Report on WAELE Representation at the International Women Economic Forum in India Location: New Delhi, India

The Women Economic Forum (WEF) is a multinational platform enabling women and leaders worldwide to expand business opportunities and enhance personal influence through networking across borders while being inspired by some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, authors, thought leaders and celebrities. The platform regroups women from more than 120 countries and aims at connecting women in trust and togetherness so that entrepreneurial action and collaborations are encouraged across the continent and outside in order to bring economic independence and leadership prowess. Today, WEF is a robust global network of 800 chapters and having outreach to 100,000 inspiring women.

As President of ANPRAS (African Network for Policy Research and Advocacy for Sustainability) and National Coordinator for WAELE AFRICA Foundation, Mauritius Chapter. I was invited to submit a short summary of my contributions in the progress of women in Africa and India. Based on the report, the Women Economic Forum Award Committee decided to confer me the award of “Exceptional Woman of Excellence” as a gesture of appreciation for my contribution towards academia and the socio-economic empowerment of women in Africa and India. The Award ceremony took place in New Delhi from 11 to 16 April and over 2000 women and men from 120+ countries participated in the forum sharing inspiration and expertise in over 250+ topics on the overall theme: “Reimagining Societies: Reclaiming Humanity With Gender Equality”.

Task as WAELE AFRICA Foundation Representative:

Women are the victims of wars, suffering from loss of their spouses to violence, deaths of their children to starvation and all other humanitarian crisis engendered by conflicts. In such situations, women are most often exposed to sexual violence, suffering both physical, psychological and emotional trauma as a result. As WAELE AFRICA Foundation representative (along with my other roles), I intervened in the following sessions:

1-Reclaiming Media with Responsibility
2-End to Gender based Violence

Women’s empowerment is heavily dependent on many different variables that include geographical location (urban/rural), educational status, social status (caste and class), and age. Policies on women’s empowerment exist at the national, state, and local (Panchayat) levels in many sectors, including health, education, economic opportunities, gender-based violence, and political participation. As women continue to suffer the harsh realities of violent conflicts, the government, non-governmental organisations, international bodies, religious and charitable institutions have a statutory or moral obligation to seek ways to ease the sufferings of women during conflicts. However, there are significant gaps between policy advancements and actual practice at the community level.

On another note, gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women and girls (VAWG), is a global pandemic that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. This issue is not only devastating for survivors of violence and their families, but also entails significant social and economic costs. In some countries, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP – more than double what most governments spend on education.

Failure to address this issue also entails a significant cost for the future. Numerous studies have shown that children growing up with violence are more likely to become survivors themselves or perpetrators of violence in the future. One characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds: this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries. Decreasing violence against women and girls requires a community-based, multi-pronged approach, and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders. The most effective initiatives address underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence. Similar to India, African women also suffer such symptoms. In some cases, highly educated women also go through this trauma due to conservatism and family conditions. Some of the case studies in Africa were shared and WAELE AFRICA Foundation achievements in empowering women were cited.
WAELE AFRICA Foundation aspirations and objectives were popularised during those interventions and these have enabled online visibility as follows: http://www.wef.org.in/dr-gaitree-vanessa-gowreesunkar/. During the discussion session, it was observed that various Indian organizations and women leaders shared the same mission as WAELE AFRICA Foundation. It was an enriching debate and WAELE AFRICA Foundation details were shared to participants.


Conclusion and the way forward
WEF is among the largest women’s networks offering the widest outreach to women in the spirit of sisters beyond borders and members focused on enhancing mentorship with sponsorship. With connections to 100,000 members and inspiring women across 150 countries, this beautiful journey has enabled the popularization of WAELE aspirations. It is also a platform in solidarity of women worldwide toward co-creating a better world in seamless connectivity beyond borders, boundaries and faiths. It was a matter of pride to receive an award as a WAELE AFRICA Foundation representative and to proudly popularize the WAELE AFRICA Foundation mission as well as attract collaborators. Some eminent Indian lady leaders expressed willingness to join WAELE AFRICA Foundation. However, since the organization is mainly catering for African Women, they proposed to extend a helping hand and collaboration for women activities across both continents.

Report By Dr Vanessa GB Gowreesunkar, Mauritius Coordinator – WAELE AFRICA Foundation

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