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Kalpana Rawal, Vijoo Rattansi honoured for changing lives

Retired Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and long-time education philanthropist Vijoo Rattansi are among women honoured by the Indian High Commission in Kenya for their contribution to the Kenyan society.

At a ceremony to mark the International Women’s Day on Wednesday, visiting Indian State Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal recognised the two and several others as Indian women in the diaspora who have helped improve the societies they live in.

MADE A MARK

The event at Apa Pant Auditorium at the High Commissioner’s residence in Parklands saw Lady Justice (Rtd) Rawal, Dr Rattansi, eye specialist Dr Prabba Choksey and Indian classical dance artistes Gita Umesh and Bharanatyam Guru given tokens of appreciation.

It was part of the Indian High Commission’s fete to recognise members of its diaspora as well as celebrate the women.

A statement from the Mission said the women were honoured for having “made a mark for themselves in their respective areas of public life.”

2 DECADES

Rawal, 71, controversially retired from the Judiciary last year having worked for nearly two decades after the Supreme Court ruled she had reached retirement age.

But the lawyer born and raised in Bhuj, in India’s Gujarati state, was the first woman to set up private legal practice in Kenya.

All her education was in India but she immigrated to Kenya through marriage in 1973 where she worked as a teacher in Nairobi before moving into law.

Despite her controversies, she is still seen as motivation to many women lawyers who went on to start private firms.

RATTANSI

She was honoured for this contribution in the judiciary.

Dr Vijoo Rattansi, currently the Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, has been the face of renowned education charity organisation, the Rattansi Educational Trust.

Born in Stone Town in Zanzibar in 1948 to a prominent business family, she moved to Kenya in 1964 following the Zanzibar Revolution.

She is fluent in Gujarati, Kiswahili, English and Italian.

THE NEEDY

She would marry into the Rattansi family where she became a part of the Trust.

She was honoured for helping many needy people in the region get an education.

The third winner, Dr Probha Choksey, was awarded for her role in saving people’s eyesight.

Renowned for a series of urgent operations after the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Dr Choksey has worked as a consultant ophthalmologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital for most of her time in Kenya.

MUSIC, DANCE

She schooled in Aurangabad, India, and specialised in ophthalmology; the branch of medicine that deals with the working of the eyes. 

She moved to Kenya in 1987 and initially worked at Kenyatta National Hospital and later joined private practice.

She is married to a gynaecologist, Dr Vidur Choksey, also working in Nairobi.

Other winners included specialists in Indian classical music and dance Gita Umesh and Bharatanatyam Guru for their role in inculcating Indian art in Kenya.

KUMARIS

The High Commission also awarded the Brahma Kumaris in Kenya.

This is a spiritual movement, led by women and found in about 110 countries around the world, specialising in “personal transformation and renewal.”

Founded in India in 1937 by Brahma Baba, it spread around the world by focusing on supporting “the cultivation of a deep collective consciousness of peace and individual dignity of each soul,” according to a biographical note on its website.

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