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BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Hosts WOMEN'S CONFERENCE IN CHICAGO

Women around the world are changing the nature of local communities and the larger global community itself. With a view to encourage and empower women to play dynamic and responsible roles in society and achieve success in various areas of their lives; and to give them the hope to share and encourage these values universally, BAPS organized a women's conference in Chicago last month. Investing In Women & Girls was the theme addressed during the conference that was attended by nearly 200 women of the Indian Diaspora at the 2008 BAPS Women's conference. The halfday conference was organized by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), an international socio-spiritual Hindu organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The event was based around the areas of positive thinking, professional progress, social awareness, and spiritual growth in the lives of Indian-American women today. Successful and influential women from across the Midwest region shared experiences with the gathering through various lectures.

Speakers at the event were Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), in her fifth term representing Illinois' 9th Congressional District, Pranita Jain, an Indian classical dancer, choreographer, founder, and artistic director of the Kalapriya Foundation, Dr. Darlene J. Ruscitti, the regional Superintendent of Schools for Dupage County and Amita Danak, an active BAPS representative who is currently an account manager for the Dow Chemical Company.

Sherry Bormann, a special guest invited to the conference also addressed the assembly. As a trustee for the village of Bartlett, she attended the event representing Catherine Melchert, Mayor of Bartlett.

Speakers presented on the importance of positive thinking, integrity, serving society and incorporating values and spirituality as a foundation for balancing life challenges. Jan Schakowsly said, "As we help women and girls, we are helping the world. There's a multiplier effect – investing in women is considered the most valuable but most untapped resource."

Pranita Jain wove together personal experiences saying, "All cultures want to promote self-identity, self-respect and recognition of who we are. The challenge is to introduce culture in a multi-cultural approach." Dr. Ruscitti referred to educational investment in women as she spoke about the need to first educate and empower themselves. She stated, "Invest in your own future, hold on to your dreams and invest in these dreams."

Investing now is important to "drive progress for the future" was the message portrayed by Amita Danak as she spoke about the necessity of spiritual investment in women. "We need to apply spiritual practice through self-awareness and introspection. Common questions on our identity and purpose that we ask are not religious questions but rather human questions. For this, we must draw attention to our inner strength."

Ushma Lakhani, a participant at the 2008 BAPS Women's Conference said, "This is a great opportunity for so many different women who share a rich heritage to share and learn from one another. I feel delighted to be here."

The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a worldwide socio-spiritual organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations is dedicated to community service, peace and harmony. Founded on the pillars of practical spirituality, BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. Through a number of medical, cultural, educational, environmental, social and spiritual activities, BAPS endeavors to produce better citizens of tomorrow, who have very high esteem for their roots - the rich Indian culture. Its 9,000 centers including more than 5,000 youth centers across the world support these activities of character building. Under the guidance and leadership of His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community free of addictions and that is morally, ethically and spiritually strong.

- BY R PADMANABHAN

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