1 MAY 2015


4.22.15 - 4.24.15

Shobhana Bhartia, Tina Brown, Abigail Disney, Angelica Fuentes, Julie Louise Gerberding, Jack Hollis, Donna Langley, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Freida Pinto, John Prendergast, Judith Rodin, Meryl Streep, Ambassador Melanne Verveer and Diane von Furstenberg]

It was the sixth annual gathering of prominent women at New York's Lincoln Center without significant U.N. role or presence. The brilliant Founder, Tina Brown, former New Yorker editor, Daily Beast initiator and generally irrepressible hostess, led -- and closed -- the proceedings, as usual, in the evenings from 22 to 24 April. Equally bright, impressive and well-informed women drawn from a wide cultural, geographical, and professional background presented pressing serious issues without losing their sense of humour.

"Girls as Weapons of War" was on opening night, together with a presentation on "Tackling Indian Taboos and the Sons we Share," by Palestinian mothers from the Parents' Circle of Families Forum. "Three Great Women in Film" was mediated by Comedy Central's nightly news host Jon Stewart, with thoughtful participation by actress Meryl Streep.

Kidnapped Nigerian young women, "Gone Girls," started the next day's agenda, moderated by 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl. "Everyone's Problem" reflected on how women would wish to be there for their kids, their husbands, their aging parents, while having to deal with an open marketplace. It was moderated by Valerie Jarrett, U.S. President Obama's Senior Adviser. "Banishing the Devil" described the efforts of an Ugandan nun to save thousands of youths from enslavement by armed gangs. The impact of climate change was highlighted by the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, followed by a conversation on the fight against sexual violence. The legendary Helen Mirren, who gained admiration for genuinely acting the role of Queen Elizabeth II of the U.K., offered varied advice in an interview with Tina Brown. The "Lady Killer" heart disease, which hits one in three women, was the topic highlighted by singer Barbara Streisand, along with cardiologist Dr. Holly Anderson. Just before closing time, Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared in her own ambiance amongst admirers and friends.

Samantha Power, former Pulitzer winning author and current U.S. Representative to the U.N., opened the final day in a conversation with actress Robin Wright on endemic violence and corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where rape as a weapon of war is commonplace and the land's abundant mineral abuse perpetuate instability and conflict. It was followed with several items on new lifestyles, the influence of digital innovation, how the "age of intelligence is going to change the way we live," and an original presentation about the new "Generation Katniss" on how girls from 13 to 20 are emerging as a generation very different from the "Millennials." It was explored by British economist Noreena Hertz, interviewed by The Financial Times U.S. Managing Editor, Gillian Tett.

Where was the U.N.?

What happened to "U.N. Women," which presumably was "dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women?"

Very politically correct language was used at the time with very little to show for it. We were told when "U.N. Women" was ceremoniously established to cover all aspects of related U.N. activities, funds and programmes, that it was indeed "game-changing" and "improving lives of women and girls worldwide."

If that official U.N. venture on women could hardly make an impact on a gathering of prominent active "no-nonsense," straight-talking, confident, well-informed accomplished women just minutes away from New York's U.N. Headquarters, where else?

With the exception of Mary Robinson, who has her own credentials (though she thoughtfully referred to climate change, a part of her U.N. assignment), and Ambassador Power, who similarly has her own relevant accomplishments, there was hardly any substantive reference to relevant U.N. work which could easily be linked -- if there was an alert mind and informed contact to link.

The only reference to the head of "U.N. Women" was in a courteous, almost symbolic, inclusion of her name amongst 14 others. Hardly anyone noted -- let alone tried -- to pronounce the name Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.