Vienna, Vir. — For the fourth consecutive year, the annual Women’s Conference sponsored by the National Federation of Indian American Associations brought together some of the best minds from the State Department, the World Bank, the White House, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Maryland State House in Washington, D.C.
Planned with the help of local area associations, the conference was again the brain child of NFIA vice president and conference chairwoman Angela Anand, and was conducted Sept. 19 at the Banquet Hall of Diya restaurant here.
In a keynote address, Fatema Z. Sumar, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, noted that Secretary of State John Kerry has appointed six women assistant secretaries, including Nisha Biswal, an Indian American who heads the South and Central Asia bureau.
“I think it is a sign of bringing more women to the forefront,” said Sumar.
Emphasizing the new impetus to the bilateral relations between the United States and India, Sumar told the audience, “We are very excited about launching the U.S.-India Women Empowerment Dialogue, led by U.S. Ambassador at-large Catherine Russel, for the global women issues in near future.”
Already a South Asian Women’s Network has been launched to connect women in those countries, she noted.
In addition to Sumar, other speakers included Maryland Delegate Aruna Miller; Raymond Vicory, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce-Trade Development, and a leading advisor on US-India relations; Susan Markham, senior coordinator of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment from USAID; Dr. Priya Basu, manager of Development Finance, World Bank; and Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Miller pointed out that one in four women will experience violence in her lifetime, and one in six will be raped.
“Although women make up 51 percent of our population, they are still the 51 percent minority when it comes to their economics, reproductive, legal and political rights,” she said.
Basu said, “For empowering women and for women to have a say in their reproductive rights, evils of domestic violence and gender-based violence, men and boys must be included in this conversation.”
Curtis pointed out that women make up less than 30 percent of senior positions across foreign policy and the national security establishment. The reason, she said, is attributed to men being able to network better than women.
To showcase the talent of adolescent girls, three different styles of classical dances were presented at the program: Bharat Natyam by the students of Lakshmi Swaminathan, Kuchipuddi dance by the students of Lakshmi Babu and Kathak dance style taught by Shweta Misra.