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Pratham Annual Gala

Aparna Bawa, COO of Zoom Video Communications, headlined the annual Bay Area Pratham Fundraising Gala on Saturday, April 15, at Signia by Hilton, San Jose to support education for children in underserved communities in India. 

Over $620,000 was raised to support 38,000 children and youth with learning opportunities ranging from school literacy to vocational skills.

“Pratham is a leading global education non-profit that is breaking barriers to deliver high-quality solutions to learning challenges through award-winning programs in India and beyond. I am here to support Pratham’s incredible mission. I invite others to join in as well,” said Bawa.

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Aparna Bawa Delivering the Keynote Address at Prathams Annual Gala (image courtesy/ Pratham)

Pratham’s Mission Resonates with Aparna Bawa-COO of Zoom

Bawa spoke about the importance of education in her life and why the mission of Pratham resonates with her. “I am very fortunate, but till I was about 30, I was a hot mess inside. At age eleven, I lost my mother and a young cousin in a car accident in India that threw our family into a deep abyss of grief for a very long time. I have asked myself many times in many situations what allowed me to survive and move to the other side.”

She went on to narrate the intense focus on education that her parents had for their daughters. After her mother’s sudden and untimely passing, despite his deep and personal grief, her dad made his children’s education his primary priority.

Countering bias

Bawa never felt while growing up in the U.S. that she was less than anyone else. “There is something extremely freeing when you are allowed to develop yourself as an adolescent without encumbrances of conscious or unconscious bias,” she added.

But life is never bereft of challenges or opportunities. She mentioned the bias that she faced as a young brown woman banker in her mid-twenties at Lehman Brothers and also about some qualities that have allowed her to thrive. “I am an extremely practical person. My team at Zoom tells me that my superpower in crisis is that I can cut out all the noise,” said Bawa.

Her heroes, says Bawa are people hiding in plain sight, like her cleaning lady or an airline steward dealing with a difficult passenger.  She acknowledged that seeing others face everyday life challenges while juggling professional responsibilities and personal lives, gives her perspective and gratitude.

Pratham’s Main Initiatives

Pratham Board Chair, Dhiren Shethia described Pratham’s three main initiatives-child literacy and education, youth vocational training, and a second chance program for women. Pratham facilitates these programs via partnerships with seventeen state governments in India.

The picture shows a man with glasses and a suit
Dhiren Shethia Speaking at the Bay Area Pratham Gala (image courtesy/ Pratham)

Manisha Bharti, the CEO of Pratham USA and Global Executive talked about her interaction with Ashwini, a 24-year-old from India, who shared her journey from being an aspiring welder to becoming the first female trainer at the Pratham Mody Technical Institute. 

 “Today we are at a critical juncture. We need to make up for the learning loss among children as a result of the pandemic,” said Suja Viswesan, Co-President of the SFO Pratham chapter.

 “Pratham’s mission changes lives and has given millions of children and young people, in India and beyond, the chance to learn and keep learning,” said Ari Daman, Co-President of the Pratham SFO chapter. “From the early years through to adulthood and both inside and outside formal educational settings.”

Shalini Kathuria Narang is a Silicon Valley based software professional and freelance journalist. She has written and published extensively for several national and international newspapers, magazines...