“India cannot have an AatmanNirbharBharat without AatmanNirbhar 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 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,” said Ms Lakshmi M Puri addressing a virtual session of Muskaan series based on the topic `Empowering girls for a better tomorrow’ – organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation (PKF) in association with Education for All Trust.
Ms 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 the founding Deputy Executive Director of UNWOMEN. Ms Puri is a distinguished fellow of Indian Association of International Studies (IAIS) and recipient of the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Prize for Human Rights.
Ms Puri was the guest speaker at the virtual session of Muskaan in which principals, school students, teachers, educators and parents logged in from across India. Mr John Bagul, Founder-Principal of South City International School, Kolkata, introduced the session which was moderated by Ms Sumitra Ray, Student Programme Advisor, PKF. “My message to all girls is that you should become the torch bearers of sustainable development goals or SDGs. Make that your mantra for yourself and the mission of equality gender equality and women empowerment, like charity, begins at home,” Ms Puri said.
Quoting feminist and socio-political activist, Gloria Steinheim, Puri said, “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. Demand gender equality and become role models and change-makers yourself. ”
Alluding to some key ideas linked to the United Nations sustainable development goals, Ms Puri said gender equality is one of the most important projects of this Century for humanity taken up by the United Nations. The essence of the project is to recognise 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.
Ms Puri urged the young audience to learn early to organise themselves into advocacy groups and become advocates and leaders for gender equality. “Take advantage of the digital revolution and Tech4.0 and become what the UNWOMEN has called Generation Equality. Yours should be the generation that becomes the transformers leading to Planet 50:50. The young boys should rid themselves of the burden of toxic and aggressive notions of masculinity and superiority and imbibe that amrit (nectar) of 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. 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.