By OUR STAFF REPORTER
Rishikesh, 29 Jan: Thousands of women raised their voices in unity today as they marched for women’s empowerment, education, access to proper menstrual hygiene management and an end to child marriage at the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj. The second day of the “She is the Solution: Summit of Grace” featured a convergence of women on the banks of the Sangam with Dharma Gurus, renowned dignitaries, and faith leaders in celebration of the Divine Feminine. The rally of women and girls came from Prayagraj, villages near and far, and comprised students, scouts, representatives of many women’s organisations; plus, spiritual leaders and sanitation workers – all of whom marched hand-in-hand from Parmarth Niketan Shivir to the Arail Ghat with their message.
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’. The Summit was organised under the auspices of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and Parmarth Niketan, with technical support from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and UNICEF, to support the efforts of the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Uttar Pradesh.
The faith leaders and special dignitaries included Swami Ramdev, Swami Chidanand Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan and Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Dr Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Amma Sri Karunamayi, Sue Coates, Deputy Executive Director, WSSCC, Amit Mehrotra, UNICEF UP as Programme Manager and many others.
Swami Ramdev 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 education for girl children. He shared that every young girl should be so educated and established in any profession that she chooses such that she serves as an inspiration to others.
He deeply appreciated the Vedic Chanting by young girls of the Sathya Sai Ashram from Muddhenhali and shared how Patanjali was training and educating female sannaysis in the Vedas, Upanishads and other prominent Hindu scriptures.
Swami Chidanand Saraswati added, “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 spirituality or religion that doesn’t actively work to extingush these practices. I also salute all the mothers and fathers who spend their every ounce of energy and money to educate their daughters. Until we realise that our girls and women are the power we can never truly prosper as a nation.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati declared, “The solutions today come from the Self and the Samaj. You are the Shakti. No one will give you the Shakti. The greatest shakti lies within yourself. That is the shakti of your sanskaras and your sanskriti. Do not think less of yourselves. The Mother Goddess is within you! But, there is also the responsibility of Samaj 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!”
Sue Coates, WSSCC, declared, “Following upon the leadership shown by faith leaders, yesterday, today is about the voice of the women and girls whom we seek to empower.”
Amit Mehohtra, UNICEF India, talked about the Swabhiman campaign and the launch of the signature campaign to run throughout the Kumbh Mela. Ritu Suhas, Additional City Commissioner, told the gathering about the Citizens Forum App for making the city of Prayag clean and beautiful. Saloni Goel, Environmental Expert also spoke on the occasion.
By OUR STAFF REPORTER