A Trinidad dialogue on “The Four Faces of Women” brought together forty prominent female leaders in a day-long, let-down-your-hair type of easy-unending conversation at the Raja Yoga Center, Pointe-a-Pierre Road in the heart of San Fernando recently.

The soul searching exploration began with the concept of ‘the eternal face’ in which the woman was portrayed as the keeper of infinite wisdom. The child in her possessed innocence, purity, spontaneity and freedom which she tends to hide in order to protect herself in today’s merciless world. And while some women wear the eternal face throughout their lives, others wear a traditional face that reflected an ancient beauty capturing the essence of the spirit. She expressed herself through art, music, poetry, song and dance until desire sweeps her away while she clings on to keep herself whole.

Arriving early on a clear day, the women climbed the hill and up wooden steps to a spacious hall. They took their seats in a circle with an open coffee bar and promptly at 8.00a.m the conversation began. A booklet, opened to Page 2, was reassuring to the women of ‘the traditional face’ for she was shaped by those who had gone before, was raised to take her place in the world.

The third face of the woman was a modern one which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar identified with when she arrived following a delicious vegetarian lunch of peas-paneer, bhaji, mango talkari, rice, roti, salad and fruit drinks. The modern face was worn by progressive women and one that challenged and rebelled. It was also a face of discontentment. A face that recognised the limitations of tradition, that felt trapped by rules imposed by others, it was a face that sought to change traditions to begin new ways.

The former Prime Minister relaxed in the company of women spoke of her orthodox Hindu family in which girls were groomed to become good wives and mothers. She said that her mother stood up to the men giving her the opportunity to leave home at the age of sixteen to further her studies abroad. She recalled a conversation with her husband’s uncle which she said she always remembered.

“I said to him suppose I went away and he found someone else and he replied, ‘suppose you don’t go and he found someone else.”

She spoke of the good fortune of being surrounded all her life by people who cared and when asked how she managed to keep order among her political associates, she said the qualities of a mother helped her to keep the peace and strive to bring out the best in those who worked with her.

Continuing with the “Face of Shakti” or one of divine power, the women were told that it brought out the greatest potential of every woman. A face of transformation, the Shakti created new ways with actions that spring from wisdom. A woman with the Shakti face became detached and able to remove herself from illusion, was fearless and intent on returning to the purity of her eternal self.

The women spoke of incidents that shaped their lives. Sister Hemlata Sanghi, spiritual head of the Raja Yoga Center said that when she was a student at medical college, she decided to have a good time and bunked classes.

“I found out that those who did not attend a certain number of lectures would be banned from writing the examination. I attended every class and luckily was able to write the exams,” she said.

Her life changed directions once more when on becoming a medical practitioner she observed patients sufferings and felt there had to be a better way to stay healthy.

‘Yoga controlled the mind and healed the body,” she said.

The Four Faces of Woman dialogue was first held in Australia and was the first in a series planned for Trinidad and the Caribbean.

Sister Kay spoke of growing up with brothers.

“I was told I couldn’t wear trousers or climb trees and at age fourteen my parents began looking for a suitable boy for me,” she said.

Others shared life experiences including struggles that made them who they were in today’s society. They explored the feminine edge; gentle yet commanding, dwelling on the idea that women thought they have to be more aggressive to get through in life. Honesty was lacking in leaders; the women felt complimenting themselves for being more honest and transparent.

A woman empowerment initiative, the dialogue flowed smoothly in silent agreement that power came to women intrinsically as they tapped into their inner resources to make life’s journey more meaningful. In the end, it brought out the best in local women giving them the opportunity to explore their inner strengths and weaknesses.