Commonwealth Futures Commonwealth Day

COMMONWEALTH DAY – 13th March 2023, is celebrated annually to promote a peaceful global environment. Member states host their own festivities offering inspiration and hope for future generations to come.

Commonwealth Future a not-for-profit, non-political organisation striving for an optimistic future for the Commonwealth, hosted a luncheon at the Caledonian Club on 7th March in London, where it paid tribute to both global events. Organised by its Chairman Dr Zimar Sivardeen, and his team, the Commonwealth Future’s primary focus is to raise awareness of global eye care.

Founded in 2018, it aims to transform the lives of more than 2.4 billion people around the Commonwealth, by optimising sight and ensuring that access to eye care is available to everyone. The long-term vision is to be involved in shaping policy and sharing best practice by bringing together experts from around the world to help develop practical solutions.

Lord Henry Bellingham

Lord Henry Bellingham

The luncheon celebrated the diversity of culture and heritage across the Commonwealth with guest speakers who included, Lord Bellingham, a British Conservative Politician and former Barrister, who spoke about Africa and the importance of building soft power and personal relationships around the Commonwealth. Lord McNally, a former Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, and British Politician spoke about the Commonwealth as being like ‘any family’ where it is important to work at relationships, and to foster closer ones with the younger profile across the region.

Acknowledging and discussing International Women’s Day – 8th March, Mei Sim Lai OBE DL, originally from Malaysia, but of Chinese origin who was awarded an OBE for services to equal opportunities in the 2004 New Year Honours, pointed out that in her

opinion, equality and equity are not interchangeable by saying; ‘Equality is giving everyone a shoe, whilst equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.’

Speaking about the youth of the Commonwealth, as being representative of the present, rather than that of the future, Father Martin Hislop DL, the Representative Deputy Lieutenant in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames also discussed his Australian heritage, and how it has shaped him.

(Left to Right) Lynn Stanier MBE, Noor Azlina Zainal Abidin-Mills, Hiruni Rajapakse, Mei Sim Lai OBE DL, Ntee Bereng, Ajantha Tennakoon

(Left to Right) Lynn Stanier MBE, Noor Azlina Zainal Abidin-Mills, Hiruni Rajapakse, Mei Sim Lai OBE DL, Ntee Bereng, Ajantha Tennakoon

Integral to each of the speeches was the provision of eye care for women and children, and those less fortunate across the Commonwealth region. So as a gesture towards raising awareness of the importance of accessibility to eye care, Commonwealth Future board member Professor John Marshall MBE, Frost Professor of Ophthalmology at the Institute of Ophthalmology in association with Moorfield’s Eye Hospital, University College London, was delighted to donate a cheque for £250 to a representative from the Commonwealth Countries League (CCL) who work across the region promoting equality and opportunity for girls and young women.

Commenting on the event, Dr Sivardeen, Chairman of Commonwealth Future and store director at Specsavers New Malden said; ‘It was truly wonderful to celebrate Commonwealth Day which brings so many nations together, and also International Women’s Day, whose aim is to ensure equality and women’s empowerment. Our guest speakers were inspiring and enthusiastic in their discussions, which covered a range of important healthcare topics.’

Dr Sivardeen continued; ‘Our aim as an organisation is to ensure that eyesight provision is accessible to everyone through partnering with governments, like-minded organisations and other stakeholders to create a positive future, especially around the Commonwealth.’