It is not every day that Women’s Forum France nominates you as Rising Talent, while you’re lying sick on a hospital bed! So, when my teammates walked in with the happy email, I asked myself: What on earth is a Rising Talent and who selected me as one? I was definitely happy when I figured it out.

The nomination

I learnt that Silvia Giovannoni, London Representative, ASHOKA had nominated me, having seen my innovation: the ‘Meghalaya Model’, which earned me the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006. I also discovered that Women’s Forum was engaged with JP Morgan and Egon Zehnder International, to recognize women talents below age 35, across five continents of the globe. The history of the Forum amazed me more. Aude Zieseniss de Thuin, Founder, Women’s Forum France had taken up the challenge to build up its platform, bringing about a corporate consciousness of social responsibility and attracting the cooperation of world corporations, including the most influential print and electronic media.

The selection

It was certainly an achievement to receive such an international recognition when I was still explaining my role to my own countrymen. But, it was only a nomination. The selection was long and full of formalities. Apart from answering various questions, I needed references from people who knew my work well and inform in detail about my social development background for Women’s Forum to consider my nomination process. I also had to fine-tune my ideas and action plans as per the Women’s Forum programme.

It was a lot. But then, I had a lot to show too. For 14 years, by then, I had been implementing the concept of social entrepreneurship in my region, as more than a way to economic profit. I was already participating in the motivation to bring social and economic changes. I was ready.

The trip

Come October, I was ready to board my flight. It was my third visit to France. As a regular traveller, I usually make sure that my travel plans are done well and my information is handy. But this time I made a slip and miscalculated the distance between Paris and the venue, Deauville. The result: I had to take a train from Paris to Deauville, arriving a day late! That I didn’t miss the main function the next day was a blessing.

The meet & the lessons

The theme of the Women’s Forum 2007 was: ‘Building Trust in our Societies’. The different systems that govern our societies are linked to science, technology and economy. The theme looked at how women fit into this socio-economic equation and can work on building trust and values in such governance. For instance:

  • How truly does the media reflect the ground realities?
  • What kind of role do women play in an enterprise?

For me, trust means to convey the message of bringing about social changes, even if it takes a lot of effort. Human beings are suspicious by nature. But as social entrepreneurs, it is important for us to challenge the suspicion and cultivate a spirit of trust in our target groups.

We also learnt about the economics of finance – how too much money would mean chasing too much risk, how the subprime mortgage market can have a meltdown leading to the ‘great unwind’ and also how to check if the implication of growth in developed economies really leads to a higher unemployment rate.

The role of Women’s Forum, France

The Women’s Forum highlights how women’s integration can really bring change in the competitive picture of economies. It also believes that women can themselves increase awareness about their importance and thereby focus on a healthy vision of changing the world.

I was privileged to be among the 800 participants – political leaders, academicians and others, including 120 world-famous orators – of the Women’s Forum 2007, who spoke about empowering a common platform through a strong global network of women. Some of the most eminent people who shared their thoughts were Carlos Ghosn, President, Renault France, CEO, Nissan Japan, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, the Vice-President of South Africa, Muhammad Yunus, Founding & Managing Director, Grameen Bank, Bangladesh (a recipient of ‘Laureate Nobel Peace Price – 2006’). Besides the general session, there were two types of groupings and three parallel sessions – discussing three separate topics at the same time.

Participants had the liberty to choose subjects of their liking and interest. The Rising Talents also formed a special group, interacting with influential mentors. Each group developed a feeling of kinship as they shared their thoughts and opinions.

The Forum provided considerable international media exposure (including its media partner, CNN) to the 20 Women Rising Talents, giving us a chance to share what we had learnt from the various sessions.  I also became a part of a JP Morgan documentary film, and share and interact on a global platform.

The recess or ‘discovery time’ was a unique and exciting way to link the Rising Talents with corporate sectors. Depending on our interest, we could visit stalls/counters dealing in travel, fashion and wellness to education, design and environment. All this time, the billboards flashed information about us, which helped in inviting interaction and having a wide response. The Women’s Forum also has a yearbook, with information including personal profiles, partnerships and business contacts.

The takeaway

The Women’s Forum, 2007 has etched a strong mark in my understanding of the importance of building a healthy and respectful relationship with people and communities. I realised that to augur change, it is essential to get out of one’s individual shell and build trust through truth and transparency. It made me introspect on my strengths and emboldened me through a common bond with the other 19 Rising Talents. Besides that, meeting my mentor, Beatrice Dautresme Executive Vice-President of L’Oréal Cosmetics further made me understand that guidance, critical discussion and systematised analysis from people who have been through the storm is necessary for growth.

This experience has inspired my commitment to pursue and perform effectively and efficiently, to translate promises into realities with conviction.