BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha celebrated International Women’s Day in the UK at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Saturday 14 March 2015.
The day, recognised by the United Nations, was aimed at inspiring change, raising awareness and empowering women to make positive changes in their lives, families and the wider community.
Each year on 8 March, individuals and organisations across the world gather to celebrate International Women’s Day in honour of the significant achievements that women have made throughout the course of history. The day was ratified by the UN in 1977, but has been observed around the world since the turn of the 20th century.
The event marked the beginning of a year-long initiative by the BAPS Women’s Forum focussing on respect, independence, health and safety – all deeply influential factors for women striving to lead a progressive and more fulfilling life.
The evening welcoming more than 1,400 women began with prayers for world peace, followed by an enlightening programme which included a thought-provoking game show and a powerful debate exploring the views and challenges associated with the first component of the year: ‘Be Respectful’. A contemporary shadow dance depicting the stages of a woman’s life provided a fitting conclusion.
Chief Guest at the event was Ms Ritula Shah, a journalist and news presenter for The World Tonight and the Saturday edition of PM on BBC Radio 4. She has also previously presented Woman’s Hour on Radio 4.
In her keynote address, Ms Shah shared her vision of what women can achieve with the right support and guidance, and by being progressive whilst remaining committed to one’s culture, family and profession. She spoke of being inspired by “the many lessons learned to help women be financially independent, healthy and kind.” She also added: “As women, we can join together and build our relationships. Let’s unite and help one another.”
The programme provided valuable information and inspiration for women of all ages. One of the attendees spoke of her “new-found energy” to “move forward in life while still being grounded in my values and beliefs.”
Amee Desai, one of the lead organisers of the event, shared: “A woman’s life is so multi-faceted. Trying to progress and find meaning whilst remaining respectful is an important challenge that the event addressed. The feedback from many of the attendees has been overwhelmingly positive and we hope it will inspire many more to progress in whatever is their calling.”