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Hindu women's group welcomes new president

By Verdel Bishop

The Hindu Women's Organisation on Sunday welcomed Pandita Indrani Rampersad as its new president, with a gala dinner which also marked the organisation's 25th anniversary. Rampersad has taken the reins from Henny Charran, who served in the post as acting president for a year after elected president Vidya Gyan-Tota-Maharaj was appointed Consular General for Toronto, Canada.

Rampersad, the organisation's founding president, will serve her second term as president after steering the organisation to success 25 years ago.

Speaking during the festive and religious handing-over ceremony at the home of the former president, in Valsayn, Rampersad said 25 years ago she wanted to set the tone and energy of the organisation as an activist, reaching out to grass roots women and reaching out to organisations and working for a fair and just society, where racism and discrimination would not stifle the spirit of the people.

Two decades later, Rampersad said there is still work to be done and she has vowed to implement various programmes for the advancement of the organisation and society.

Rampersad said while past presidents brought various aspects of growth to the organisation, there are long-term and short-term goals she is ready to implement. One such goal is a home for the organisation. Rampersad said after 25 years, the group still remains without a home.

Other initiatives, according to Rampersad, include strengthening direct outreach to grass roots women, institutional strengthening of the organisation, spiritual education, helping battered women and young children, raising awareness about drug and alcohol abuse in rural areas, a retirement residence for single women, tackling child abuse in schools, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace and sustainable poverty reduction initiatives.

According to Rampersad, "The vision that I have is to be put into short- and long-term plans. It may take five or ten years, but if we put it down, successful presidents can move towards it and while we will not be able to achieve them all overnight, we will begin to prioritise and guide the organisation with a long-term vision. We are currently in conversation with the Sanatan Dharma over potential collaboration to help battered children in our nation. I intend to plead with, to lobby and pressure politicians on both sides to continue to partner with us in the process of nation building.

"I intend to call upon those in the corporate sector to exercise corporate social responsibility and policy and justice in partnering with us in this process of nation-building. I intend to collaborate with nation builders and other women's organisations and any other person [who shares] our vision. I pledge to work to add yet another building block to this great organisation of ours," Rampersad said.

During his feature address, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said the Hindu Women's Organisation has played a great role in the development of culture and women in Trinidad and Tobago.

He noted that the organisation has spawned a social movement of progress for women's and civil and human rights in Trinidad and Tobago and propelled this country into a state of democratic progression with justice for all.

Gopeesingh compared the group to the Association for the Women of Afghanistan, which was founded 35 years ago.

"The Hindu Women's Organisation managed to ensure that acts of charity became a virtual agent of social change. Your contribution has been pioneering and nothing short of stellar, and our country owes you a debt of gratitude," he said.

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