Members of the panel discussion at the International Women’s Conference (IWC)

Is it possible to break inherent behavioural patterns? These accomplished women from around the world show us how

Is behaviour something that is pre-fixed? Or is there a chance for change? If so, are there parameters that influence behaviour? These are the questions that the session The farthest hill is the smoothest: A 360 Degree View of Behaviour patterns addressed. The discussion took place on the second day of the International Women’s Conference at the Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru.

The participants came from diverse backgrounds: Arundhati Bhattacharya, Former Chairman, State Bank of India; Rev. Pastor Maureen Sibadela, Founder, Alpha World Ministries Social Care Centre South Africa); Rubika Liyaquat, News Achor, Zee News (India) ; Ruth Ostrow, Speaker, Writer, Presenter (Australia); Shaikha Al Shaiba, Para-athlete (Bahrain); Suvina Shunglu, Principal, Sri Sri Academy, Kolkata; and Tuti Furlan, Director, Iniciativa T (Guatemala).

“One thing that my mother always taught me is it is important never to consider yourself a victim. You are not a victim, if something is not working the way you want it to work, look inside yourself, see where you are lacking and make up for it,” said Arundhati, opening the discussion.

She was speaking in the context of empowering oneself to take proactive action in every situation.

“Part of my childhood was spent in Bhilai, when the steel plant was being built in the late 1950s. The steel plant was located in barren land, with no trees. Most of our fathers would work at the plant for 72 hours at a stretch, leaving our mothers to take care of us children. There was one small health centre with one doctor on call. Even if we wanted potatoes, we had to travel 80 kms to Raipur,” she recalled.

“At that time, my neighbour, a little girl, would get a recurring fever which the clinic was not able to diagnose. And then one day, she passed away, in my mother’s arms. My mother was disturbed by the incident.”

Soon after, her mother told her that she was studying homeopathy, which was all she could do from home, in order to help everybody else in the community. She was dispensing medicines until the age of 90, even three months before she passed away.

Para-athelete Shaikha Al Shaiba spoke about how she learnt to inculcate faith in herself after a life-altering incident that happened in childhood.

“I lost my arm when I was 18 months old, due to medical error. I grew up with one arm and for a while I used to go to school with a prosthetic arm. When I was eight or nine years old, I decided not to wear it and to accept myself the way I am. It was difficult and I am deeply grateful to my mother who really suffered to protect me. It was not easy for her to see her child grow up this way,” shared Shaikha.

“I now have a full-time job, I drive a car. A few years ago, I started doing cross-fit and weightlifting exercises. And in 2016, I wanted to enter an obstacle race, but the organisers and many people said they could not allow people like me to participate.”

And then one of her friends took her into her team and Shaikha completed her first obstacle race.

“I decided to take it a step further and take up the Iron Man Challenge happening in my country in 2017. When I finished the challenge (a triathlon comprising swimming, cycling and running), it was the best feeling. I do all my races myself, I don’t expect people to be there for me. I decided to do it for myself, not to impress anyone else.”

Reinforcing Shaikha’s message, Rev Pastor Maureen Sibadela shared the tragic incident that moulded her life thereon. Rev Maureen lost her daughter and her grandson in a car accident, when her daughter was out with her friends in a park.

“I decided to look for the guy who killed my daughter, who had been released from jail by then. I told him that I have forgiven him and his family and I asked him to come work with me, in my organisation that helped rehabilitate young people like him. He designed our website,” shared Maureen, whose Alpha World Ministries Social Care Centre is a non-profit, non-political organization that seeks to fight socio-economic problems such as HIV/AIDS, unemployment, poverty, crime and welfare issues in an affordable and sustainable way. They are known for their work in caring for the elderly through their home base and day care services.

“It was not easy, but that is the power of the woman. We need to keep moving, we must not be stopped by obstacles; we need to keep walking, do something; even when no one is listening, we need to keep saying something, even if we just post something on Facebook, someone, somewhere will read it.”