Acknowledgment: Original ICFC logo conceived by Ms. Sarina Anand. Redesigned and animated by Mr. Santosh Shail.
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2014 Events (in reverse chronological order)
Sunday, Nov 16, 2014 (3:00 - 5:00 PM)
Speaker:  Dr. Pradeep Merchant

TOPIC: Opportunities and Challenges in Maternal Newborn Care in Canada and India

Suneet Singh Tuli

[See News Article in Ottawa Star (PDF) dated Feb 13, 2015]

The first 28 days of life - the neonatal period - is the time when children are most vulnerable. According to the WHO, in 2013 roughly 45% of under-five deaths occured during this tenuous period, mostly from preventable causes and treatable diseases, despite the knowledge, technologies and procedures for lifesaving interventions being available.

UNICEF reports that around 2/3’s of neonatal deaths occur in just 10 countries, with India accounting for more than a quarter and Nigeria for about a tenth. Improving the health of mothers, newborns and children and reducing the number of preventable deaths are amongst Canada’s top priorities.

At the Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit held in Toronto in May 2014, Prime Minister Harper announced Canada's commitment of $3.5 billion to improve the health of mothers and children and supporting global efforts to end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborn and children under five.

About the Speaker: Dr. Pradeep Merchant is well-known and respected in Ottawa and is currently the Site Chief of the Division of Neonatology at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital and an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Paediatrics at the University of Ottawa.

Pradeep has played an active role in building strong professional and business organizations in Ottawa. He was an extremely successful Chairperson of the Indo-Canada Ottawa Business Chamber in 2010-12. He has worked tirelessly with both the private and political sectors to improve educational, economical and cultural ties between India and Canada and has volunteered and contributed actively to many think tank discussions at various provincial and federal level roundtable meetings to enhance the understanding and relationship between the two great parliamentary democracies. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of India Canada Chamber of Commerce in Toronto.

Dr. Merchant was instrumental in developing, and is the current Co-Chair of, the Canada-India Center for Excellence in Science, Technology, Trade and Policy at Carleton University and is also on the Board of Governors for Carleton University. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Council of Ottawa and the Board of Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation.

In 2013, Dr. Merchant received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for outstanding Canadians from the Governor General of Canada.

Sunday, Sept 21, 2014 (3:00 - 5:00 PM)
Speaker:  Suneet Singh Tuli
President and CEO, Datawind Ltd.

TOPIC: Solving India’s Education Puzzle

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Suneet Singh TuliWith hundreds of millions of people that can’t read or write, the need for solving India’s education challenges have become a key government priority.

Statistics show India’s student body at 210 million, but if you extrapolate the number of drop-outs, that number should be as high as 360 million.

Suneet will speak about the impact of internet access on education, and his Company’s efforts to break the affordability barrier to help deliver internet access to India’s forgotten billion.

About the Speaker:

Suneet Singh Tuli, founder and CEO of DataWind, is responsible for its overall vision, strategy and execution. At DataWind, and at previous ventures, he has led development of innovative scanning, printing, imaging and multimedia products that received numerous awards and accolades including recognition by the Guinness Book of Records.

Most recently DataWind’s Aakash/UbiSlate tablets have received worldwide attention as the company executes a vision to empower the next three billion people with computing and internet access. In 2012 this tablet was launched at the United Nations by the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. DataWind went public in late June 2014 and is now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Suneet has been recognized by Forbes magazine as a “classroom revolutionary” using innovative technologies to reinvent education globally. He was also recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012 at the World Sikh Awards and recently named Visionary of the Year by the International Communities Forum. He regularly speaks about social innovation at various international forums including the Internet Freedom Conference in Stockholm, the Beyond Access Conference in Washington D.C. and the Digital World Conference in Dhaka.

Sunday, June 8, 2014 (3:00 - 5:00 PM)
Speaker:  Joe Thottungal
Chef & Restaurateur (a.k.a Mr. Coconut Lagoon)

TOPIC: Tantalizing & Tasty: the Cuisine of Kerala — God's Own Country

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  • Pavithra MuddayaHow do you select and open a coconut?
  • What are the main differences between South North Indian cuisine?
  • Share the experiences of a culinary tour of Kerala

About the Speaker: Joe Thottungal was born in Kerala, a state in South India, often referred to as God’s Own Country. He received his Hotel Management and Catering diploma in Chennai, started his career at the five star Leela Kempinski Hotel in Mumbai and then moved to Saudi Arabia as a Chef de partie job at a 5 star exclusive resort under the guidance of Chef John R. Stevens and Chef Goivanni Telles.

In 1998, he immigrated to Canada and started his Canadian culinary journey at the Centro Bar and Grill, moved to Royal York Hotel under the famous Master Chef, McNeil, CMC. His next success was at the newly opened Park Hyatt Hotel where he helped to open up the Annona Restaurant as a Sous Chef. Joe then displayed his talents and wowed the crème de la crème crowd of Casino Windsor and the Crowne Royal Hotel as Executive Sous Chef receiving his Chef de Cuisine certification and becoming a Certified Chef de Cuisine in 2003.

Joe’s passion for cooking and hospitality gave birth in 2004 to the Coconut Lagoon Restaurant – the first of its kind in the nation’s capital. This is his own venture where he displays his talents and showcases the exclusive cuisine of Kerala with a modern twist. Coconut Lagoon received a lot of positive reviews and quickly became the talk of the town for its unique Kerala delicacies.

Joe is active in the community and is a member of Les Toques Blanches, Ottawa Chapter, the CCFCC and, in March 2014, he led a very successful (sold out) Culinary Tour Group to Kerala.

Sunday, April 27, 2014 (3:00 - 5:00 PM)
Speaker:  Pavithra Muddaya
Indian Handloom Designer
TOPIC: SAREES TELL A STORY...of Women's Personal Economic Empowerment

The talk by Pavithra Muddaya will introduce the audience to India’s priceless heritage of handloom weaving traditions and provide an overview of the significance that the geography of the land, the value of the florae and the special meaning, sacred rivers played in the development of specific motifs and their attributes. The focus will be on preservation and revival of designs and traditions while creating an opportunity for weavers in India to explore innovations that will provide them with a sustainable livelihood.

  • Some Myths & Stories that are significant to Saree Weaving
    * The speaker will discuss myths and stories associated with saree weaving.

The process
* Efforts are being made to revive the fast vanishing weaving skill sets and create a steady sustainable livelihood opportunity for weavers.
* Step by step set of design instructions are given taking into account the weavers present skill set and the loom capacity, to help them perfect their craft.
* Weavers’ confidence is built up so as to to motivate and nurture a sense of pride in their craft and creations.
* Environmentally friendly livelihood projects are created by recycling material such as waste yarns.

The results
* Saree weaving has created a livelihood path for women.
* Has encouraged the exchange of cross-cultural designs both at the national and international level through the trade of textiles.
* Created opportunities and possibilities for handloom weavers to market their work to designers and clients nationally & internationally through the ‘Vimors saree revival‘ program.
* VIMOR will share three examples and personal success stories of weavers.
* The goal is to create sustainable and economically viable livelihood programs for women weavers in India.

About the Speaker: Pavithra Muddaya: A revivalist designer in the Indian handlooms space works with local weavers in India to revive heritage designs, in hand-loomed silk and cotton saris. Her mother (late) Chimy Nanjappa set up VIMOR in 1974 and has pioneered the revival of traditional designs and weaving in Karnataka by training and educating the weavers in revival techniques. They opened a handloom saree boutique to focus on traditional south Indian designs in 1975. The focus of the business was to promote and revive traditional designs and at the same time to guide weavers to create success through design interventions.

Over the last 30 years most of these weavers have grown to own successful shops and businesses. The constant interactions with the weavers grew into a passion to document most of the handloom terms, designs and technical details of antique sarees and textiles. Using this data and information was pivotal to motivating weavers to continue to weave, as it gave them a sense of pride and history.

Having a vast collection of Heritage South Indian sarees was an advantage which resulted in using these to create reproductions for the Festival of India with Mrs. Pupul Jayakar and Marthand Singh. Interactions and appreciation from stalwarts in the field like Kamaladevi Chattopadyay and Pupul Jayakar was an inspiration to reach out to a larger cross section of weavers.

India Foundation for the Arts funded a grant to research and document the “Molkalmuru design”.. This research traced the migration of weavers from different regions thereby contributing to the creation of a very special design and saree weaving technique. This knowledge would otherwise have been lost.

Pavithra has also worked extensively in other areas: Arni ,Kanchipuram, Molkalmuru, Salem, Hubli and Gadag.

Reviving saree designs by simplifying techniques has resulted in preserving traditional designs and motifs while creating success for weavers without incurring huge financial investments. By investing in skill development of the weavers and helping them find new markets for sarees and fabric yardage, it is possible to ensure that the craft and tradition of handloom weaving will continue to grow and develop providing them economic prosperity.

Pavithra Muddaya will present her research findings in a lecture/slide show and will share her vast experience in the field. A selection of heritage reproduction sarees from the Vimor collection will also be on display at the venue.

Sunday, March 9, 2014 (3:00 - 5:00 PM)
Speaker:  Reena Kukreja, Filmmaker
TOPIC: Tied in a Knot: Narratives from Bride Seeking Regions of India

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Reena Kukreja_1 Reena Kukreja_2

Parts of North India are facing an acute shortage of brides. Years of girl dis-preference now forces men to travel to far-off poorer regions of India to find wives. Tied in a Knot provides a unique look into the everyday harsh reality of cross-region brides: the stigmatization, racism, rejection and abuse they face from conjugal families and communities and how they try to resist it.

Who are these men seeking wives from elsewhere? Are the women trafficked for forced marriage or not? Why aren’t these women able to get married locally? How are they treated by the families and the communities into which they are married? Tied in a Knot unravels these questions in a thought-provoking manner.

About the Speaker: Reena Kukreja defines herself as a feminist activist and as an independent documentary film-maker. Over the last 23 years, she has produced documentaries and conducted research on women’s issues, child labor and environmental pollution. She divides time between India and Canada, doing filmmaking, research and teaching at the Department of Film & Media Studies and Gender Studies at Queens University, Kingston, Canada. She also guest lectures twice a year at the Centre for Conflict and Peace, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.

Her last documentary, “Delhi Bound For Work” was an intimate look at the lives of rural women migrating to work as live-in domestic workers in urban centers of India. It has won first prizes in festivals such as Jeevika Livelihood Film Festival 2010 and Development Film Festival 2011. It was an official selection at Women’s International Film Festival, USA; Anthropology Film Festival, Canada; Reframe Peterborough Film Festival, Canada, and Tunis Film Festival, Tunisia, amongst others. Reena’s documentaries are often used as tools for grassroots activism and have been showcased by groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.