Washington, DC – Two Indian American women were among 15 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women honored today (May 6) at a ceremony by the White House as “Champions of Change” for their outstanding contribution to the community.
At the conclusion of the ceremony at the White House, India America Today spoke to Aparna Bhattacharyya, who is from Atlanta, Georgia, and Pramila Jayapal from Seattle, Washington.
“We are incredibly honored to be here as AAPI women champions of change being recognized by the White House,” Jayapal told India America Today. Bhattacharyya added, “It’s the first time in history that they’ve recognize AAPI women leaders as champions of change, so it’s such an honor and it’s such an honor to be recognized with Pramila, who has been doing great works for years and so it’s great that we are being honored together and making change for our communities and hopefully making change for the nation.”
“These fifteen women represent the strength and diversity of the AAPI community. These leaders – in business, advocacy, philanthropy, sports, the arts, and academia – are wonderful examples for young women across the country,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
“As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May, we pay tribute to the many AAPI women, from Bernice Pauahi Bishop to Congresswoman Patsy Mink to Sunita Williams, who have shaped the story of America,” said Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
A passionate advocate for immigrant survivors of family and sexual violence who has worked to ensure they have access to safety, justice and healing, Bhattacharyya is the current Executive Director of Raksha, a non-profit based in Atlanta, Georgia. Raksha, which means “protection” in several South Asian languages strives to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy. She has worked to ensure that attorneys, law enforcement, and service providers are culturally competent to serve immigrant survivors. Bhattacharyya is also currently a board member for the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, VIDA Legal Assistance and the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Jayapal founded the non-profit organization OneAmerica, now the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington State. She has worked to advance immigration reform in the state, as well as nationally, and has served in leadership roles for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and the Rights Working Group. She continues to advocate for immigration reform as the Co-Chair of the “We Belong Together: Women for Common-Sense Immigration Reform campaign.” Jayapal is currently the Distinguished Taconic Fellow at the Center for Community Change and a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Washington Law School.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.
Other “Champions of Change” awardees are Lusiana Tuga Hansen from Alaska; Atsuko Toko Fish and Karen Suyemoo from Boston; Minh Dang, Mia Mingus, Van Ton-Quinlivan and Cathrine Eusebio from California; Myrla Baldonado and Nancy Tom from Chicago; Arline Loh from Delaware; Mary Frances Oneha from Hawaii; Natalie Nakase from Los Angeles; and Shireen Zaman from Washington, DC.