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In collaboration with the Indology Foundation, on October 22, 2020, Dr. Bhavani Rao gave a virtual talk for the live streamed series Navaratri Talks – Woman Leadership: Transforming the Indian Diaspora. The Indology Foundation spreads awareness of indigenous cultural values as well as traditions of art, music and philosophy and promotes these core pillars for creating a valued society. Participation in this collaboration provided the opportunity to link the cultural value of Motherhood to achieving the SDGs outlined by the UN in 2012.
Dr. Rao’s topic “Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals through the principles of Motherhood” presented an approach which cuts across all 17 SDGs and provides the qualities needed to achieve these inspired goals. The approach places the qualities of Motherhood at the core of all sustainability. The 17 interdependent SDGs are a universal set of goals for the entire world in order to overcome our most pressing challenges. By attaining these goals, it will be assured that absolutely no one is left behind and poverty will finally be eradicated.
Dr. Rao based this inspiring talk on some of the speeches given by Amrita Chancellor Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) as well as the work done by AMMACHI Labs and the Center for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality (CWEGE). In one such talk given at the UN, Amma said that “there are two kinds of poverty. One is poverty of lack of food, clothing and shelter, and the second kind of poverty is lack of love and compassion. If we tackle the second one, we automatically address the first one.” For it is the qualities of love, compassion, empathy, tolerance and patience that make the first kind of poverty intolerable. These qualities are the qualities of Motherhood.
Motherhood is also the capacity to receive and create something beautiful and to perpetuate and nurture. The philosophy of Motherhood is to see that everything is part of oneself, to acknowledge and understand others and to make sure that no one is left behind. If it is not seen as other but as oneself, it is not seen as a commodity, and you treat it with love and respect. When you see the environment as part of yourself, then you love and respect nature. When you learn to love and respect natural resources, then you do not defile it. These are the same foundational principles of sustainable development.
The key to reducing inequality and achieving all SDGs is seeing the world through the philosophy of Motherhood and acting with love, respect and unity. As Amma says, there is a man in every woman and a woman in every man. There are latent motherhood qualities in every woman and man which have to be awakened. While it is easier to awaken these qualities in women because of their capacity to give birth, men also have the capacity for deep empathy, love, compassion, patience and tolerance.
Dr. Rao emphasized that these qualities of motherhood are pure power. When there is power without the principles of motherhood, then corruption happens. She enumerated three Powers of Motherhood which also correlate to Vedanta:
Dr. Rao described the “multiplier effect of Amma’s love and compassion”. Amma ignites the power of motherhood in each person she meets. When this flame glows brightly, people are moved to address the first kind of poverty and dedicate time and resources to eradicating inequalities of all kinds.
In closing her talk, Dr. Rao gave examples and showed videos of some of the work being done at Amrita working with women in rural India. The choice to work with women was intentional as working with women cuts across all the SDGs. In 2004, Amma initiated the AmritaSree project and has financed and nurtured 250,000 women in SHGs in 21 states of India. Now, these women are helping the other women in their communities with housing, education, medical care, etc. These women change agents are also spearheading community mobilization and accessing government schemes.
Dr. Rao acknowledged that the work is not only about transformation of the women in these communities, but it is also about transforming ourselves and nurturing the qualities of Motherhood within us. Love and compassion can make breakthroughs in communities and cultivate strong bonds, trust and collaboration leading to sustainable change.