Activist Shahnaz Taplin Chinoy, banker Nandita Bakhshi honored at the event.
Some 600 people, among them executives from the region’s most influential corporations, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 CEOs, and community leaders, attended the American India Foundation’s annual Bay Area gala held on May 13.
The event raised $1.5 million in support of the organization’s poverty alleviation solutions in India, an AIF press release said.
The evening showcased the group’s groundbreaking work in education for India’s neglected, rural, migration-prone children, the Learning and Migration Program (LAMP).
One of the highlights of the evening was a fireside chat hosted by AIF Co-Founder and Co-Chair Lata Krishnan with MasterCard CEO and AIF Co-Chair Ajay Banga on the role women can and should play in all walks of life.
Community leader and activist Shahnaz Taplin Chinoy was presented with AIF’s inaugural Service Award for her lifelong commitment to and excellence in making positive, enduring, and impactful contributions to society. Taplin Chinoy, a cofounder of the Muslin Women’s Fund, is also the Chair of Invest in Muslim Women.
AIF also honored Nandita Bakhshi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of the West and co-CEO of BNP Paribas USA, with its Corporate Leadership Award. Bakhshi shared her personal journey in rising through the ranks from a bank teller to a CEO and reflected on the growing importance of women in the workplace. “The only way we’ll have more women in positions of leadership,” she said, “is if we nurture the talent of girls and young women in our lives. I’m really proud of the work that’s happening at both Bank of the West, and our parent company BNP Paribas, to build a strong pipeline of women leaders.”
Rick Werner of Charity Auctioneers led a live auction and fundraising drive, which raised $450,000 dedicated to supporting the high quality education in AIF’s LAMP program. The drive was preceded by a captivating personal testimony by Pushpanjali Majhi, a young woman who was one of the first girls to graduate thanks to LAMP in her community. “If there was no [AIF-sponsored] hostel in my village, my life today would have been different. I would never have completed my studies and probably would still be going to the brick kilns,” said Pushpanjali. “I wish that every girl in my village completes her studies and becomes something in life.” Award-winning comedian Sammy Obeid emceed the event and delivered humor throughout.
The LAMP initiative promotes universal education in migration-affected geographies by improving school governance and the quality of teaching and learning. So far LAMP has positively impacted the lives of nearly 425,000 children across India, according to AIF.