Brahma Kumaris United Nations Event at CSW 66 – “The Role of Consciousness in Transformation: Women Leading the Way”

New York ( USA ): The Brahma Kumaris United Nations office hosted a virtual parallel event during the United Nations 66th Session for the Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW 66). The purpose of the event was to acknowledge the priority theme of the UN CSW of Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.

As we look at what is happening in the world, we know we need a deeper transformer, a deeper inquiry, and shift. The inner world and the outer world are parts of the same wheel of life. For the outer state of the world to be transformed, the inner state of our world must first be transformed. Women have a crucial role in this. Together with men, women can lead the way with integrity, intuitive wisdom, and courage. During this session, with participation from more than 180 women and men, the topic The Role of Consciousness in Transformation: Women Leading the Way, was explored.

Participants were first asked to reflect on their own experience of inner transformation that has shifted the way they see and work in the world and then to identify what inner calling they were hearing for themselves at this time. Following this reflection exercise, an esteemed panel of women took to the virtual stage. Each of the panelists plays a significant role in the transformation of people and society on topics such as climate change, women’s rights, HIV/AIDS policy, etc. Panelists explored the inner shifts that create the outer transformation they see in the world.

Panelists started out by sharing a story of a transformation that they helped bring about that included moments of challenges and moments of breakthrough.

Lisa Reefke, who has 20 years of professional experience working in and on different conflict settings in United Nations field operations – in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Burundi, Lebanon, and Timor-Leste — and at United Nations, said “I’ve become increasingly aware that key for the inner shift is that very self-awareness without which we can’t bring about potent change. We are all capable of changing. In one way or another. Our reactions, feelings, our thoughts. First and foremost, we must be conscious of our own beliefs and value systems. Most importantly, we must know that our own consciousness is conditioned by the very world views we adhere to. The real challenge is to lead transformational processes that help others learn, grow, develop, and to help them become transformative leaders, in their respective communities and organizations, and this requires vision, empathy, perseverance, and above all a sense of connectiveness.”

BK Jayanti Kirpalani, Additional Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris said, “My own understanding is to recognize that our thoughts are important in terms of what we are doing in the world out there, unless we come back to the inner awareness of finding the happiness that we need within while we are still seeking happiness from things outside within consumer society, we’re never going to be able to deal with climate change.”

When asked about their inner state when feeling challenged, what state they were trying to maintain inside and how they got there, Sbongile Nkosi, Co-Executive Director of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) said,“It is so easy for me to want to defend…understanding that listening is so important and exercising compassion to every aspect to whatever voice is coming. Even the voice that is criticizing. To hold that compassion. I’ve learned that meditation is such a powerful tool. And that you have to make time. It will save you in moments like these. To understand yourself. As a leader that I’m practicing is understanding compassion and collaboration.”

Karen O’Brien is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, Norway and co- founder of cCHANGE, an organization that supports public engagement with transformations to sustainability. She spoke about the collective and how there is always a relationship between the individual and the collective. She said “I needed to look into my own assumption and my own consciousness and challenge that and change my way of being.” When asked about how to move from the individual to the collective, she spoke about “our collective capacity for social change. That we are always the system.”

The discussion with the panelists included questions from the participants including several young adults. The event then concluded with a meditation reflection. BK Jayanti shared, “My hope is when people really begin to understand that it’s the inner consciousness and the change within myself that can make a difference in what’s going on outside.” 

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