It was a celebration of female empowerment on Tuesday 8 March, with India Tourism Sydney hosting an awards ceremony for the three-week-long Maya Caption Contest to coincide with International Women’s Day.
The contest, created by Aei4eiA and its social initiative, Maya, asked Australians to describe in 25 words or less both the courage of women and Indian women. Both women and men from across the nation responded, with the winners announced at the event.
Honourary guest, Mr B Vanlalvawna, Consul General of India Sydney, presented the awards, alongside Ms Kanchan K Kukreja, Assistant Director, India Tourism Sydney. Ms Indrani Samajpati of Sydney took home first prize for her entry, followed by Pinky Bhatt with second place and Ishaka Das Singh with third. Four Special Mention certificates were awarded to Mala Mehta, OAM, of Sydney, Stephen Manallack of Melbourne, Ritu Panda of Melbourne and Mala Giridhar of Canberra.
Prior to the ceremony, Ms Kukreja briefed attendees on the leaps being made by women in India (citing the all-women armed forces contingent marching in 2015’s Republic Day Parade) and the status of female travellers in the nation. She reiterated that India is a safe destination for female travellers, and the Ministry of Tourism has introduced a number of initiatives, including a 24-hour toll-free helpline (1800 111363) available in 12 languages, and a mobile app containing information about destinations and lists of service providers.
Dr Jayantee Mukherjee Saha, Director and Principal Consultant of Aei4eiA (a name derived from the Greek word aeiforeia, meaning sustainability), announced the winners and shared what Maya, Aei4eiA and its Australia-India Wing are about. She spoke about Aei4eiA’s role as a Sydney-based management/policy research and advocacy firm. The Australia-India Wing within the firm conducts evidence-based research and initiatives on issues relating to the Indian migrant community in Australia, fostering bilateral relationships between India and Australia, and highlighting the potential of the Indian community in Australia. Some of this research, entitled ‘The Brown Beauties of NSW’, revealed that, of the more than 43,000 women of Indian origin living in NSW, one in four registered an income of ‘nil’ in the 2011 census and that an even larger number were economically dependent on their male counterparts. From this research, the social initiative Maya was born, a sustainable ecosystem supporting women’s empowerment, facilitating women’s economic independence and bringing forth the strengths and positive qualities of Indian women through Indian art. This ecosystem unites female artists from India, female social entrepreneurs in Australia, Indo-Australian authorities, corporate houses and women’s charities in Australia. “Maya,” Dr Jayantee highlighted, “is not an illusion, but strength, character, beauty, karma and more.”