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Shinnyo-en Foundation Sponsors Premier Women Conference in Long Beach

First Lady Maria Shriver and Foundation CEO, Dr. Haru Inouye

First Lady Maria Shriver and Foundation CEO, Haru Inouye

The 2009 California Governor and First Lady’s Women’s Conference in Long Beach, California gave inspiration to thousands of women. The conference featured a prestigious group of speakers including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, First Lady Maria Shriver, Katie Couric, Madeleine K. Albright, Sir Richard Branson, Dr. Jane Goodall, Geena Davis, Elizabeth Edwards and Caroline Kennedy. An estimated 25,000 attended the two-day series of events.

Somaly Man

Somaly Man

In a morning session focusing on themes of self-worth, empowerment and leadership, Somaly Mam, a native of Cambodia who was sold into sex slavery as a child told her story.  Somaly Mam, was born in Cambodia and was forced into sex slavery at a very young age. After escaping she established in 1966 an organization – Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances that has, to date, saved more than 5,000 people.

In a roundtable discussion Gov. Schwarzenegger stressed the importance of women in his decision-making, noting that half of his staff consists of women.

Maria Shriver, Nichelle Blanco and Jennifer Day

Maria Shriver, Nichelle Blanco and Jennifer Day

Maria Shriver said: “I am honored to again be hosting what has become the nation’s premier forum for women,” said Shriver. “With this year’s theme of Be Who You Are…An Architect of Change. Pass it On, The Women’s Conference seeks to inspire women to see themselves as advocates for their own lives, activists in their communities and the architects of change for our world.”

Shriver started a new event at this year’s conference, A Day of Transformation, which expanded The Women’s Conference 2009 to a full two-day event. The Day of Transformation was sponsored by the Shinnyo-en Foundation and ran from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, October 26.

Maria Shriver

Maria Shriver

A Day of Transformation included special educational sessions on the “Tips and Tools for How To Become an Architect of Change.” The attendees learnt about: How to start your own business; How to start a non-profit; How to get a job, How to write your own book and get it published; How to sell yourself, and How to break the cycle of stress.

In his opening speech Haru Inouye, CEO of the Shinnyo-en Foundation said: “… our Foundation is funded by Shinnyo-en a Buddhist order whose leader is a woman. Her Holiness Shinso Ito, is an Archbishop, the highest rank in Buddhism. Her mother, Tomoji Ito, devoted her life to serving others. She was the first woman in the 1,000-year history of Daigoji monastery in Kyoto to receive the rank of Archbishop as a lay-woman. Tomoji was also a wife and mother and she often shared Buddhist teachings while she was working in the kitchen or doing laundry demonstrating the teachings in real life.

Shinnyo-en Foundation CEO, Dr. Haru Inouye

Shinnyo-en Foundation CEO, Haru Inouye

Right up until her last breath, she was still thinking of helping others. Tomoji’s daughter Shinso was so inspired by her mother that she followed in her footsteps. And today, Shinso Ito is the Archbishop of Shinnyo-en Buddhism with over one million followers around the world. 12 years ago, she became the first woman in the  in 1,135 year history to officiate at the Daigoji temple.” This amazing story of a mother and daughter – devoting their lives for others – touched the hearts of the participants and left many women inspired to make a difference in their lives and that of others.

The Shinnyo-en Foundation’s booth saw thousands of women who stopped by to have a fruit juice – donated by Jamba Juice – or a wonderful and relaxing massage donated by the Dean of Student Affairs of the Corinthian Colleges. The students offered their calming services for the women who left refreshed.  Many booth visitors learned about the work and activities of the Foundation and left saying that they would like to keep in touch and learn more about the various projects and initiatives.

Nancy Thigpin

Foundation Winner Nancy holds up her new digital camera

The highlight at the booth were the various Raffle Prizes that were given to the lucky winners at the draw!  Nancy Thigin, the happy winner of the digital camera said: “What a great win!  I’ve been reading awesome reviews about it and I’d been looking into buying a new one for some time…so this is perfect!  I am really grateful to you guys.”

Joyce who won the IPod said: “Thank you so much for the IPod…..I checked your website and found what you’re doing is really meaningful! I will tell all my friends about “Six Billion Paths to Peace.”

Foundation Winner Joyce with her new IPod

Foundation Winner Joyce with her new IPod

The first day of the conference ended with Night at The Village, a series of interactive experiences, offering attendees the chance to “Meet, Mix and Mingle with Architects of Change.” The Village provided opportunities for thousands of women to network, connect, commit to service, meet companies making a difference in California, and learn to live healthier, fuller lives.

For those who could not attend, many women also watched the conference live on its Web site at CaliforniaWomen.org.

The conference is often referred to as “the conference with a conscience,” and it is produced by the non-profit organization, the California Governor & First Lady‘s Conference on Women.

The Women's Conference 2009

The Women's Conference 2009

Proceeds from The Women’s Conference, Night at The Village and A Day of Transformation benefited the conference’s WE Programs, which seek to empower women all year round. The non-profit, non-partisan Women’s Conference organization, also known as the California Governor and First Lady’s Conference on Women, has formed partnerships with organizations in the U.S. and abroad to develop ongoing and far-reaching women’s empowerment programs.

Please go here to see the video of the speakers from this years Conference.