A historic debate was held in Parliament last week to celebrate International Women’s Day. The debate was co-hosted by Rupa Ganatra Popatand Rupal Sachdev Kantariaand consisted of 25 esteemed and renowned speakers from the BAME community to commemorate International Women’s Day under this year’s theme “Balance for Better”. All the speakers took to the floor to share the biggest challenges they face not just in the UK but globally, and their tangible solutions for change.
Speakers included international fashion designer Diipa Khoslawho has a social media following of over 1.6 million, renowned chef Asma Khan, former Eastenders actress and anti-Semitism activist Tracy-Ann Oberman. The debate also included men such as India’s biggest designer Sabyasachi Mukerji, Vedanta philosopher Bhaskar Ramachandranand entrepreneur and philanthropist Avnish Goyal.
The speakers tackled a vast range of topics including artificial intelligence, black feminism mental health, modern slavery, anti-Semitism, philanthropy, spirituality, food, fashion, transgender rights, innovation, venture capital and entrepreneurship.
The debate was chaired by the former Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, Baroness D’Souza, who has actively participated in the spheres of human rights and development, House of Lords reform, gender equality and how to access to information.
Other speakers included Baroness Prashar, a great champion of women’s rights, transgender female activist Nour Shaker FayedandTracey Ford, who following the death of her son, has dedicated her working life to tackling youth-on-youth violence.
The debate was hosted by Lord Popatwho started the initiative last year to invite and give non-Parliamentarians a platform to speak in the mother of all Parliaments to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Speaking after the debate, Lord Popat said, “It is a privilege to host such a talented, diverse and inspirational group of speakers at the mother of all parliaments. The UK made huge progress for gender equality in 2018 but we still have a long way to go and events like this are key to moving this conversation forward.”
Other speakers included human trafficking and modern slavery activist Meenal Sachdevand the Head of Charities at Barclays Nazreen Vishramwho spoke of the importance of pluralism within the gender debate, “pluralism is identifying with the other, identifying with the other that is not you and who will never be you because they are of a different race or colour, they have different cultural values or follow another religion. The recognition that they are they and you are you, but the language of being a human being is what holds you together. This is the basis of pluralism.”
The debate was concluded by Rupal Sachdev Kantaria who summed up the two hour debate, “We have heard about the gender pay gap, the ethnicity pay gap, the funding, investment, productivity gap. Today I would like to introduce the concept of the “listening gap” which is central to the change many have talked about today. We do not hear the stories and experiences of those around us - not because our fellow brothers and sisters are not speaking. Listening is a skill which is assumed to be passive and easy.”
Commenting on the showcase, Rupa Ganatra Popat, Co-Founder & CEO of FUTR Group said, “The world around us is changing at an unprecedented pace and change is crucial as the keystone of progress. This year’s showcase was part of that process to progress. If we want balance we need inclusion, if we want equality we must celebrate diversity and if we want progress, there has to be solidarity. In addition to each of this year’s speakers making their own pledge for change, each member of the audience was asked to join the conversation”.
The 170-strong audience of parliamentarians, charities, schools and private sector leaders, were invited to join the conversation online and through sharing their own International Women’s Day pledge for change at the event’s pledge wall.