South Asia Union Summit Led by Women 2021

50 eminent women from 13 countries came together at eShe’s South Asia Union Summit Led by Women to discuss solutions for peace, gender equality, social justice, and a unified South Asia.

The first of a planned series of annual events, the Summit aims to promote women’s leadership and create a space for cross-border dialogue while harnessing feminine intelligence for a collaborative future.

The event was supported by WISCOMP – Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace, an initiative of the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Timed to coincide with the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the UN’s International Day of Non-Violence, the virtual Summit included talks and panel discussions by academics, activists, educationists, actors, artists, influencers, thought leaders, historians, authors, and more.

South Asia Union is a nonprofit initiative by eShe that aims to bring together peacebuilders and particularly women from the region to work towards a political and economic South Asian Union, on the lines of the European Union, by 2030.


Inauguration: Dr Scilla Elworthy opens South Asia Union Summit Led by Women
Three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Scilla Elworthy inaugurated the Summit with a virtual message from Oxford, UK, where she lives.

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Session 1: Building a Platform for Gender Equality
Feminism needs to include boys and men. Creating a gender-equal and more compassionate world needs intervention at the very beginning, when the seeds of inequality are first sown.
Leslee Udwin, award-winning filmmaker, educationist and founder of Think Equal (UK)
Nandita Das, noted actor, director, author and human-rights advocate (India)
Moderator: Aekta Kapoor, founder and editor, eShe (India)

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Session 2: Not Repeating History: Lessons from the Past for the Future
Why South Asia needs to look objectively at its conflicted past and ensure that the trauma — of Partition, of religious conflict, gender violence, caste oppression — is not repeated. 
Rita Manchanda, scholar, author, peacebuilder, programme advisor at the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (India)
Salima Hashmi, award-winning artist, author and peace activist (Pakistan)
Ravinder Kaur, historian, author and associate professor of Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
Mallika Joseph, scholar of security sector reform, senior fellow at WISCOMP, and visiting fellow at CPR (India)
Moderator: Natasha Badhwar, filmmaker, columnist, author, media team lead at Karwan e Mohabbat (India)

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Session 3: Open for Business: Peace, Economic Growth and Regional Prosperity
Why regional peace is a prerequisite for economic growth, and why regions that have less conflict with their neighbours are more prosperous.
Darshita Gillies, impact investor, tech entrepreneur, founder of Maanch philanthropy platform (UK)
Sarita Kumari, philanthropist, environmental evangelist, peace activist, director of Ghanerao Hotels (India)
Fawzia Naqvi, impact-investment consultant and former vice president, Soros Economic Development Fund (US)
Moderator: Suparnaa Chadda, founder, SABERA Awards (India)

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Session 4: Voice and Vulnerability: Women Activists in Times of Conflict
A discussion on the challenges of women who stand up for peace and justice in conflict zones and patriarchal societies that are typical of South Asia.
Hina Jilani, pioneering lawyer and pro-democracy advocate (Pakistan)
Ambika Satkunanathan, lawyer and former commissioner of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission (Sri Lanka)
Veena Sikri, former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, author and academic, convener of the South Asia Women Network (India)
Moderator: Archana Chaudhary, journalist, Bloomberg (India)

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Session 5: The Burden of Tradition: Gender Equality and Social Justice in South Asia
For South Asians, tradition is everything, but traditions are also cruel, misogynistic, divisive and inhumane at times. Why we need to redefine “tradition” and come up with more humane ones that ensure equality and justice.
Sabin Muzaffar, feminist publisher and editor of Ananke magazine (UAE)
Mandy Sanghera, award-winning philanthropist and human-rights activist (UK)
Dr Sonora Jha, journalism professor and author of How to Raise a Feminist Son (US)
Manjula Pradeep, founder, Wayve Foundation, and national convener of National Council of Women Leaders (India)
Moderator: Sarita Bartaula, researcher and founding member of South Asia Peace Action Network (US)

Read the report here.

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Talk: Feminine Intelligence as Embodied Leadership
Why respecting, including and embodying feminine intelligence, which is accessible to all of us, will restore wholeness to our human psyche and integrity to our social, economic, ecological and political systems.
Karen Downes, cofounder, FemmeQ and changemaker (Costa Rica)

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Session 6: Women Who Dare: Single Motherhood, Freedom and Fearlessness
Making fearless choices, especially as single mothers, in the South Asian context and the challenges it comes with.
Dolly Thakore, award-winning Indian theatre actress and casting director (India)
Diep Saeeda, peace activist and anti-nuclear campaigner, founding director of the Institute for Peace & Secular Studies (Pakistan)
Samra Zafar, human-rights advocate, speaker and writer (Pakistan-Canada)
Moderator: Aekta Kapoor, founder and editor, eShe (India)

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Session 7: Doing Gender, Doing Peace
A discussion on the role of women in peacebuilding
Dr Meenakshi Gopinath, educationist, peacebuilder, Padma Shri awardee and director of WISCOMP (India)
Dr Radha Kumar, academic, author, former director-general of Delhi Policy Group (India)

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Session 8: Feminist Lens: Women’s Visibility and the Culture of Silence
Women are projected in a certain way in mass media but that is not the whole truth. This panel will be looking at the old cultures of invisibility and silence of women through the feminist lens.
Najiba Laima Kasraee, journalist, broadcaster, writer, associate standard editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Afghanistan-UK)
Mehr Tarar, columnist, writer and TV show host (Pakistan)
Saloni Chopra, actor, entrepreneur, author of ‘Rescued by a Feminist‘ (India-Australia)
Moderator: Deepti Chawla, producer-director, head of distribution, syndication and marketing, National Film Development Corporation (India)

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Session 9: Web Warriors: Arming Girls with Internet Tools and Infrastructure
Why arming girls and young women with internet tools is the key for women’s empowerment in the 21st century. 
Juhi Javed Husain, civil servant, lawyer and senior policy advisor specialising in the digital regulation space (UK)
Paba Deshapriya, advocate for equal opportunity and director of The Grassrooted Trust (Sri Lanka)
Pinky Pradhan, director, communications and strategic partnerships, Plan India (India)
Sadaffe Abid, advocate for women’s advancement, tech and financial inclusion; founder of CIRCLE (Pakistan)
Moderator: Priyanka Singh, data analyst and founding member of South Asia Peace Action Network (India)

Read the report here.

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Session 10: Pathbreaking Education: Raising Global Citizens of a Digital World
Why the old ways of education are not enough to equip South Asian youth for a digital future, and what kinds of new approaches are needed in education.
Faiza Yousuf, technologist and founder of WomeninTechPK and CodeGirls (Pakistan)
Shahneila Saeed, director, Digital Schoolhouse, Head of Education, Ukie (UK)
Monica Malhotra Kandhari, managing director, MBD Group (India)
ModeratorSabin Muzaffar, feminist publisher and editor of Ananke magazine (UAE)

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Session 11: Doctrine of Oppression: The Gendered Cost of Religious Extremism
The Taliban in Afghanistan, caste-based sexual violence in India, attacks on feminists in Pakistan and Bangladesh — these are just some of the pegs for this session, which will look at how religious extremism targets women first and most of all.
Khushi Kabir, social activist, artist and environmentalist (Bangladesh)
Mariam Safi, founding executive director of Organization for Policy Research & Development Studies (Afghanistan-Canada)
Beena Sarwar, journalist-filmmaker, peacebuilder, founder-curator of South Asia Peace Action Network (US)
Riya Singh, co-founder, Dalit Women Fight, ICSSR doctoral fellow (India)
Moderator: Aekta Kapoor, founder and editor, eShe (India)

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Session 12: Focus on Youth: Empowering Humanistic Political Leaders
We not only need more women in leadership to ensure fair representation of half the population, we also need more humanistic leaders who will put people before politics.
Peggy Mohan, linguistic expert, author and educator (India-US)
Tara Krishnaswamy, software director, activist, author and co-founder of Political Shakti women’s collective and Citizens for Bengaluru (India)
Saba Gul, technology entrepreneur, investor and feminist activist (Pakistan-US)
Vani Tripathi Tikoo, actor, producer, columnist and socio-political activist (India)
Moderator: Beena Sarwar, journalist-filmmaker, peacebuilder, founder-curator of South Asia Peace Action Network (US)

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Full list of speakers in alphabetical order is available here.

Behind-the-scenes support:

Lina Shabeeb, Berlin-based education coach and emcee at South Asia Union Summit Led by Women
Pragya Narang, Jamshedpur-based peace activist, eShe contributor, and coordinator at South Asia Union
Manasvi Jerath, Delhi-based artist, eShe community manager, and tech support at South Asia Union Summit Led by Women

All sessions are available on eShe’s social platforms, click to view:

For more details, please write to sau@eshe.in

MEDIA COVERAGE

MediaLink
Times of IndiaSouth Asia: Women from 13 nations to discuss rights, gender equality in South Asia
Your StoryPutting the focus on women’s leadership, former journalist launches South Asia Union Summit Led by Women
South Asia MonitorWomen step up for peace in South Asia
Easy ShikshaSouth Asia Union Summit Led by Women
Deccan HeraldSay it with love
India Education DiaryActor Nandita Das, Brit-Afghan Journalist Najiba Laima Kasraee among 45 World Speakers
Daily HuntPutting the focus on women’s leadership
APN NewsActor Nandita Das, Brit-Afghan Journalist Najiba Laima Kasraee among 45 World Speakers
Financial SamacharActor Nandita Das, Brit-Afghan Journalist Najiba Laima Kasraee among 45 World Speakers
Vibes of IndiaEven Africa Is Doing Better Than India In Involving Women In Peace Negotiations: Policy Analyst Dr Radha Kumar
Only Difference Between Taliban Then And Now Is They Have Become Tech-Savvy: British Journalist Of Afghan Origin
Next Chapter Of Feminism Should Engage With Men: Nandita Das At South Asia Union Summit
When Tradition Is Burden: Diaspora Discuss Misogynistic Cultural Norms In South Asia
The Greater IndiaSouth Asia: Women from 13 nations to debate rights, gender equality
The Daily Star‘An oppressive tool to control women’ – Khushi Kabir
Money Control“Education Is The Ticket To Self-reliance And Financial Independence For Women In South Asia”
“The Criminal Justice System In South Asia Is Discriminatory And Violent”: Ambika Satkunanathan
“Women Cannot Be Forced To Toe The Line Of Tradition” – Mandy Sanghera
Sarita Kumari Sodha On Her Royal Rajput Heritage, Indo-Pak History, And Peace
“Afghanistan Is Going Back To An Era Where Women Are Silenced Again”: Kasraee
4 Web Warriors Are Arming Young Women With Internet Tools And Infrastructure
Sapan News NetworkCurtain raiser: Women step up for peace in South Asia – South Asia Peace Action Network
Women EndangeredSouth Asia Women Leaders to discuss Peace & Economic Development
Island Lanka“The Criminal Justice System In South Asia Is Discriminatory And Violent”: Ambika Satkunanathan
Ananke MagazineGroundbreaking event to focus on peace, social justice, gender equality and a unified South Asia