As a slightly late midnight child, I was born in Independent India in 1947 and was one of four sisters who were brought up believing that the only limits we had now were those we set for ourselves. In India and globally it was a time of great upheaval but also one filled with hope for all those who had been fighting for independence. After years of hardships, inequality and bloodshed that came with all the wars, it was a chance for India, and the world to aim for a fairer better world that would strive for a more egalitarian and peaceful world.

After more than 7 decades of seeing the world ‘evolve’ then, I find myself pondering why is it that International Womens’ Day, still has to focus on  #PressforProgress ?  The answer is simple. The people in power and rhetoric may have changed but mindsets have not. Whilst innovation and materialism has given us all more tools and the perception of greater sophistication, it has led to a false pursuit of happiness and wrong articulation of what improvement looks like. Recent events have shown that those held up as leaders, captains of society and even celebrated organisations were betraying the trust put in them. This has happened in the corporate, media, religious, political and philanthropic spheres and so it is a societal problem.

This year therefore, it has become even more important that those who understand the philosophy of Samiti add their voice to the debate and act on their convictions. We need to ensure that as we ‘press for progress’ we articulate not only what progress looks like but also the importance of the journey to get to that destination. The concept of Aham Brahmasmi is so fundamental to this journey and destination.

Aham Brahmasmi means “I am the ultimate reality” and it is a central concept of Hinduism and for Hindu Sevika Samiti. For every girl and woman, we have to encourage them to comprehend how important this is – it means that there is a divinity within and to realise it we must forgo ego and realise this divinity through true enquiry. At a time when media, PR and ability to raise money seems to earn more respect than selfless acts for the benefit of society and intellectual or difficult work which improves or even saves lives but attracts little economic remuneration, women and girls should not simply strive for ‘parity’-rather we should bring greater value to the divinity within females. ‘Empowerment’ too, is within us as women so I hope this year girls, women and men too, learn a new language for this debate. Lets start with Aham Brahmasmi because the world needs women to change the rhetoric and more importantly the mindsets.

Dr Vidula Ambekar
Hindu Sevika Samiti
March 2018