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BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) observed the centennial celebrations of International Women’s Day 2011 with an inspirational conference entitled “Celebrating Women: Managing Challenges, Inspiring Change” at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.

The key objective of the conference was to inspire women to fulfil their potential in all aspects of life, highlighting in particular the importance of personal financial management, broader education and the value of a healthy lifestyle.

The opening session began by joining in prayer for those affected by the recent natural disasters amid chanting of traditional Vedic verses. A video presentation entitled ‘The Strength of Women’, recognising their resilience in adversity, became the focus thereafter. A series of moving and inspiring testimonials were narrated of women seated in the audience who had overcome personal challenges to achieve their goals. Following this, the audience was enthralled by an opening dance performed by a pair of wheelchair-bound mahilas, a glowing example of the strength within.

Health awareness was one of the key areas of this year’s conference, and delegates participated in sessions covering diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, dementia, and iron and vitamin D deficiency. These stimulating and informative sessions were provided by eminent experts Dr Natasha Patel, Dr Devi Nair, Dr Binita Jani and Ms Smita Ganatra. Ms Renal Patel and Ms Asha Soneji also conducted a useful session on oral health. This education was supported by an entertaining quiz with audience participation which reiterated the key messages of the above conditions.

Along with health awareness, the conference also provided an insightful understanding of personal financial management for which a series of talks and workshops were organised. These covered areas such as savings, pensions, investments and wills. Financial experts Ms Sukhneel Goel, Ms Viomini Amin and Ms Anuradha Banerjee were invited to share their knowledge and insights. A session for younger delegates up to the age of 14 focussing on money management was conducted by Ms Nimisha Patel.

Throughout the day, delegates also had the opportunity to meet representatives from some of BAPS’s longstanding charity partners – Diabetes UK, British Heart Foundation, Age UK – as well as other organisations, including Kidney Research UK and Organ Donation.

In the closing session, a touching video account of the courage and determination of various BAPS members was shown followed by a colourful traditional dance by the young women of BAPS. The delegates departed with a meaningful insight into managing challenges and inspiring change, both within themselves and those around them.

Anuradha Bannerjee of Barclays Wealth shared, “I saw a huge amount of empowerment in the room. I have been very impressed how professional the volunteers are in their own work and the time they are spending. I think BAPS are doing a fantastic job in having a women’s wing that is actually concentrating on women’s issues and giving women managerial and leadership roles in furthering themselves and developing other people. Having a place where you can grow spiritually as well as grow as a person is crucial.”

Ms Versani, a guest at the event, added, “This conference has proved to be an eye-opener for me. The inspiration of women will provide me with the confidence and belief to achieve my objectives, and the workshops on health and financial matters were directly relevant to my life.” 

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