The Ladies’ Wing of the IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established in 1966 to look after the interests of Indian trade, commerce and industry. Over the years, as things changed, the focus of the organisation too evolved. Vanita Bhandari, the 50th president of the Ladies’ Wing, believes a lot more can still be done to empower women. And with this larger objective in mind, the premier body, under her stewardship, has launched several programmes and initiatives. Excerpts from Bhandari’s interview:
Q. How has been your experience as the 50th president of IMC Ladies Wing?
It’s been a hard act to follow — in fact, I’ve had to follow 49 amazing acts! Every president has her own vision and leaves her own imprint on the Ladies’ Wing. I’ve tried to be hands-on but have also given the committees a free hand and they’ve done an amazing job.
Q. Please tell us more about IMC Ladies Wing and what are its objectives and work areas of IMC Ladies Wing?
The Ladies’ Wing is one of the country’s premier business and professional organisations for women. It works to empower women and enable the spirit of enterprise that is within every woman to flourish. The Wing has a wide and varied canvas of activities — which cover contemporary issues that concern women and our Society. We have expert committees for cinema, legal, health and holistic, business next and travel. They are collectively working towards Women’s empowerment and generation equality.
We are currently working on an exciting project concerning women’s safety. Being the veteran chamber in Mumbai, IMC Ladies’ Wing aims to create awareness and sensitise women and children regarding their safety and protection. In this capacity, the Ladies’ Wing has been working to launch our project titled “Make Mumbai Safe” with several stakeholders of the society like municipal corporation, railways, BEST, airport authority, transport associations, hospitals, educational institutions, NGOs, corporate houses, legal luminaries and others to take it to general public to create a widespread impact.
Q. What’s your biggest contribution as the president of this organisation?
As president, I’ve said: “Enough is enough. If you want to make a change, you have to start with yourself and stop blaming others, your circumstances, your destiny.” Our slogan for the year is “Me: The Change-maker”. We’ve embraced it and it’s exciting to see the change that is happening when women take charge of their own lives.
Q. What is that one change which you have initiated and for which you are very proud of?
I’ve deliberately and consistently brought sustainability to the forefront and made it a part of every activity the Ladies’ Wing undertakes. We talk about a great new future but there can be no future without sustainability. Each one of us have to incorporate and spread the concept of conserving our resources and live by a culture of — reduce, reuse and recycle.
You have only to see the re-usable bags our members proudly carry (instead of even designer bags!) to see how sustainability can become a way of life.\
Q. Recently the Janaki Devi Bajaj award was given to Ruma Devi. Please tell us about her and this award.
The Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar is given to outstanding Indian women in the field of rural entrepreneurship. Ruma Devi is an inspiring Indian traditional handicraft artisan from Barmer, Rajasthan. Coming from a poor family, she took to embroidery as a means of earning some money. She got a group of 10 women together to buy a sewing machine and they were soon on their way. The group swelled to more than 22,000 women. Ruma Devi started Gramin Vikas & Chetna Sansthan (GVCS), a self-help group that puts beautifully embroidered fabrics, cushions and other handicraft items on the market (It even made it to the Lakme Fashion Week). You could say that Ruma Devi has started a quiet revolution by making women from the most backward parts of the country, entrepreneurs in their own right.
Q. Apart from women empowerment, you also work passionately for saving the environment and this planet. Please elaborate.
As I said, sustainability must be our first priority. And we don’t have to wait for major projects to get us going. If we decide to live by the sustainable credo, there are things we can do here and now, at home and at work, to make sustainability a way of life. It can be done. Let’s lead by example.