“Girls Can Do Anything” – Building Bridges for Girls’ Education at the AIF Annual Bay Area Gala

March 31, 2014 – San Francisco, CA: More than 570 guests gathered at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco for an elegant Bowties & Bangles Gala hosted by the American India Foundation (AIF), the leading philanthropic organization focused on improving education, livelihoods, public health, and nurturing leaders in India. The gala, which drew some of the Bay Area’s most influential business people, philanthropic luminaries, and community leaders, collectively raised over $1.4 million to support AIF’s education and livelihoods programs. AIF Chair Lata Krishnan, who co-founded AIF in 2001, set the tone for the evening, responding to Hilary Clinton’s appeal to the global community to join in the struggle for gender equity and invest in girls and women as “the unfinished business of the 21st century.” Cognizant CEO Francisco D’Souza and President and CEO of Silicon Valley Bank Greg Becker were honored for their corporate leadership and global commitment to philanthropy and community service, as was a select group of committed AIF supporters who have continuously given $25,000 or more over the past decade.

In the spirit of AIF’s core principle of building a lasting bridge between the US and India and its renewed commitment to investing in girls, guests were captivated by the inspiring personal accounts of transformation of young women impacted by AIF’s programs. 11th grade student Umayal Lakshmanan, who has been participating for three years in AIF’s Digital Equalizer program to transform public education across India through technology, detailed how technology opened doors for her she had never before fathomed, and helped her rise to the top of her class. “The Digital Equalizer program has given me hope and it has given me dreams, and I want to fulfill my dreams,” remarked Umayal, who shared her dream of pursuing a medical degree to become a gynecologist – a very uncommon and often inaccessible goal for any girl in the public education system. Yet thanks to AIF’s approach, Umayal now believes in herself and her future. As she closed her remarks with the resounding statement, “Girls can do anything,” the crowd rose to their feet and longtime AIF supporter and community stalwart Anil Godhwani pledged to sponsor Umayal’s higher education.

AIF also works to reach the youth population who are unable to complete their schooling and ensure that they can lead successful lives. The Market Aligned Skills Training (MAST) program is a vocational training program for underprivileged youth that works closely with local employers to ensure that the training matches the market demand for skilled labor in the local area, so MAST graduates secure jobs and a secure livelihood for the future. In the Muslim community of Metiabruz, young women like Shyamali Roy and Rehana Khatoon face centuries-old barriers to education and livelihoods. As Rehana reflected, MAST “not only gave me professional skills but changed me personally. It gave me the confidence to go out in the world and be myself.”

NY comedian Anish Shah emceed the event. Guests were treated to a “North-South” menu concept by Amber India’s Vittal Shetty, and breathtaking bharata natyam performances by Nava Dance Company.

About the American India Foundation:
The American India Foundation is committed to catalyzing social and economic change in India and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001 at the initiative of President Bill Clinton, AIF has impacted the lives of more than 1.9 million of India’s poor and aims to reach 5 million by 2018. Learn more at www.AIF.org

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