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Sarah Brown was Chief Guest and Keynote Speaker at the International Women’s Day conference hosted at London’s famous Neasden Temple (officially known as BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir) on Sunday 11 April 2010.

The conference was hosted by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) – a UN-affiliated socio-spiritual Hindu charity – in observance of International Women’s Day 2010 as the culmination of a month-long nationwide initiative. The two-day conference, entitled Celebrating Women: Past, Present & Future, aimed to celebrate the achievements of women and inspire them to fulfil their potential.

Mrs Brown arrived at the temple at 10.15am and was greeted in traditional Hindu manner with a flower garland and the tying of an auspicious thread around her wrist signifying friendship and goodwill. After touring the temple – or ‘mandir’, as it is called in the ancient Sanskrit language – and paying her respects in the inner sanctum, the Prime Minster’s wife entered the assembly hall to rapturous applause

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.”

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.”

As Patron of White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), the charity campaigning for safe motherhood, Mrs Brown reiterated the sad plight of mothers and young babies in developing nations. She was pleased to learn that BAPS had promoted the work of WRA to the delegates over the two days.

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.”|

Other distinguished women presenters at the conference included: Mei Sim Lei Peters OBE (Deputy Lieutenant, London Borough of Brent); Mira Kaushik OBE (Director, Akademi South Asian Dance UK); Denise Milani (Director, Diversity & Citizen Focus, Metropolitan Police Service); Prof. Neena Modi (Professor of Neonatal Medicine and Honorary Consultant, Imperial College, London); Nishma Gosrani (Management Consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers); Nina Amin (Tax Partner, KPMG); Kate Hall (Civil Engineer and Associate Director, Arup Designers in charge of Olympic Park); Azmina Govindji (award-winning celebrity dietician); and Jaymini Patel (Director, Brahma Kumari Publications).

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