to biratnagar and back

i got back from biratnagar last night. it was an eventful three days in the busy eastern industrial city where rotary international district 3292 i.e. nepal was hosting it’s 4th annual district conference at the birendra sabhagriha. basu dev golyan, the current district governor, is from biratnagar.

the district conference featured discussions, lectures from some well known personalities, activities – formal and informal, cultural shows – in all it was balanced out between serious topics of speeches and light entertainment in the evenings and of course, a lot of socializing. i couldn’t attend all the talks because i was part of the Group Study Exchange (GSE) outbound team and had other responsibilities, but i did listen to Rtn. Shekhar Mehta, Dr. Jayant Kulkarni, Anil Chitrakar, Malina Joshi and Rtn. Kul Chandra Gautam.

i’ve heard anil chitrakar speak before too and i always find his talks interesting. i agree with one of this points on how rotary sould build it’s image. he talked about projecting the right numbers – instead of talking about how many clubs and how many numbers and focus should be on how many people they’ve reached out to. but as one of my new friends and outbound GSE member, Sanjeev pointed out later during dinner, he shouldn’t have said ‘deaf and dumb’. I am fine with the word deaf but chitrakar said ‘dumb’ as well. coming from an educated and inspiring leader such as him, it was quite inappropriate. it is difficult to avoid using the word deaf, but i think the preferred term is hearing impaired. i am not really emphasizing the need to be very very politicaly correct, but there are certain words that simply sound disrespectful.

Gender eqaulity and sensitivity is another issue anamika di (another outbound gse member) talked about over dinner. (in fact, until the 1970s women weren’t allowed in rotary international). There were hardly any women on the panel or on stage. we feel that next year, the district conference should have a topic on gender issues and actually have training for rotarians on gender sensitivity. honestly, i was very apalled by the spouse’s program (i.e. wives of rotarians). i thought they would be some intellectually stimulating programs, instead they had musical chair, running and brisk walking competitions..with prizes. seriously?

there was only one female keynote speaker and i missed her talk. Archana Bhatnagar’s speech, i heard was very good. she spoke on family values. At that time, I was visiting the Community Based Rehabilitation center in the area with the GSE team members from Seattle, Lindsey (rotary ambassadorial scholar), Geeta (Rotaract in Brt) and Dr. Mamta (Rotarian in Brt). The GSE team from Seattle returns home today. The members are Chris Loeffler, Robert Martin, Michael Majeed and Jason Beloso. Steve Fuller from District 5030 is the team leader. I am glad I got to meet all of them and spend time with them in the three days at Biratnagar because our team will be meeting them in Seattle in April. read more at their blog here: http://gse2011seattle.blogspot.com/

there are five members, including myself, in the outbound team and we are from different walks of life. we have a team leader who is a rotarian from nepal. we will be starting a separate blog about our adventures soon! i am very excited, especially after meeting so many people at the district conference. honestly, this was the first time i’d met and talked to so many people from different parts of the country in this few days.

GSE is a program hosted by the Rotary Foundation and till now some 70,000 people across the world have taken part in it. going to the district conference made me realize the high value and respect placed on this program. everywhere we went, people would come and tell us, “oh, so you are the GSE members?”, congratulate us and then we’d have a series of photo taking sessions. i felt very honored and special. after all, we will be representing Nepal in a place we’ve never been to. and out of the five members, three of us don’t have any background in Rotary activities. in fact, Rotarians aren’t allowed to apply for the program. Rotaracts can though. am learning a lot about rotary i guess.

in any case, the conference was a great experience.

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