UN CSW68 Parallel Forum: BLIA Shares India's Hope Village Poverty Alleviation Project

The 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) commenced on March 11th and is scheduled to run until March 22nd at the UN Headquarters in New York. Once again, the BLIA World Headquarters has participated in the event as a NGO. On March 14th, a parallel forum was organized at the UN Church Center, focusing on the theme "Hope Through Education: India's Hope Village."

During the forum, attendees will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the living conditions of the severely impoverished people in India, learn about how the BLIA is assisting them in improving their lives, and reflect on what actions can be taken to help those experiencing hardship around the world.

The speakers for the forum "Hope Through Education: India's Hope Village" will include Venerable Yung Ku, Vice Secretary General of America East; Venerable Jue Cheng, Vice Secretary General Southeast Asia; Venerable Miao Ru, Abbess of Fo Guang Shan Kolkata Buddhist Centre; and Dr. Geethakumari, President of BLIA-Chennai. They will share touching stories from India's Hope Village during the forum. Additionally, Mabel Lam, from the United Nations Affairs Committee, will discuss how the BLIA's activities align with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Venerable Jue Cheng emphasized during the press conference held at Fo Guang Shan New York Temple on the 12th that this year's parallel forum focuses on the educational project of India's Hope Village. The BLIA is entering Hope Village through education.

"Venerable Master Hsing Yun advised against trying to change others' religions, so our purpose here is not to convert, but to share the universal compassion inherent in Buddhism, through the practice of the Three Acts of Goodness, particularly aimed at children," explained Venerable Jue Cheng. Continuing, she stated, "Our goal is not solely to promote equality and compassion, but to bring a ray of light and hope into their lives. Believing in the inherent equality of Buddha nature, one's background should not hinder their access to education. We aspire to alter the destiny of impoverished villagers through education and diligent effort."

After years of dedicated effort, the Hope Village project has achieved remarkable success. The enrollment rate of children has surged from under 5% to an impressive 95%. Moreover, Hope Village strongly resonates with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, addressing key aspects such as poverty eradication, education provision, equality promotion, access to clean water and sanitation, ensuring food security, and enhancing living conditions. It's noteworthy that all endeavours undertaken by BLIA are in perfect alignment with the United Nations' overarching objectives.

Venerable Miao Ru, who has been serving in India for nearly two decades, highlighted that despite India's extensive education system, impoverished families face challenges in covering school fees. Moreover, children frequently enter the workforce at a young age to ease their families' financial strain, resulting in parental reluctance to prioritize education. "The pivotal point lies in shifting parents' perspectives first, as this is essential for transformative change in their lives. Therefore, our involvement in Hope Village is geared towards not just educating children but also enlightening parents," she underscored.

Venerable Yung Ku highlighted that following the Hope Village photography exhibition at the Fo Guang Shan New York Temple, many pieces will be exhibited in Toronto, Canada, allowing a broader audience to learn about the inner fortitude of impoverished individuals. Notably, through the BLIA Hope Village project, each book and pen provided to children carries their dreams, fostering hope for transformative change in their lives.