SPEECH BY HIS HIGHNESS PRINCE KARIM AGA KHAN
New Delhi, India
26 March 1980
ALL INDIA WOMEN'S CONFERENCE
As one of a few rather lonely males in such a distinguished, elegant and talented gathering of beautiful women, I find myself for once, and my family would readily confirm the rarity of the event, almost at a loss at what to say. I am not even very sure that I should be here at all. Like the Prime Minister, I too have never joined a woman's organization, but for different reasons.
It is most of all, perhaps, a privilege and a very personal pleasure for us once again to meet your Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Her remarkable gifts of leadership are universally admired and India is fortunate indeed to have Mrs. Gandhi at the helm in a period of exceptionally grave and complex international events.
One respect of your national life has always struck Me forcibly: the immense number and variety of organizations and people who engage in voluntary welfare work, aimed at the relief of the poor, the sick and the deprived. The Indians are a compassionate people. There are societies which care for orphans, trusts to promote low-cost housing, charity to help the blind and the deaf, groups who raise funds for medical programmes such as eradication of tuberculosis, for religious education, for day care centres, for scholarship and bursaries. The list is almost endless and touches every aspect of the human condition.
This is admirable, indeed it is. Yet how many have considered whether all this human effort, this spirit of service and sacrifice volunteered with such selfless devotion, is used as efficiently as it could be, and if it was, what the results might be?
Social institutions, whether operated by the State or by private benefactors, are not of course expected to make profit. More often they operate at a substantial loss. Nearly everywhere in the world, this sector of the national economy - health, education and housing -absorbs huge sums of public money and private charity.
In our own institutions operating in these fields, I have become more and more aware that because they were not profit-oriented, and therefore proper management systems did not appear so central to their very existence, the correct instruments for measuring performance, cost efficiency and management competence never were created. In recent years, therefore, we have spent considerable time and efforts in introducing appropriately qualified people and management systems into our welfare institutions and I am happy to be able to say that the results have been encouraging.
This is perhaps an area in which our experience is not unique. The better use of all resources, including voluntary, philanthropic, non-profit social welfare, is a matter which I believe to be of considerable importance to the developing world, and express here a hope that this is an area in which the All India Women's Conference will be able to guide others, as this clearly is an area in which the Conference has been most successful.
I finish by expressing to the All India Women's Conference, My warmest congratulations for this magnificent new complex and My admiration and My most sincere wishes for the Conference's continued success.
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