LtoR: Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, Rochelle Stewart-Allen, Ranjna Patel, Bal Devgun and Angela McLeod at the ANZ International Women's Day Cocktail Evening held in Wellington, New Zealand on March 5, 2015.

LtoR: Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, Rochelle Stewart-Allen, Ranjna Patel, Bal Devgun and Angela McLeod at the ANZ International Women’s Day Cocktail Evening held in Wellington, New Zealand on March 5, 2015.

New Zealand charity, Daya Trust, brought together more than seventy Wellington business women and men on 5 March 2015 to celebrate International Women’s Day, with support from ANZ Bank and Grant Thornton New Zealand.

Daya Trust Founder, Rochelle Stewart-Allen, said “International Women’s Day is a prime opportunity to celebrate how far women have come in New Zealand and overseas, but also to recognise how far women still have to go to overcome the inequalities they continue to face.”

Daya Trust believes that education is an empowerment tool for women and girls because it enables them to make choices and become changemakers in their lives. An education gives girls’ opportunities to improve their job prospects and significantly increases their earnings when they leave school by up to 25%. Access to education for girls’ means economic growth.  Investing in girls’ education benefits everyone: their families, their communities, governments, businesses, and entire nations.

Over the last six years Daya Trust has worked in India and New Zealand building young women leaders and supporting its Indian charity partner in empowering women and girls through a sustainable development model for Mumbai slum-communities.

Across the world, International Women’s Day was celebrated at scale.  Increasingly at International Women’s Day events, we hear stories of women who are making real changes to their communities at a grass roots level.

Social entrepreneur Ranjna Patel

These women are true role models that women in Aotearoa can relate to. Real women making a real difference make a more powerful impact, and one such woman is social entrepreneur Ranjna Patel.  Ranjna is Chair of the New Zealand Central Indian Association (NZCIA) Women’s Group, amongst many other professional and voluntary roles she holds.

Ranjna Patel joins attendees at the evening celebration

Ranjna Patel joins attendees at the evening celebration

At the Daya Trust event, she spoke about her own personal journey as a woman.  She told the audience about the challenges she faced as a young third-generation Kiwi Indian woman who, as part of her culture, was married at eighteen. However Ranjna went on to build one of New Zealand’s largest primary health organisations, East Tamaki Healthcare – Nirvana Group in Auckland.

Ranjna shared statistics on women in leadership positions locally and globally and talked about the key barriers she believes women face worldwide:  lack of access to education, violence, and stigmatised cultural norms.

Ranjna believes targeting perpetrators of violence against women plays a key role in solutions to end it. She is currently involved in launching New Zealand’s first early intervention accommodation for South Asian men who have been issued protection orders. This provides a place where professionals can work one-on-one with the men to tackle the core issues. The first house has been officially launched in March with its fundamental goal to prevent future offending and further violence against women.

Ranjna is a woman of action and said we need to build solutions to the inequalities women face.  She said enough of ‘boys clubs’, we need to build a ‘women’s club’ where women leaders support other women to work in positions of decision-making and authority. “It’s time we came together as women and supported each other in practical ways,” she said.

Becoming part of the solution

Ranjna concluded with five everyday ways we can be part of the solution to help women and girls become empowered and achieve equal rights. Donating funds is one of the most common ways to help, but there are others.

Contributing your expertise and resources to charities provides vital support to their work. Being informed about the inequalities women and girls face around the world will inspire, motivate and drive you to help make a difference.

LtoR: Greg Thompson (Grant Thornton), Fran Wilde, Hon Louise Upston (Minister for Women), Bal Devgun (Daya Trust) and HE Mrs Florence Jeanblanc-Risler (French Embassy)

LtoR: Greg Thompson (Grant Thornton), Fran Wilde, Hon Louise Upston (Minister for Women), Bal Devgun (Daya Trust) and HE Mrs Florence Jeanblanc-Risler (French Embassy)

Adding your voice as an advocate for women and girls will force policy makers, world leaders and global organisations to drive change. And finally becoming a conscious consumer – buying products from organisations already supporting women and girls, will make sure your money goes where it really matters.

Ranjna’s speech came at a time when world leaders, non-government organisations, activists and many more gather at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York to discuss solutions to gender equality issues on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Ranjna believes we all have a responsibility and role to play, and that even small actions can make a difference.  There is no doubt that she inspired the audience with her words, urging  them to be part of the global movement and have an impact on the lives of women and girls.

Learn more about how to take action to empower women and girls here

Check out more photos from our event on our Facebook page here