First Mass. South Asian judge is Woman of the Year

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08SinghNEWTON, Mass. — Sabita Singh, who made history by becoming the first South Asian judge in the New England area, was chosen this year’s INDIA New England Woman of the Year. She was among 20 finalists for the award, who were chosen for their achievements in various fields.

The annual award was announced at a ceremony held in Newton, Mass., on June 8. Accepting the award and addressing a gathering of 300, Singh offered her services to assist the community. “I thought it was ironic that the community was honoring me when it should be me recognizing the community for everything it has done for me,” she said later. “There’s no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today, without that nurturing from the community.”

Besides thanking colleagues from the South Asian Bar Association, many of whom were present at the event, Singh especially credited her success to her parents, who came to the U.S. from Bihar and inspired her to pursue a career in social service. Even today, they continue to help their local community by driving cancer patients to chemotherapy locations, she said. Singh herself successfully battled breast cancer five years ago.

“My parents sacrificed and struggled for the benefit of the family, without any tangible rewards for themselves,” Singh said. “Their life example is a gift for me They emphasized the importance of making the world a better place, helping others in need. They not only preached it, but they practiced it.”

Two other women — Shefali Sunderlal Chandel, president of Child Rights and You America, and Jasmine Shah, founder of New Hampshire-based Aangikam Dance Academy — were given special awards for their work.

Some of the other finalists this year were Kishori Barman, principal of the Greater Danbury Hindi Vidya Kendra; artists Ambreen Butt and Lucilda Dassardo-Cooper; Tushara Canekeratne, chief executive officer of Nadastra; Carol Gomez, founder of Mata Hari; author and lawyer Rishi Reddi; and attorneys Punam Singh Rogers and Annapoorni Sankaran; and Boston University’s director of the Division of Dental Public Health Ana Karina Mascarenhas.

“Listening to a little of all the finalists accomplishments, it was amazing to hear what they’re doing in New England,” said Tara Dean of Hartford, Conn., who came to the event because her aunt, Barman, was one of the finalists.

Last year’s Woman of the Year, Bishnu Maya Pariyar, founder of the Nepali microcredit organization, Empower Dalit Women of Nepal, announced the winner.

Finalist and Brookline, Mass.-based Reddi, said she was surprised at the turnout. “The folks who came here, how involved they are,” she said. “I hadn’t been exposed to this side of the community.”

“This is a great event that brings together an amazing group of talented people and expands the good work they do,” said Scott Merrill of Marblehead, Mass., who attended the event because his colleague Rogers, president of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, was one of the finalists. “All the people honored serve as role models for everyone, not just the South Asian community, and it is important to recognize their achievements,” he said.

What impressed Elizabeth Grealy of Newton, Mass., an alumna of Simmons School of Management, one of the sponsors, was the diversity of achievements. “Several of the women could have won first place,” she said, adding that she was also impressed by Singh’s speech. What Grealy says she will remember tomorrow is the contribution these women and their families have made to their own localities.

Dean left with one thought. “All this is just in New England,” she said. “Imagine what the whole of U.S. would be.”

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