Gabriella Havard, South Africa
Gaby Havard, aged 22 (at the time) was born and brought up in South Africa where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She has a special interest in the empowerment of women and helping young people integrate a spiritual perspective into their lives in a natural and authentic way. She currently lives in the UK where she coordinates activities at Inner Space, a meditation and personal development centre in Oxford, as well as supporting students with disabilities at Oxford Brookes University.
Although I am not a big city person, New York is a hub of creativity and diversity, and I found it fascinating being exposed to so many dynamic new ideas and people. While helping at the BK UN office I got involved in many interesting tasks from report writing for the blog, to publishing, to dialogue preparation, to networking with other organisations. This gave me a lot of experience and confidence, which has supported me in many other endeavours since.
During my time there I also attended the 52nd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – an annual conference bringing together governments and NGOs to share their experiences and recommendations on women’s issues across the globe. That year the priority theme was about financing for gender equality. The theme of the conference became the seed of inspiration for a small project to be created: ‘Developing Inner Resources’ – a values-based, capacity building initiative for young women in the context of care-giving. The project was piloted in South Africa with the South African Red Cross, and in Mexico with women (recovering from cancer??) The outcomes of the project were shared the following year at the CSW at a parallel event hosted by the Brahma Kumaris.
I have always had an inclination towards humanitarian issues, so being in an environment in which these challenges are being discussed and faced at a global level was incredibly eye-opening. I enjoyed attending the various meetings and open-sessions, giving me a deeper insight into the functioning of the UN, the various bodies that make it up, and the ways in which grass-roots endeavours and policy-making need to work together. It also helped me build important bridges in my understanding between our spiritual principles and their ‘real-world’ application, as I thought about what it really means to be spiritually empowered, and living in a world in which the emphasis tends to be very much on external/visible solutions. I realised how important it is to work from an inside-out approach in order for real, sustainable change to occur.