C20 Working Group Summit on Gender Equality and Disability Inaugurated

Mumbai / Bhubaneshwar April 24, 2023: The Gender Equality and Disability Summit of Civil 20 (C20), one of the official Engagement Groups of the G20, has been inaugurated at Bhubaneswar, with the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) hosting the event.

Dignitaries present during the inaugural ceremony included Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT); Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, Troika and Steering Committee Member C20 and Vice Chairman, Mata Amritanandamayi Math; Vijay Nambiar, C20 Sherpa; Phoolranee Rampadarath from Ministry of Gender Equality & Family Welfare, Mauritius; and C20 International Advisory Committee Members Ramu Damodaran and Naila Chowdhry. Kalpana Devi Koonjoo-Shah, Hon’ble Minister, Gender Equality & Family Welfare, Republic of Mauritius, addressed the audience virtually.

During two days of the Summit, more than 300 delegates from India and around the world would participate in discussions and workshops that will directly impact the policy recommendations which will be launched at the C20 Summit in July 2023.

Addressing the delegates, Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), said: “Gender equality and disability rights are critical issues, and we need to work together to address them. To fully realize gender equality, we have to ensure that all women and girls have access to the same opportunity and rights as boys and men, but this is easier said than done. Gender discrimination is deeply ingrained in our societies. We need a holistic approach that addresses aspects like education, healthcare, and employment that affect vulnerable and marginalized groups. This means shifting gender relations, promoting women leadership, and engaging men and boys in the process of attaining gender equality. Let us all continue to work together to make a difference. The power of collaboration is immense and together, we can make a better world.”

Said Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, Troika and Steering Committee Member, C20, and Vice Chairman, Mata Amritanandamayi Math: “Without recognizing and accepting women as equals, true freedom, happiness, harmony and coexistence will remain a far cry. Even though the world has become relatively more pro-women, a lot still needs to change. In many countries and cultures, there is an urgent need for women to be liberated from the intellectual and psychological clutches of men and society. Men must be compassionate and unchain women from the shackles of their past. Women too must heighten their consciousness to come out of this psychological conditioning that society has forced on them.”

He added: “Men and women are like two wings of a bird. Unless they work in harmony as a single unit, our efforts to create a balance in society will be futile. However, I don’t believe in Western style feminism. To fight for their rightful claims, women do not have to copy and speak like men. Women inherently have greater strength than men. They should tap into that potential without losing their originality and feminine aspects. Rwanda is a good example where women have made great strides in gender equality without losing their originality or culture. With gender equality gaining momentum in the world, the issue of disability should also be seriously addressed. Unless full and barrier free access is recognized as an enforceable right, we will not have an inclusive society. We support, and are about to execute, full and barrier free accessibility and disability inclusion as a standalone and dedicated Working Group of C20.”

In her video message at the inaugural ceremony, C20 Chair Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), said: “Many nations still treat women as inferior. Despite the world making tremendous progress in last many decades, there still is a great reluctance and mental block in acknowledging women’s equality. Among adolescent girls worldwide, one in four is denied education and employment. In the case of boys, this statistic is only one in ten. When women are suppressed, the world loses the productive contribution of 50 percent of its population.”

Amma added: “We should help children and women from marginalised groups escape their vulnerability and not let their hidden capabilities go waste. As women rise and move ahead, men should make way—even prepare the way—for them. Men should stop being a one-way street, and, instead, try to become a broad highway. Instead of trying to develop their muscle power like men, women should try and develop their heart muscles. They must be ready to accept what comes and move forward, without losing their self-confidence. We should create circumstances for them to succeed.”

Amma said: “Even among the girls studying in our college, parents pressure them to get married once they complete their undergraduate degrees. Few are allowed to pursue their PhD. The parents pull them back, saying that by the time they complete their PhD, they will be past marriageable age and it will be difficult to find them a husband. If we live in fear that our girls will not be able to get married, can anything be accomplished? If we create the right circumstances, they can definitely bring out their talents and make them useful for society. Right from childhood, boys should be taught to treat women and girls with respect.”

Said Prof. Bhavani Rao R, the India Coordinator of C20 Working Group on Gender Equality & Disability (GED) and the UNESCO Chair in Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Amrita University: “The Chair of C20, Mata Amritanandamayi, creates a safe space for all voices to be heard, in her embrace – voices of women, men, children, marginalized and minority communities, even the environment. What is not that well known is the tremendous humanitarian projects and efforts that go into addressing the pain in these voices. Under Amma’s leadership, the Working Group on Gender Equality & Disability pushes the agenda of a harmonious world for all sexes and for all those with disabilities. Where we join our voices, so we may be stronger, wiser, and not just heard – not as a cacophony, but in harmony and with clarity.”

The Gender Equality & Disability (GED) Working Group of C20 is committed to holistically examining and addressing the multifaceted dimensions of inequalities and disadvantages experienced by the genders and those with physical and/or mental disabilities. It intends to reinforce an approach to equality and development through an understanding that mutual respect and compassion are to be at the core of global governance for societies and the planet to flourish sustainably.

Through this lens, the Working Group is deliberating on access to education, healthcare, financial and environmental resources, decent work, infrastructure, and decision-making; systemic issues such as discrimination based on gender or ability, gender-based violence, lack of representation, and economic disparities. Its work spans eight subthemes: Physical & Mental Health; Economic Empowerment & Sustainable Livelihood; Education & Skill Development; Society & Culture; Engaging Men & Boys; Safety & Security; Environment & Disasters; and Disability.

The G20 (Group of 20) is a forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. It works to address major issues related to the global economy. C20 provides a platform for Civil Society Organizations (CSO) around the world to voice people’s aspirations to the world leaders in G20.