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Strong Women Rock TED India

November 18, 2009

Photo credit/TED

TED India wrapped in Mysore last week.  In case you’re not familiar with the awesomeness that is TED (stands for Technology, Entertainment, & Design), I’ll explain.  It’s a small organization devoted to putting on thought-provoking and powerful talks by some of the world’s wisest and most innovative thinkers.  The vision is to build a platform on which to share important knowledge with far-reaching effects.  And through the magic of very expensive technology, those ideas are spread for free via the web.

Being a girl is so powerful that we’ve had to train everyone not to be a girl.
– Eve Ensler, TED India

I was turned on to TED after begrudgingly watching one-too-many science-tinged talks pushed by my eager biologist boyfriend.  So, begrudging at first, but totally appreciative after all.  These talks are almost always interesting, they’re clear, they concern important issues for our globe, and you can watch them in your pajamas.  For a jaw dropping talk, check Richard Dawkins’ atheist call to arms in 2008.

So TED took over in Mysore, Karnataka (one of my favorite places I’ve been ever.) for several days this month, showcasing creatives and visionaries from India and beyond. For a good overview of the entire TED conference, read one participant’s blog here.

Session 8, called, “Learning to Learn” packed a punch with two powerful women: Eve Ensler, the founder of V Day and writer of the Vagina Monologues (OK, has every Gen X and Y-er in the U.S. now finally seen at least one college theater rendition of this play?); and Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, Ashoka Fellow and founder of Prajwala India, which has provided shelter, advocacy, and rehabilitation to thousands of women and girl survivors of trafficking.

Ensler’s talk encouraged attendees to find their “inner girl,” proposing the idea that to be a girl is to be an agent of change, a fire starter, and the seed of a movement.  This is so powerful that we can’t all be girls.

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan described her entry into a movement that is helping to change the future of women and girls whose lives have been absolutely devalued by the horrors of trafficking.  Dr. Krishnan herself was gang raped as a teenager and has been assaulted and stigmatized countless times during her efforts to rescue, protect and rehabilitate trafficked women and girls.  You can read a more complete and moving reaction to her talk by a participant here.  This woman is an absolute inspiration and if you’ve read or skimmed Half the Sky, Kristof also mentions her and gives her props.

Well, sounds like a great TED conference overall and I really wish I had been there.  Both Ensler and Krishnan come at the same message from very different paths: Ensler is an I am women, hear me roaring product of America’s Second Wave Feminist movement, while Krishnan is the unassuming, unlikely hero from Bangalore who turned a horrible personal experience into a crusade for women throughout India.

But their message? women matter.  Reject the desensitization, resist the ignorance.  Sit the hell up and pay attention.  Do something.  Now that is an idea worth spreading.

PS-videos of the talks aren’t up yet, but look for them soon!

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