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TEDx Colombo presents TEDWomen 2020

A livestream event featuring a talk by Sri Lankan spiritual teacher and leader JayaShri Maathaa

By Naveed Rozais

TEDxColombo hosted a livestream of the international TEDWomen 2020 conference on 14 November. The TEDWomen 2020 conference originally took place on 12 November with a special livestream event being held by TEDxColombo by registration only. 

The theme of TEDWomen 2020 was “Fearless”, with the virtual conference drawing on the collective courage and community of women across the world to take a global step forward together in this uncertain time. TEDWomen 2020 included TEDx chapters from all around the world to curate a talk each to be featured on livestream as content for TEDxWomen organisers around the world. TEDx chapters that curated a talk included TEDxSydney, TEDxLagos, TEDxPortofSpain, TEDxMontrealWomen, and TEDxColombo. 

The TEDWomen 2020 conference took place in three sessions. Session 1: Bring It On was a session of inspiring talks and performances designed to take participants on a journey of curiosity, wonder, and learning. Session 1 featured speakers like politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) champion and activist Renee Montgomery, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Yukon Regional Kluane Adamek, civic leader Maria Teresa Kumar, poet and author Apiorkor Seyiram Ashong-Abbey, infectious disease researcher Sophie Rose, and TEDx Learning Specialist Bianca DeJesus. 

Session 2: Raise Your Voice was a series of talks and performances from some of the world’s most extraordinary risk-takers and innovators. Speakers in this session included educator and performer Adie Delaney; women’s health specialist Anita Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, human and civil rights attorney and advocate Kylar W. Broadus; architect, artist, and designer Elizabeth Diller; legal and business integrity leader Angelique Parisot-Potter, builder Tracy Young; and singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin. 

The final session, Session 3: Onward! featured speakers like feminist activist and writer Gloria Steinem; businesswoman Pat Mitchell; AI (artificial intelligence) advocate Jamila Gordon; former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, economist and international development expert Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; musician, actress, and activist Kesha; spiritual teacher and leader JayaShri Maathaa, NASA Astronaut Megan McArthur; and poet and author Apiorkor Seyiram Ashong-Abbey.

The talk curated by TEDxColombo featured spiritual teacher and leader JayaShri Maathaa. Having spent decades in the corporate and business world, JayaShri Maathaa came to a profound realisation that caused her to leave that life behind. Now she devotes her life to helping people to apply Buddhist teachings to their own lives, to quieten their minds and create positive personal transformations.

JayaShri Maathaa spoke on the power of gratitude, explaining how she went on a journey of self-seeking and discovery at the age of 38, going through a “conscious dying process”, letting go of everything in her life including her intimate relationship, her career, and an established business of over 12 years. JayaShri Maathaa explained that through all this, she had a magical mantra in her head. The simple words “thank you”. 

“When you say thank you, it creates a harmony between you and the external environment,” JayaShir Maathaa said, adding: “Initially it is just a word without true feeling or gratitude. But a word is a sound, a sound is a vibration, and that vibration creates energy. After a while, that energy penetrates the heart centre and the rest of the body.” 

Speaking on TEDxColombo’s participation in the TEDWomen 2020 conference, TEDxColombo Licensee Safra Anwer shared that nominating a speaker to represent Sri Lanka at TEDWomen 2020 was a careful process, with the TEDx Colombo team working closely with TEDWomen on who the right speaker would be based on the speakers TEDWomen 2020 already had lined up as well as making sure that each speaker’s message was unique. 

“JayaShri Maatha’s message resonated with us because of the extreme change she had made in her life at an age when she was doing really well for herself,” Anwer said, adding: “Also, JayaShri Maathaa was someone whose idea and message was very simple and something that everyone could take back with them in a very short period.” Anwer also shared that JayaShri’s message comes at a very uncertain time, globally with the pandemic, and from a TEDWomen perspective, at a politically uncertain time in US history as well. 

Speaking on being able to contribute to the global TED platform via the TEDWomen 2020 conference, Anwer said: “It’s every organiser’s dream to have a speaker featured on the global TED platform. The idea that we could do that was absolutely amazing. This means that TED has been watching TEDxColombo as a platform and that the 10 years of work that we have and the speakers we have featured locally have had an impact.”