The Women’s Forum of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) in the UK hosted a nationwide observance of the UN’s International Women’s Day, which falls annually on 8 March, with an inspiring conference titled ‘Celebrating Women: Strength in Unity’. It formed one of the thousands of events held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements.

More than 1,800 women of all ages at BAPS centres around the country gathered for the conference, including at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Saturday 10 March 2018.

The conference focused on three important themes for promoting unity that are inspired by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS. The first theme, ‘Be Kind’, covered elements of generosity and selflessness through organ donation. The second theme, ‘Be Mindful’, focussed on the importance of reducing the growing intergenerational gap in families and society. And the third theme, ‘Be Aware’, dealt with the potential negative impacts of social media and the need to manage external influences.

These topics were presented through an interactive programme of sketches, multimedia presentations, discussion panels, game shows and speeches by esteemed women of the community. Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, was one of the guest speakers of the evening. She paid tribute to the contribution of women internationally. She also said, “If you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation. If you treat women well, your country will be well.” She concluded by encouraging everyone to recite and believe that they are ‘phenomenal’ and urged them to share this message amongst women far and wide.

Mrs Meena Modi OBE, a former headteacher at a school in Watford, also joined the conference and explained her journey to transform Chater Infant School into an “outstanding” Ofsted-rated school. She also shared details of her kidney donation to her husband, and how this act of selflessness positively impacted her wider family. This was echoed by Kanchan Bhagat, who received a kidney from her daughter Swati. Both women also addressed the assembly.

Delegates were inspired from their accounts and gained an appreciation of the “gift of life” that organ donation provides. Being kind, they learnt, has the ability to transcend the barriers of age and background and unify people across the world.

A number of delegates shared their impressions of the conference. Sheila Patel, a working mother of two children, stated, “Thank you so much for organising this enlightening conference which gave me the belief that I can manage my career, my family as well as make positive contributions in so many other areas. The stress and anxiety management workshops were particularly useful.”

After the conference, attendees enjoyed the opportunity to network over dinner and share their perspectives on the various inspiring themes of the day.

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