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Savita Vaidhyanathan has many firsts to her credit

Bay Area’s Rotary District 5170 will hold its Conference on Saturday, 29th April at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Under the leadership of District Governor Savita Vaidhyanathan who has served in various roles over the years, the club increased its membership and has won many awards for achievement in public service.

District 5170 is a collection of 61 clubs located in the counties of Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Benito in California.

Savita Vaidhyanathan has many firsts to her credit

Vaidhyanathan, the District Governor for Rotary Club’s District 5170 for 2022-23, has several firsts to her credit. She was the first Mayor of Indian descent in Cupertino from 2017-18. Before becoming a Mayor, she served on the Cupertino City Council for four years.

She has been a Rotarian since 2007 and became a Club President in 2013-2014. During her tenure, the club passed the 200-membership mark for the first time. Vaidhyanathan also served as her club’s World Community Service Chair, on the club’s Endowment Fund Board, and on the club board of directors.  

In the following year, the club won the award for Outstanding Philanthropic Organization from the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Vaidhyanathan is a graduate of the District 5170 Leadership Academy. 

A role in public service

The picture shows a woman smiling
Savitha Vaidhyanathan

Recalling her foray into public service and politics, Vaidhyanathan says, “As an immigrant, I was not thinking of politics as a career. It’s because of my work in the local and global community-I was identified as someone who could represent my city. I highly encourage those who can take out some time to participate in their local communities and help.”

Vaidhyanathan has also been a member of the Boards of Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and West Valley Community Services. She is a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum and is currently Co-Chair of the De Anza Community College Commission.

Local heartbeat, global outreach

The Rotary Club brings together a global network of volunteer leaders devoted to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. It connects 1.2 million members from more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work impacts lives at both the local and international levels.

District 5170 participates in areas such as Maternal & Child Health; Community Economic Development; Disease Prevention & Treatment; Environment; Water, Sanitation & Hygiene; Basic Education & Literacy and PeaceBuilding & Conflict Prevention. 

Vaidhyanathan led teams on various World Community Service projects in India including Independence Through Hygiene and served as an advisor to projects in Kenya and Mexico. Her theme was, “Local Heartbeat, Global Outreach!” 

A period does not have to be a full stop

As part of Rotary International’s Empowering Girls initiative, District 5170 is partnering with three Rotary clubs, two in India- in Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) and Roorkee (Uttar Pradesh) and one in Africa. The local Rotary Clubs partner with other NGOs that hire women in the community to sew washable, reusable sanitary pads. The local Rotary clubs also team with area schools to distribute the finished product to school girls. 

Speaking about the project to help adolescent girls stay in school by not having to miss school and fall back due to lack of sanitary supplies during their periods, Vaidhyanathan said, “Period does not have to be a full stop.” She explains how girls fall prey to early marriage and pregnancy or to sexual predators and prostitution due to lack of education and products for menstruation management.

What’s next?

Vaidhyanathan’s term as a district governor is ending soon and replying to a query about what’s next, she said, “It’s a lot of effort to be a district governor at Rotary as it requires immense hands-on work. It’s been all-consuming. I have not decided what I want to do next.”

She loves gardening, hiking, and pottery, and is a fan of Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhonsle. She is also looking forward to welcoming her second grandkid in August.

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...