with engineering or mechanics. Set bigger and larger goals for a girl child to achieve, not just marriage. She urged women to enter the NCW and the police.

Women should now say “No more…injustice to women. It will happen no more, and will not let it happen to others …was a message to all at the summit. It is this belief that will help resolve the problems in a woman’s life.”

She pointed out that the media has had a large role today to play in the #MeToo  campaign.

The “Soch” has to change only then change will take place in the lives of women!

Divya Seth

Divya Seth said this should not be only  a woman’s fight. Men and women should fight for the cause of women.

Mr. Vijay Darda Sir addressed the audience and welcomed every speaker who had been invited at the Women’s Summit, stating how they through their activities keep inspiring women. He welcomed each one by taking their names…

Vijay Darda Sir Chairman of Lokmat

Present among all were Marie Leontine Razanadrasoa-Ambassador of Madagascar in India, Sudha Varghese-Padma Shri- Founder of Prerna Foundation, Usha Kakade –Chairperson of the USK Foundation, Dr.Laxmi Gautam fondly called the Angel of Vrindavan-Founder of Kanak Dhara Foundation, Rekha Sharma-Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Rupali Deshmukh-International Expert of Sustainable Development and Water Conservation, Antara Ganguly-Gender Specialist Unicef India,  Revathi Roy-Founder Forsche- Asia’s first All women Taxi Service, Ritu Chabriya of the Mukul Madhav Foundation and Sheetal Biyani of Sheetal Creations, Jabna Chauhan-India’s Youngest Sarpanch, Rani Mukerji-Actor, and Tanushree Dutta-Actor.

He also took the names of Barkha Trehan from Delhi who is a Men’s Rights Activist, Sushiladevi Bamb, and Richa Anirudha the anchor.

Vijay Darda Sir went on further to speak of the injustices the women face, of how they are disrespected at home and outside, how they are beaten up by their husbands after having worked all day at work, cooked for the family, looked after the children. The question he asked was ”can education change all of this?”

The Bhagwad Gita, he said can help build a better thought process. (And I can vouch for this statement). His travel to the UNO made him  understand that some of our best Indian students have been selected to be a part of the cultural program where they will take the culture to other 71 nations.

When I heard him say this a lot of thoughts ran through my mind. Our culture is so strong, so admired by other nations, being imbibed by many other nations; however, are we moving away from our own culture and tradition?

Darda Sir gave a very profound message. He said there is the good and the bad where ever you go. What matters is you and your behavior towards others. Primary, is respecting women. The MeToo movement he said gave the woman a voice; however, there are men who also support it. And if both men and women can work together respecting one another, we can build a strong and powerful nation. He saluted the movement and the women who participated the in the MeToo movement.

He saluted the thought process of Prakash Rangte from Nagpur. Apparently his religion Buddhist Samaj does not support idol worship. But he Mr. Prakash Rangte started a Ganpati Sthapana, and his people actually protested. All he said was “I believe in my morals and you believe in yours. Our religion tradition and thinking can defer; however, we all are one nation.”

Just as Lokmanya Tilak started the Ganeshotsav so has Lokmat started Ganpathy Sthapana. There is much significance to this.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the leader in him saw the need to unite Indians at the time when there was unrest in India. He realized nothing can bond people more than a common idol, equally worshiped by all. Lord Ganesha is considered to be the god who removes all evil and obstacles, and is the patron of sciences and arts intellect and wisdom and the god of all good beginnings.

Soon followed the panel discussions. Each one was interesting to listen to, and the audience walked back with a lot more thought processes that I am sure if imbibed and implemented will bring a lot of change in the India of today.

The first one was on how the members of the panel fought against all odds to reach their goal.

Richa Anirudha, Marie Leontine Razanadrasoa, Sudha Varghese, Antara Ganguly, Ritu Chhabria

It began with Sister Varghese who now focuses on educating the Dalits in Bihar. You can read of her challenging story on the net.

We had Rupali Deshmukh an Indian who now resides in Sweden, and has helped the Swedish government through her study and experiments recycle sewage water and make it drinkable. They first recycled the water and made it into beer. The samples all got over in a few hours.

The Ambassador of Madagascar in India Marie Liontine Razanadrasoa spoke of ways that Asian and African countries can bring change in their countries.

Ritu Chhabria of the Mukul Madhav Foundation spoke of working on various projects for the less fortunate in the rural areas of Maharashtra.

Mr. Vijay Darda was in conversation with Antara Ganguly and Usha Kakade.

Antara Ganguly Gender Specialist UNICEF

 

Usha Kakade, Ritu Chhabria of Mukul Madhav Foundation, and Vijay Darda Sir

Anatara Ganguly the gender specialist UNICEF india spoke on the death rate of boys = girls, where survival chances of a girl is much higher than boys due to biological advantages. However, the biological advantage is compromised because of less care given to a girl child in a lot of population groups and countries. Today the mortality rate in girls is higher than that of boys.  She spoke of the attendance of girls in schools and how it drops eventually, how there are several toilet issues in the villages where it makes it difficult for a girl to attend school. She urged women to get together to empower women.

Antara Ganguly, Vijay Darda, Usha Kakade along with Richa

Usha Kakade spoke of how they work on the Good Touch Bad Touch project, and 2 lac 50 thousand students have been educated till date. Both girls and boys are sexually abused. Darda Sir wished to know how does one control this? The psychology of the child should be corrected she said… good moral values need to be instilled in the child from young.

The next panel discussion was on Women empowering women where our speakers spoke of how they have engaged women in jobs or how they have empowered them to fend for themselves even in traumatic situations.

Sheetal Biyani, Dr. Laxmi Gautam, Revathi Roy, Jabna Chauhan with Richa

The Angel of Vrindavan Dr.Laxmi Gautam spoke of her experiences when she goes to give respect to the abandoned dead widows by giving them a proper burial. She herself at times picks up the dead bodies and carries them. In valleys and on the banks of the rivers of Vrindavan you have many widows who  have been abandoned and no one to give them a proper burial after death.

Revathi Roy founder of the Forche Asias first women taxi drivers who has participated in 85 car rallies and won 80, promised herself afer her husband’s demise that she would empower women. She has trained 2000 plus girls who today are women taxi drivers.

Jabna Chauhan the youngest Sarpanch in India had never thought of entering politics. However as a child she loved contributing to society. She was involved in a lot of social service in her village. She is averse to child marriage. ‘Why educate a girl when she has to be give away’, was her thought. At 21 she fought the election and won. She has along with her team of women managed to free many of drug addicts and alcoholics in her village from consumption of drugs and alcohol.

The panel next discussed extensively the MeToo campaign.

Rekha Sharma, Tanushree Dutta, Barkha Triveni, and Vijay Darda

Tanushree Dutta spoke of her experience once again to the audience. She told us of how damaging the incident was and how it broke her. “But then the good Lord is there to protect.” Her spiritual path gave her the courage to lead her life and the ability to overcome her emotions and not dwell on them.

Barkha Trehan was much in disagreement with the MeToo campaign. She said, “It has failed in the West.” Barkha is a Men’s Rights Activist, and fights for their rights. According to data 53% of boys are sexually harassed.

Some compassionate statements made by the panel discussing the MeToo campaign.

“A human being is a spiritual, physical, and emotional being. All emotions are internalized and to release this it takes time.”

“So when a women experiences molestation and rape she is traumatized and needs compassion, not be judged! She needs to be believed and not shown distrust.”

We had Rani Mukerji speak on her new movie Hichki which was shot in China. Rani said that after marriage and bearing a child, her priorities have changed. She may have done this movie, and may continue to act in select movies; however, her child takes precedence. She is fortunate to have a very supportive husband. At the shoot, after her shot she would immediately go back and spend time with her daughter. She has come back to the industry out of love for the craft.

Usha Kakade, Rani Mukerji and Vijay Darda Sir

Through all of these discussion deserving individuals were awarded for the work they have done. Some of the highlights are below:

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