BURLINGTON, MA—An independent panel of seven judges named Manisha Bhatta Woman of the Year 2017 for demonstrating how law can be used to create “hope and spirit to elevate all of us” at the 15th Annual Woman of the Year Awards gala on Friday at Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA. About 500 people, including entrepreneurs, philanthropists, social activists and community leaders attended the ceremony.
“The judging panel was unanimous and excited to announce that Manisha Bhatt is the 2017 WOY winner,” said Prat Moghe, who served as the chief judge of a seven-member judging panel and is founder and CEO at Cazena and a trustee on TiE Global Board and an Overseer at Museum of Science in Boston. “Ms. Bhatt embodies exceptional passion for service for the less fortunate through her legal service as well as broader community outreach. In the process, she has demonstrated how law can be used to create hope and spirit to elevate all of us.”
Other members of the independent judging committee were: Jaya Aravind, a software architect and technical manager and president of New England Malayalee Association; Captain Alpa Ladani, the highest-ranking Indian-American female officer that served in the United States’ Armed Forces in Kabul, Afghanistan; Sangeeta Moorjani , head of Workplace Managed Accounts for Fidelity Financial Services; Bharat Patel, chairman of Board of Advisors of New England Office Supply; Chandu Shah, President and CEO of S4 Inc.; and Dr. Steve Singh, surgical drector, Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“WOY 2017 was about identifying a true leader that is not only exemplary in her profession but also someone who creates a broad community impact through service and giving,” Moghe said. “The 2017 slate of nominees were exceptional and diverse – across professions that ranged from entrepreneurship, venture capital, management consulting, art, theater, academia, media, dance, government, and community service.”
Bhatt is a senior attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services where she practices family law concentrating in domestic violence law. Currently, she works with area hospitals’ domestic violence programs to facilitate their patients’ access to civil legal services and staffs a legal clinic at Rosie’s Place, a refuge for homeless women in Boston. Bhatt also serves on the advisory board of Saheli, a South Asian domestic violence prevention organization. She is a past president of the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston.
In 2013, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Bhatt to the Massachusetts Judicial Nominating Commission. In 2009, Bhatt received the NASABA Cornerstone Award for her work with domestic violence survivors. In 2010, she founded the Know Your Rights! Program of the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston and has been the chief architect and director of the program since its inception. Know Your Rights! is designed to empower the South Asian community with knowledge about fundamental legal rights and providing connections to lawyers and other legal resources so that community members can actually exercise their legal rights.
In an earlier interview, Bhatt told INDIA New England News that she was most proud of the “Know Your Rights” class that she started seven years ago. It is a free of charge lecture series on people’s fundamental legal rights in the areas of criminal law, immigration law, elder law, trusts and estates, family law, employment law, bankruptcy law, health law, civil rights and racial profiling.
“It is my intention to provide our community leaders with information about their legal rights in these areas so that they can help other people in our community access legal resources in a timely fashion,” Bhatt said. “As a lawyer, I have seen firsthand people lose their rights simply because they didn’t know who to turn to for help or they talked to a lawyer too late. I wanted to change that so I started this class.”
“Manisha Bhatt was fittingly chosen as Woman of the Year as she has demonstrated her commitment to community service wholeheartedly for South Asian and main stream American members while proficiently advancing her career to be the best in her field,” said judging committee member Shah.
Aravind, another member of the judging committee, said the concept of recognizing the smart, talented and compassionate women in the community is truly a remarkable one.
“It was very inspiring to see so much brilliance under one roof. The team had done an outstanding job planning the event, thinking through the littlest of details and meticulously executing it,” said Aravind. “I was a newbie to this event and now am looking forward to their future events.”
The duo of Mandy Pant and Jharna Madan served as the emcees of the15th Annual Woman of the Year Awards gala. Dr. Manju Sheth, hostess of the INDIA New England News’s Chai With Manju celebrity interview series, was the hostess of the evening.
Robin Chase, co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest car-sharing company in the world, and author, was the chief guest and keynote speaker. Genevieve Nadeau, Chief of the Civil Rights Division in the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, will the Guest of Honor.
Veteran Bharat Natyam dancer Jothi Raghavan presented an empowering “Treat Me as I am…I am Woman” dance during the award ceremony. Two of New England’s talented singers—Sowmya Shri and Nidhi Tare—will sing at the Woman of the Year Awards gala.
Dr. Shashikala Dwarkanath, MD, the person behind Chinmaya Mission Boston, one of New England’s largest spiritual centers, which has played a vital role in the lives of thousands of people in the area—received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
In addition, the following women were honored with various awards at the gala.
Sheetal Acharya: Award for Empowering Women
Susri Anuradha: Leadership in Promoting Education Award
Jayanti Bandyopadhyay: Passion for Theater and the Arts Award
Rama Bansil: Award for Promoting Physics and Nanotechnology
Manisha Bhatt: Award for Excellence in Teaching and Promoting Legal Rights
Neha Dalal: Civic Youth Engagement Award
Megha Desai: Award for Excellence in Promoting Health, Education and Vocational Training
Asha Dixit: Award for Excellence in Business
Namita Dodwadkar: Award for Championing Science, Glitz and Glamor
Gretchen Hayden: Award of Excellence for Dedication to Kathak Dance
Asmita Khanolkar: Award for Promoting STEM and Women in Engineering
Deepika Krup: Young Turk Award
Aditi Mehta: Community Engagement and Civic Progress Award
Zenobia Moochhala: Business Woman of the Year Award
Tanya Nayak: Award for Excellence in Television
Reena Patel: National Service Award
Dhanashree Ramachandran: Award for the Advancement of Meditation and the Art of Living
Meara Sharma: Outstanding Producer Award
Aditi Taylor: Versatile Leadership Award
Jaya Voruganti: Community Leadership Award
Darshana Zaveri: Rising Venture Capitalist Award.