Harmony, thy name is woman

Posted on: Sunday, February 9, 2014

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"A politician has to be magnanimous, even with those who oppose them. But I was not magnanimous, I am not Sri Sri Ravishankar," said Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former president of Sri Lanka, to peals of laughter at the 6th International Conference of Women organized by the Art of Living, Bangalore. Chandrika was one among the many delegates from nearly 100 countries who had congregated at the plush AOL campus on Kanakapura Road in South Bangalore for the three-day meet.

And they spoke from the heart, of the trials and triumphs they experienced as women in their personal and public lives. There were politicians, representatives from orthodox communities, heads of Muslim countries and activists from poor nations - all of them speaking on harmony, the theme for the three-day conference.

"Harmony for me was to win the confidence of terrorists in Sri Lanka who had been opposing the government. Soon after I became the president, I called for a dialogue with the opposing group, but in vain. My country has witnessed the unrest due to civil war," said Chandika who has survived an assassination bid.

"My parents were both prime ministers of Sri Lanka, but we children were taught how to lead simple lives with values. I was sharing a car with my two siblings. When I once asked for another car, as my sister had taken away ours, my mother asked, 'Who do you think you are to get a car?' That scolding remained with me. It kept me away from greed for money, power and corruption when I was in power," recalled Chandrika.

Being a woman is also about multi-tasking. Aliza Lavie, chair, Committee on the Status of Women, Jerusalem, knows it well. "I am a minister, an army officer and an academician. I come from a country, where only Jewish women are educated and empowered. Education is free and compulsory for all and joining the army is mandatory." It also helped that her male colleagues were encouraging.

For many it's not just about overcoming personal barriers, it's about building a broken society. Hijran Huseynova, chairman for state committee for family, women and children affairs of Azerbaijan, has seen it all. "We come from a land where we have seen military aggression. We wear a head scarf as symbol of mercy to the two warring parties. There are equal political rights for both men and women."

For Rita Bahuguna Joshi, president of the Congress unit of Uttar Pradesh, it has been a life-long struggle in a male-dominated political system. "I derived all my courage from my mother. She said it is good to be in a profession but it has to be a socially useful one. I started working with women before entering mainstream politics." And it was not easy, she recalls. "The men would not let you gel well with the system. It took me four years to establish myself. And a woman is judged at every step. That is what hurts me the most. A man can just establish himself and be free. We have to deliver at every step.

It is only my inherent courage that is taking me through," she said.

Source: TOI

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