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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London welcomed hundreds of women on Saturday 9 March 2013 to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The United Nations-recognised day was observed with an inspiring conference titled ‘Celebrating Women: Above and Beyond’, which aimed to celebrate the achievements of women and inspire them to fulfil their full potential. Chief Guest and Keynote Speaker at the event was the British Home Secretary Rt Hon. Theresa May.

A panel discussion comprising other guest speakers included Baroness Barbara Young, the first female Chief Executive of Diabetes UK; Dr Devi Nair, Clinical Lead for Lipids and Cardiovascular Risk Prevention at Royal Free Hospital and Director for the Supra Regional Assay Services for Cardiac Biomarkers; Sarah Teather, Member of Parliament for Brent Central; Seema Sharma, dentist and founder of The Sharma Foundation and Operations Director for a postgraduate medical training course; Rena Amin, Chief Pharmacist for the Royal Borough of Greenwich; and PC Purnima Raval, the Metropolitan Police Service’s longest-serving female Hindu officer, with 21 years of active service. Chairing the panel was Dr Sejal Saglani, Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Respiratory Paediatrics at The Imperial College and The Royal Brompton Hospital, London.

Delegates and guests – including Seema Malhotra, Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston, and Krupa Sheth, Councillor for Wembley Central and former student of The Swaminarayan School – were welcomed with vibrant and colourful dance performances, illustrating an array of artistic talent among the young women.

A ‘Vitality Show’ was organised for the afternoon, which included health, well-being and cultural activities.

The day concluded with garba (a traditional Gujarati dance) where a fusion of traditional Indian music created an uplifting mood befitting of the occasion.

The celebrations this year were also supporting Climate Week – Britain’s biggest climate change campaign, inspiring a new wave of action to create a sustainable future. Guests and organisers donated old and/or unwanted clothes, which will be recycled and donated to charity.

Dr Nair spoke of the ‘positive energy that the event generated’ and the ‘inspiration she gained from listening to the achievement of other successful women as well as listening to the challenges that are embraced by women on a daily basis.’
Rena Amin, also one of the lead organisers of the event, explained: “This year we wanted women to really reach ‘above and beyond’ the boundaries and learn and become inspired through the experiences of others. We wanted to provide a place where an everyday, ordinary woman can realise she is special and make a valuable contribution to society.”
Nisha Patel, 18, a delegate at the conference, shared her thoughts on the day. She said: “It is remarkable how attainable success can be when you hear from those who have been successful themselves – ordinary women who have achieved extraordinary things.”

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