There’s no doubt about it, the March 12th Taipei Women in Conversation Conference set new standards for the future of women’s conferences in Taiwan.
The all-day conference brought together a group of nearly sixty dynamic and inspiring women and men from Taiwan’s local and international communities.
The Women in Conversation organizers (Sue Babcock, Constance Chao, Rachel Coupaud, Zee Dlamini, Prashantha Lachanna, Bunny Pacheco and Gabriele Seewald) created something extraordinary. Their conference was professionally executed by the selection of speakers addressing issues women face in the areas of business, finance, economics, beauty and health, and their deep personal connection with these issues.
Kicking off the conference was the keynote speaker, Mrs. Julia Aphane, mother of three, career woman and diplomatic spouse. Mrs. Aphane brought the audience’s attention to the importance of staying informed, educating girls and women, and the importance of women being involved within all aspects of community life, including government. Using her own country, the Republic of South Africa, as an example, she guided the audience through a memorable historic journey.
“Sharing stories and experiences is essential for empowering women; especially stories about women doing extraordinary things under adverse conditions. When you hear their inspiring stories, it pushes you to be motivated and to keep trying to make a difference,” commented Sue Babcock, one of the organizers.
The Morning Sessions
Session speakers Rachel Coupaud (Women & Finance), Gabriele Seewald (Women & Health) and Prashantha Lachanna (Women Entrepreneurs & Business) were eager to share their experiences and opinions, along with the attendees. Each woman presented candid stories about their personal and professional journeys as they worked to deal with transition and the reinvention process of their lives. Stressed by all three women was the importance of empowering each other and establishing community networks with others.
Gabriele Seewald, facilitator of the Women & Health session, shared her conference vision: “This conference was all about ‘being in conversation,’ sharing experiences and being inspired and celebrating as women-to-women and to men.”
“These elevated conversations about the conference’s session topics were inspirational, eye-opening and needed,” one participant was overheard saying to a friend as they stood between sessions comparing notes.
For Prashantha Lachanna, one of the morning session facilitators, “Intuitive leadership is infinitely more powerful than intellectual leadership, because it relies on compassion, empathy and generosity. To be able to share my own experiences of the feminine approach to business was a privilege.”
As the morning sessions drew to a close, conference participants gathered in the venue’s main meeting hall, at Wooloomooloo out West (WOW), for a buffet luncheon, social networking, photo-taking opportunities with the conference photographer St. John Dunn, and entertainment under the continuing and unflappable guidance of conference Compere Elaine Salt. As the luncheon plates were being cleared by the WOW wait staff, Elaine began her introduction of well-known Taiwan flamenco dancers Ms. Rufina Tsai and Ms. Vivi Fei.
Ms. Rufina Tsai’s story is an inspiring one. It was only after her catastrophic and life-changing experience of becoming deaf (immediately following the birth of her child) that she began to learn flamenco dancing. Elaine explained to the audience that Ms. Tsai couldn’t hear the music. However, she was able to establish a rhythm from what she could feel. She began to copy her teacher’s movements, practicing for hours at a time, until she had achieved perfection. Judging from the audience’s laughter as they learned some basic flamenco steps, and their resounding applause after Ms. Tsai and Ms. Fei’s sterling performance, these two ladies were a huge success.
A Social Networking Hour
The Women in Conversation Conference ended with a wine tasting hour, compliments of the British Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, along with requests from the organizers for attendees to pass on their stories, wisdom, inspirational life-lessons and practical tools to empower other women to see themselves as capable of making a difference in the lives of others.
In response to the post-conference feedback questionnaire one woman wrote: “This conference has emphasized for me the importance of receiving information so that women can make well-informed decisions in order to bring about positive changes in their personal and professional lives.”
“This is what I was thinking about in our conference today, that more than empowering women through special initiatives (which sometimes re-enforces the belief that women are less than whole) something needs to be done to highlight achievers and perceptions need to be changed (though education and more celebrations). Gender roles need to be re-established. A lot of women with successful careers still double as homemakers, and it’s no mystery what suffers in the bargain!” (Nomita Kavra Gupta).
“The idea of getting a large group of women from diverse backgrounds, from different corners of the globe, from varied cultural backgrounds, talking to each other was a truly enriching experience.
The facilitators did a superb job of making the sessions interactive, including participants at every level. There was an atmosphere of sheer life and vibrancy in the main meeting room; in fact, there was so much positive energy flowing that everyone was commenting on it.
I came from the conference feeling highly satisfied, and excited about the shared networks, and I would definitely recommend to people to please attend next year’s Women in Conversation Conference 2017” (Sahar Shaikh).
Text: Zee Dlamini and Pai Su-yu Images: St. John Dunn
Zee Dlamini is a digital PR strategist turned fashion stylist/fashion blogger, in addition to being a full-time mommy with a zest for life and a lover of all things good.
Pai Su-yu is an educator and writer living in Taiwan.
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