In celebration of International Women’s Day, Shakti Society honoured 16 women for both professional and personal achievements during its 15th annual Shakti Awards. The awards were presented by Shaki Society on Saturday, March 25, at Bollywood Banquet Hall in Surrey, B.C..
Sue Hammell, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, received the Shakti Award for Liifetime Achievement and the keynote speaker for the evening. As she accepted her award, she recalled how talking to Aboriginal women who lived in native reserves inspired her to co-found the Minerva Foundation for BC Women.
“We’re talking to the women there and they were talking about focusing on health and education to improve the condition of their band members. As we were talking, one woman who was at the band council table turned to me and said, ‘It’s not fair.’’
Hammell founded the Minerva Foundation shortly after, with Nancy McKinstry in 1991. One of the tenets of the foundation is to provide leadership courses to women in Aboriginal communities throughout the province. “Even though the world is complicated and unfair, we can all do something to make a difference. It brings me back to the saying that well behaved women never make history,” Hammell addressed the audience.
“We have to step out there and tell people fairness is equality. It looks like equality not only from a gender perspective but equality is about diversity within our community.”
Other recipients for the Shakti Awards included Gurpreet Kaur Bains for academic achievement, Rimpy Sahota for artistic achievement, Hema Bhatt for business and entrepreneur, Rabina Anjum for public service, Kerry Gibson for resilience, and Moving Forward Society for excellence community organization.
“Shakti Awards is about recognizing women that have made a difference in their own lives and in the community,” said Sonia Andhi, founder of Shakti Society. “So when we honour those women … It’s a good reminder for women and the community how you can you change a life and how you can make a difference.”
Shakti Awards is the only fundraiser Shakti Society hosts for itself. The proceeds from the awards night will go to Shakti Society and towards scholarships the non-profit awards to young women and children of single-parent families.
Harsimran Sachdeva and Renita Bangert performed Karthak at the opening of the awards.
“As we gather here today, let us take the opportunity to thank the women in our lives who have inspired us and who have fought for a more just world, overcoming many obstacles to do so” MP Sukh Dhaliwal read Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special address for the Shakti Awards.
Former mayor Dianne Watts was one of the political guests in attendance at the Shakti Awards. “I really believe it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we are helping those that are coming after us. As we gone through our careers, and we continue to do whatever we do in our lives, we can never forget the young girls and young women that are coming behind us,” said Watts.
The evening was marked with a number of musical performances. Kassuke Yeo led a drum performance with audience participants, bringing the room to life with deafening echoes of the drums and chants.
“I am truly, truly honoured. Thank you.” MLA Sue Hammell kept her acceptance speech for her lifetime achievement Shakti Award brief after already addressing the audience as keynote speaker.
Women Moving Forward Society was presented the Shakti Award of Excellence Community Organization.
Shawna Narayan (right) was one of the recipients for academic achievements. The teen graduated from Frank Hurt Secondary with a 4.0 gpa and has received over 15 scholarships.
“How much content and competencies we as teachers can teach is not as important, but what’s important is how our kids are modelling empathy and compassion in their communities. Academic excellence is achieved when our students are the very best human beings they can be,” said Gurpreet Kaur Bains upon receiving the Shakti Award for Academic Achievement.
Rimpy Sahota (center) was recognized for starting her own brand, Rimpy Sahota Ltd, and was presented a Shakti Award for Artistic Achievement Excellence.
Karina Hayat was presented with the Shakti Award for Business for finding and becoming president of Prizm Media. “It really takes an entire community to empower a woman, to give her the confidence that she needs to empower her children, to empower her community, and therefore in turn, that woman can go and empower its economy and become its light,” said Hayat.
Hema Bhatt (pictured third from right), vice-president of Natu Oil Services Inc, was presented with a Shakti Award for Business and Entrepreneur Excellence. Bhatt was credited for helping the company flourish from a turnover of $100,000 to $113 million, especially after her husband and business partner suffered a stroke three years ago.
Ustad Cassius Khan and Amika Kushwaha entertained the guests with a performance of classical Indian music. Khan played the tabula, while Kushwaha played the harmonium.
Gurdip Kaur Dhaliwal was one of the recipients for the Shakti Award for Resilience for creating a support group for women in the early 90s, which is now known as the Sahara Group for Indo-Canadian women.
Kerry Gibson was also honoured with the Shakti Award for Resilience. After becoming paraplegic due to a car accident with a drunk driver, she started entered business and eventually becoming the president of Ecocentury Technology. Gibson is currently the Canadian liaison for UN Women.
Ramanjot Kingra received the Shakti Award for Public Service in the Youth category. Kingra was honoured for her work as Director of External Affairs for the non-profit organization, SOAR Philanthropic Society.
A dance performance by Yasmina Dance Company concluded the entertainment for the night.