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City Weekend

Unique TEDx event is the kind of girl talk that inspires Hong Kong women from all walks of life

Tales of hardship and the indomitable human spirit launch discussions about women’s issues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2018, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 January, 2018, 11:50am

Since the #MeToo movement reached Hong Kong’s shores, local public figures have been speaking up and sharing their encounters. The campaign has brought women together, with many believing there is no better time than now to further advance gender issues. One of the platforms for this is through TED talks.

TED is a non-profit organisation based on the sharing of ideas through conferences and talks from people across diverse groups and professions.

“In bustling Hong Kong, so many of us want to support one another, inspire one another, learn from each other and live the best life possible. There is a genuine desire for connection, community and positive stories of women and girls making changes in our city,” Jen Flowers, co-chairwoman of TEDxTinHauWomen, says.

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The event is a new programme under TEDx, an international community that organises TED-style talks around the world. TEDxTinHauWomen is the only annual TEDx event dedicated to women in Hong Kong.

The name, “TinHauWomen”, pays homage to Tin Hau – the Chinese goddess of the sea – and recognises Hong Kong’s unique maritime and spiritual history.

In November last year, organisers held the inaugural event, which explored the theme of “Bridges – Two Become One”. The half-day programme included exclusive streaming of talks from the global TEDWomen event in New Orleans and a line-up of local speakers with “ideas worth sharing”, networking and community activities.

Flowers, a mother of two, says the idea behind the occasion was to bridge the gap between women from all walks of life, no matter their age, demographic or ethnicity.

“We realised in Hong Kong, there wasn’t a dedicated annual women’s event in the TEDx community. There are a lot of conferences and related events, involving women in the corporate world, female lawyers, artists, and women in the financial business. But we never get an event that brings together all types of women.”

We never get an event that brings together all types of women
Jen Flowers, co-chairwoman, TEDxTinHauWomen

TEDxTinHauWomen assembled a diverse range of speakers to appeal to different groups such as artists, those who are health conscious, mothers and young women.

“Most women’s groups in Hong Kong are very categorised, breaking up into corporate women and female entrepreneurs. It’s not that it’s a bad thing. But by doing that you’re not going to see a lot of athletes [for example] showing up at your corporate or financial events.”

Flowers says she believes having a wide variety of speakers helped to provide a more attractive platform and fix the hierarchical gaps in the city’s system.

She recalls an inspiring story from one of her team members.

Fiona Callanan-Thorsby was a high-powered banker at a global investment company. The mother of two worked across two continents and had to travel frequently. She was a victim of the 2004 tsunami which hit extensive areas throughout Asia, and she lost a leg in the disaster.

The tough survivor now dedicates her life to charity and being an advocate for disability services in Asia.

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“In sharing her tragic experience with attendees at our events, she will talk about her journey, her horrific experience, and how she coped with having to get back up, literally. When she shared her story on stage, we were all just so inspired. She is the walking embodiment of the fact that people cannot be broken,” Flowers says.

Then there is Cristina Tahoces, who left a successful career in the corporate world after battling with severe health issues from her first pregnancy, according to Flowers.

Tahoces later pursued a diploma in holistic nutrition and started her business, Thrive Nutrition Practice, to help others reach their potential.

“As a nutritionist she shares her advice on how women need to understand and work with the mind-body connection to bring their best selves to the table,” Flowers says.

To keep up the momentum, TinHauWomen will hold events throughout the year and address issues that are relevant to the #MeToo movement.

More importantly, Flowers and her group hope participants can gain one thing, above all, from the event – to be inspired.

“We know that we are not going to change everybody’s lives but if we can make an impact so that they can make a positive change and have someone share their stories. Then we will feel that we have made a difference in the community,” Flowers says.