Yasmin Darwich is the newly-elected president of Business and Professional Women (BPW) International, and calls herself a “Mexican mother, doctor, advocate”. She was in Kathmandu last week for BPW’s first South Asian sub-regional meeting.
Nepali Times: Can you introduce Business and Professional Women to our readers?
Yasmin Darwich: BPW International is in 100 countries and five continents and we divide up some of the regions depending on the number of affiliates we have. For instance the Asia-Pacific in this case has five sub-regions, including South Asia. So this way we can cover the similar interests of the affiliates because it’s never the same when you’re talking about women’s problems or goals in Nepal or Australia. And we have chosen Kathmandu for our first South Asian sub-regional meeting in recognition of the great work being done here by Ambica Shrestha and the BPW team. We always put BPW Nepal as an example to other regions, how they accomplished all these amazing projects in the country, how they support hundreds of women in Nepal.
What is the main mission of Business and Professional Women?
Well our main mission is to empower women and train them and support them in business and profession so we can raise their capacity for entrepreneurship. Sometimes people think because we are an organisation for women we are radical feminists or anti-men. No such thing. We work to try to reduce inequality. We have consultant status of the UN’s ECOSOC with whom we have a global compact and a campaign called ‘He for She’. Our partners therefore are governments, our affiliates, civil society and the UN. We concentrate in education so that we raise a new generation with open minds about how women and men can change the world together. We also have a special program in Business and Professional Women for young women 18-30, who do not have it easy because they also have the second or the third job to be a good mother, a good wife, run the house as well as the business. Usually when women are in charge, it is not easy for them because men are not sharing the responsibilities.
So it is not just about educating girls, but also boys so that they grow to share responsibilities.
Exactly. We also have to be very honest who brings up the kids, it is usually the mother. She may be reinforcing the stereotypes by telling her daughter you can have your food only after your brother. Human beings are traditional, we do what our grandparents and parents did. As a gynaecologist by profession, I see this all the time, and these things must change.
Besides education, which are your focus areas?
The thing that makes BPW International totally different from other women’s organisations is in our name: we are business and we are professional. We are the only one in the world with that combination. We think and act locally, nationally and internationally, we network, mentor and lobby to develop the professional business leadership potential of all women. Affiliates can also work on various sectors, like environment. For example, in Latin America we have the ‘Tree Is Life’ campaign and planted five million trees in Brazil. We train our members how to be more involved in our issues, how to be a leader, how to be more self confident because sometimes, women have all the education, they have degrees, they have money and everything, but what happens when we start to go outside our comfort zone? BPW International is the best university ever to teach women how to work as a team and help each other.
What were the main decisions you took at the Kathmandu conference?
This was the first sub-regional meeting and we discussed how South Asian women could work together. We need to know what experience and advice we can share within the region with our new sisterhood.
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