Ladies! Sign up for public discourse and join the dialogue

Ananth Kumar Hegde

You think you have some important things to say? You think you can address an audience about various concerns on a variety of subjects? Be part of a panel debating gender issues? If the answer is yes, then opportunity is at hand for you. A group of resourceful women have come together and created a database of women who are available to speak at conferences and events. Elsa Marie D’Silva, MD of Safecity, Entomology researcher Esther Ngumbi and Product Strategist Monika Jasuja are crowd sourcing women to sign up for themselves and their friends across a range of industries.

No restrictions on country or level of management experience here. Since the launch of their initiative early this year, almost 300 women from over 24 countries representing industries as varied as Finance, IT, Marketing, Sustainability, Advertising and Agriculture have registered with them. [Feature Image Courtesy: blogs.msdn.microsoft.com]

 The idea that more women need to be part of dialogue on public platforms was endorsed strongly by  United Nations Global Compact Executive Director Lise Kingo recently. In her opening remarks at The Women’s Empowerment Principles Annual Event earlier this month she made a pledge to put an end to all male panels or “manels” as it is popularly called. She further decided to not take part in or host panels comprised only of men.This is significant as time and again, we have seen conferences, panels, boards all being dominated by men with few or no women on it.

Women panelists

Women need to be part of public discourse

Whether done consciously or not, exclusion of women at these fora is in fact restricting them from fully participating in society, marginalizing their voices and asserting their insignificance to contribute. By excluding women from these important decision making tables, we are excluding their perspectives and experiences which are quite different from their male counterparts. Case in point, recently, in the run up to Women’s Day in India, IMPACT had a panel to judge the most influential women in 2016 and the jury was comprised only of men.

Also Watch: Our Series on Why Am I A Feminist

However, this problem is not restricted to India alone. Worldwide, Male Panels are common. This is despite the Beijing Conference in 1995 where several governments were party to an undertaking that they would increase representation of women in all levels of politics as well as increase efforts to stop all forms of discrimination against women, we still find that 20 years later in 2016, we have new word “manels”! Leaders worldwide need to understand that if we wish to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality by 2030, we have no choice but to get more women to participate in all aspects of decision making, the economy and society.

So women out there, let your voices be heard! Even if public speaking is not a natural extension of your personality, no harm in giving it a try. After all if women won’t try to talk about issues that concern them, who will.

Monica Jasuja, Elsamarie D’Silva and Esther Ngumbi

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