The Swaminarayan Sampraday is exclusively for everyone. Everyone has a Guru to turn to and seek direct guidance from, including women, and this aspect makes the Swaminarayan Sampraday unique.
The Guru for females is the wife of the Dharmavanshi Acharya and is addressed by the title Akhand Sobhagyavati Gadiwalashri. She is affectionately referred to as Baa, (mother) by her disciples as she is the mother of the sampraday. We as females are fortunate to seek direct guidance from her and need not ask questions regarding female issues to male priests.
Gadiwalashri is regarded with the same importance to women as Acharya Maharajshri is to men, and so she is to be treated with the same respect as he is. As she is the guru for the worldwide following of females, the same rules which apply to Acharyas also apply to Gadiwalashri. For example, if she were to come to our town we should go to the outskirts to receive her, and send her off on her departure. Also, one should not enter a debate with her but instead to take her word for it, because she is our Guru, she has our best interests at heart. Like we are not to leave our Acharya's side to seek refuge in another who may possess greater spiritual knowledge or has mastered the art of Ashtang Yoga, it also means we should not leave her side to follow another.
Swaminarayan Bhagwan has appointed two Acharyas for the sampraday, and they are the heads of fellowship, therefore making their wives the female heads of fellowship and subject to the same authority.
Verse 133 of the Shikshapatri states that only the wives of Acharyas are allowed to initiate females into the sampraday. This is because the wife is the better half of the husband - therefore Gadiwala is the better half of the Acharya, and so she has the right to initiate women with the permission of her husband.
A female is needed to carry out religious ceremonies such as havan where a legitimate wife is required. The Acharyas are householders - grahastha, instead of being celibates - tyagi. Therefore they follow the same dharma as all other householders do, with no particular exception - even they are subject to Swaminarayan Bhagwan's aagna. They are to marry to continue the family lineage and Acharyaship for generations ahead. Although they are householders like, their high status is not to be forgotten with this familiarity.
In some cases, the head of the sect abuses his own powers and takes advantage of women in the name of their faith. To eradicate this, Swaminarayan Bhagwan has thoughtfully arranged that Acharyas shall associate with males and their wives only with females.
This is followed with such sincerity that Gadiwalashri travels with great care, ensuring that she is not seen by males at all. She usually walks within a floor - length umbrella and even car windows are covered to stop males from seeing her when she travels. She is only allowed to see her closest male blood relatives by face. It is difficult to be constantly careful especially with the distances she travels worldwide to meet all the satsangis who eagerly await her arrival, yet she always manages to do so with the least of difficulty just for her followers. It is often forgotten how she sacrifices her freedom for the benefit of female satsangis - she has many duties to attend to at home, yet is always prepared to address individuals in such a personal manner all over the world. She gives encouraging sermons wherever she travels, placing hope and religion within every satsangi she meets.
It is this quality which allows Gadiwala to stand out amongst the rest - to be able to take on board the needs and difficulties of each satsangi - something we should all be grateful for. No other sect offers such a sense of security and guidance for the female devotees - we are graced with the presence and company of the great Laxmiji incarnate herself!