KOLKATA: Lakshmi M Puri addressing a virtual session of Muskaan series based on the topic `Empowering girls for a better tomorrow’ – organized by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with Education for All Trust said,
“India cannot have an Aatman Nirbhar Bharat without Aatman Nirbhar girls and women. India represents such a large population, it is the microcosm and the macrocosm of our achieving gender equality in the world. Empowering the women and girl child with the education, skills, and confidence that they can do anything and be anyone, brings huge benefit for the government, society, economy, country, and humanity at large. When girls realize their true potential in every field and profession then there is no stopping human progress. Humanity cannot afford to lose half of the world’s creativity, passion, and work. When you invest in a girl everyone is benefited. It also accelerates and telescopes the achievements of sustainable development goals”
Lakshmi M Puri is a former IFS officer and ambassador who served at the United Nations for 15 years as director, International Trade Division, UNCTAD. She also served as the Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations, and is the founding Deputy Executive Director of UNWOMEN. Puri is a distinguished fellow of the Indian Association of International Studies (IAIS) and recipient of the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Prize for Human Rights.
Puri was the chief speaker at the virtual session of Muskaan in which principals, school students, teachers, educators, and parents logged in from across India. John Bagul, Founder-Principal of South City International School, Kolkata, introduced the session which was moderated by Sumitra Ray, Student Programme Advisor of Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
Quoting feminist and socio-political activist, Gloria Steinheim, Puri said to the young girls,
“You have to wage a million mutinies every day, everywhere, and in every way. You will have to stand up for your beliefs and convert others to your cause to promote gender equality. You have to understand the truth about gender inequality and justice. Only if you have the knowledge can you talk about it to others and convert others to your point of view. India has produced feminists. Don’t go by the propaganda that it is a foreign concept, feminism is a very home-grown Indian concept. Truth sets you free and then makes you angry. So, be provoked and in turn provoke outrage at the injustices against women and girls. Demand gender equality and become role models and change-makers yourself, ”
Alluding to some key ideas linked to the United Nations sustainable development goals, Puri touched upon some thought-provoking questions – Why do we need gender equality? Is it some kind of a mission impossible?
Gender equality is one of the most important projects for humanity in this Century undertaken by the United Nations. The essence of the project is to recognize and act upon that recognition that the equality and full humanity of men and women; boys and girls. Once you do that, then gender-based discrimination does not and should not arise. “The United Nations has been a wellspring of rules of behavior; the standards; and laws that countries should adopt to foster a new normal of gender equality and women’s empowerment,” Puri said referring to Article 1 of the UN Charter which says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Puri urged the young audience to learn early to organize themselves into advocacy groups and become advocates and leaders for gender equality.
Muskaan is a pan-India initiative to promote skill development among children through webinars, courses, and workshops. Muskaan seeks to popularize culture and heritage literature among the young children in India by weaving it into the formal and informal education system. This is done by engaging students in diverse activities like cultural programs, story-telling, theatre, dance, music, and art which are organized in collaboration with our national and international institutes and associations. Muskaan also supports needy and marginalized students by providing them with tuition/coaching classes; stationeries and study materials; distributing nutritious food and providing basic hygiene amenities.