“She is the Solution : Summit of Grace” – Empowering Women

“She is the Solution: Summit of Grace” was a two-day conference bringing together thousands of women, men, and children, faith leaders and political leaders to Empower Women, through an emphasis on increased access, the end of child marriage, and safe and proper resources for menstrual hygiene management.

Spearheading the call-to-action were: Lok Sabha Hon’ble Speaker Smt Sumitra Mahajan; Pujya Yogrishi Swami Ramdevji, Patanjali Yogpeeth; HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Co-Founder Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and President, Parmarth Niketan; Hon’ble Minister of State HRD Dr Satyapal Singhji; and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji Secretary General for GIWA.

In a rousing speech to the gathered crowd, Pujya Swami Ramdevji said, “Don’t wait for someone else to protect you, you should become strong enough physically, mentally and spiritually so that you can defend yourself. Don’t also let anyone tell you your monthly periods are dirty because without menstruation there can be no creation.” He led everyone in a pledge against child marriage and adamantly advocated for education for our girl children. He shared that every young girl should be so educated and established in any profession that she chooses such that she in herself is an inspiration and example to others. He deeply appreciated the Vedic Chanting by young girls of the Sathya Sai Ashram from Muddhenhali and shared how Patanjali is training and educating female sannaysis in the Vedas, Upanishads and other prominent Hindu scriptures. He said the scriptures do not mention that women cannot read the scriptures but how it is crucial for women and girls to have equal access to this wisdom for the protection and preservation of the nation.

During the inaugural session Hon’ble Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker of the Lok Sabha added that child marriage is a dangerous burden: “A girl who is not physically or mentally ready, is not mature and does not understand the world must not be burdened with marriage. I come from a humble background, but I was inculcated with values that we must not do onto others what we would not like to be done unto us. Hence, let us ensure proper nutrition, education and sanitation of all women and girls. Our Shakti doesn’t need empowerment from someone else; they need to recognize that they themselves are the power.”

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji said: “We are so fortunate to be here on the banks of the Sangam for Shakti – for the Divine Feminine. Today I cite the example of the young women from Bengal who has topped IAS examinations, whose father is a rickshaw driver and mother has passed away. She and many young girls in this nation are an example for all of us of the pain and the struggles of the women in our country. To me there is no use of that spirituality or religion that doesn’t actively work to extinguish these practices. I also salute all the mothers and fathers who spend their every ounce of energy and money to educate their daughters. I also call on everyone to re-channel the money we spend in having grand marriages just to show off our status and wealth and invest that in educating our girls. Until we realize that our girls and women are the power we can never truly prosper as a nation.”

Sadhvi Bhagawatiji said: “The solutions today come from the Self and the Samaj (community). You are the Shakti. No one will give you the Shakti. The greatest shakti lies within yourself. That is the shakti (the power) of your sanskaras and your sanskriti (culture). Do not think less of yourselves. The Mother Goddess is within you! But there is also the responsibility of Samaj (community) to protect you from child marriages, from the stigma around menstruation, from lack of education. Today, we come together as a Sangam with the sankalp that no Shaadi before Shiksha and no more days of missed school due to lack of access to menstrual hygiene management!

Inspired by the energy of the crowd, the day also featured a historic signature campaign for the Guinness Book of World Records, to generate awareness for the cause of “Ending Child Marriage”. The Guinness World Records attempt is for the most signatures on a flag for the message: ‘YES to Education, NO to Child Marriage’.

Events during the summit included roundtable discussions, where the leaders shared the work they were presently doing in the areas of education, cultural change relative to child marriage, and menstrual hygiene management, and further solutions; musical presentations; inspiring speeches; prayers at the Sangam, and an energizing march from Parmarth Niketan Shivir to the Arail Ghat followed by a rally.

Other distinguished guests and speakers included: Anandmurti Gurumaaji; Amma Sri Karunamayiji; Sadhvi Shilapiji; BK Sister Sudeshji & Other Members of the Brahmakumaris; Former President of Bosnia, Harris Silajdzic and Former First Lady Selma Silajdzic; Mahant Divya Giriji; Om Prabha Bhartiji, DJJS; Nazia Nafees, Muslim Leader & Social Worker; Swamini Adityananda Saraswatiji, Director of Programmes, Policy and Partnerships, GIWA; Ms. Alexandra Westerbeek, Chief of Communication Advocacy and Partnerships, UNICEF, ICO; Ms. Sue Coates, Deputy Executive Director, WSSCC; Ms Emily Deschaine, Acting Head of Operations, WSSCC; Mr Vinod Mishra, India Head of WSSCC; Siddharth Shrestha, Chief C4D, UNICEF, ICO; Mahamandleshwar Naisargikagiri, Junapeeth Akhara; Binny Sareenji, Brahmakumaris; Sister Urmil, Brahmakumaris; Sadhvi Kalpanaji, Social Worker, Indore; Devi Mohanji, Mohanji Foundation; and, Ganga Nandini, Director of Implementation, GIWA.

The summit was organized under the auspices of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Parmarth Niketan, with technical support from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and UNICEF, in support of the efforts of the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Uttar Pradesh.