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IWD Award Winners 2015

Dipika Damerla: DD Woman Achiever 2015 - POLITICS

Dipika Damerla was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2011 as the MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville. She was re-elected in 2014.

Damerla currently serves as Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, responsible for Long-Term Care and Wellness. Damerla was a senior policy advisor to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade before becoming an MPP. She has served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan/Parapan Games, the Minister of Community and Social Services, and the Minister of Infrastructure.

Before getting involved in politics, Damerla was a reporter at OMNI TV, where she covered local issues in the GTA. Damerla began her career in the financial services sector and has worked at two of Canada’s largest banks.

She earned her MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and her chartered accountant designation in India.

Damerla’s extensive community involvement includes volunteering with Carassauga and founding the clothing drive Vastra Daan. She is a proud mother and longtime resident of Mississauga.

Dr.Arthy Saravanan: DD Woman Achiever 2015 - VOLUNTEERING

Arthy was born in Kanyakumari, and did her primary schooling in Muscat, Oman before subsequently moved to Toronto, Canada to pursue further studies. She graduated from the University of Toronto and completed her medical education at the prestigious Indiana University earning her MD in 2011. She is currently completing her residency specialty training in radiology and hopes to pursue her fellowship sub-specialty training in Breast Imaging. Arthy has been happily married to Ranjith Varadarajan for 5 years and is the proud mother of 2 year old daughter Anya. Her parents Perumal Pillai and Bhama Saravanan operate a tax and accounting business in Toronto. She has one older brother, Rohith Saravanan who is currently a practicing family physician.

Dr.Arthy Saravanan was crowned Mrs. India International 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia on May 3, 2014. She was the face of married Indian women in the global finals of Mrs. International 2014. As Mrs. India International 2014, Arthy hopes to promote her platform, which is about healthcare disparities among underprivileged women and children. Arthy is the International Spokesperson for Medical Yatra, which is a medical mission trip to help the unfortunate in rural India, and HandiCare International, a charity organization that fundraises for disabled underprivileged people in India.

Arthy is a volunteer Bollywood Zumba instructor, and believes in fitness being fun through dance. Arthy is also an excellent Indian classical dancer, having learned Bharatnatyam professionally for 10 years. Arthy enjoys playing badminton, and running. She ran her first half marathon only 3 months after delivering her baby! 

Lata Menon: DD Woman Achiever 2015- LAW

LATA MENON Barrister and Solicitor a law degree from India (Mumbai University)and Canada and have worked In extensive years of Practice in civil litigation, Family and Criminal and having worked with very large Corporate firms like Mulla & Mulla, Payne & Company and was practicing in 3 different states in India; Mumbai, Bangalore; and all over the courts of Ontario

Main areas of practice been Criminal courts, civil courts, family courts. Works s always With Honesty, Integrity, Reliability, and with great passion towards the profession and have come a well-established full service law firm.

And have always worked for women upliftment and children social Justice and raising education for women and children.

Over 20 years' counseling experience, working with progressively more challenging cases and more diverse client and have been in the part of the legal clinics. Intercultural sensitivity, having lived abroad (American and Asian continent).

Puja Amin: DD Woman Achiever 2015 - EMPOWER WORLD THROUGH MOVEMENT

Toronto Based choreographer and teacher, Puja Amin established Sanskriti Arts in Toronto in 2003, bringing together students with a passion for dance and extreme drive to explore their potential. Puja Amin has the distinction of receiving the Kesri Youth Award 2005 in Canada for appreciation of support and help, to impact and make a difference in the lives of youth. She is a veteran of TV & film; an internationally renowned Bollywood, Folk and Kathak dance choreographer; Owner and Director of Sanskriti Arts in Toronto and President of Bollycore!

‘Sanskriti’ means ‘culture’. As the name suggests, the Sanskriti Arts Ensemble exists to raise awareness of the various forms of South Asian dance, spread Indian culture and ethnicity through traditional and contemporary dance and music performances. In 2010, Puja embarked into a new realm of dance and pushed forward into dance-fitness to launch the new dance-fitness program, BollyCORE, teaching at various locations across the GTA.

A few of Amin’s film and TV credits include: Giselles Backyard, A million ways to move, Latest Buzz and Badhai Ho. Puja Amin has choreographed for Bollywood personalities such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhuri Dixit, Boman Irani, Lisa Ray, Sukhwinder Singh, Ila Arun, Priyanka Chopra and Shahid Kapoor. Puja has successfully trained Miss India Canada Worldwide 2007, Miss India Canada 2008, first runner up; Beauties of Asia 2011 to Win Best Talent.

Media has featured Amin in the Global News, CBC News, Zee TV, Toronto Star, Vaughan Citizen, Brampton Guardian, Toronto Sun, Snap, Gujarat times, Gujarat Abroad, the Voice, That Channel, Canada AM, City TV, Omni TV and CHCH. Her workshops are part of most multicultural projects such as Urban Noise, Soulpepper Theatre Company, Arts for Children and Youth. She has choreographed for IIFA- Green carpet, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Luminato- Light on Your Feet Series, Royal Ontario Museum,TDSB and more. Puja's mission is to empower the world through movement.

Ravinder Malhi: DD Woman Achiever 2015- BUSINESS

Ravinder Malhi like all other immigrants after working in several different fields and receiving her certification in cosmetology in 1978, She decided to start her own business. She wanted to be in control of her own destiny as Canada was and is the land where dreams come true. As an owner of 3 successful beauty salons (Khoobsurat) and the creator of Toronto Aesthetics & Hair Academy with its two campuses, she is passionate about her business..

Ravinder Malhi as an owner of a Private Career College, she has financially and emotionally supported numerous single mothers to become personally and economically independent to support their families by making Beauty their career. She has made

significant contributions to the South Asian community. She has been a mentor to many new immigrants and donates her time generously to many social causes including; World Punjabi Organization, UN Women's National Committee and Box Grove Lions Club. Ravinder is one of the founding members of We-elite, a women's entrepreneurial and professional group and she was a chair of the Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals (WEP) Committee of Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce. Ravinder is at present a chair person of the event committee of the ICCC. She has received recognition for her work from Interim Place, for the community care and from the Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce for Member of the year 2013 of ICCC’s Women Entrepreneurs & Professional Committee. Ravinder Malhi has had involvement in many events as well, such as IFFA 2011, IFFT 2012 , Miss India Canada pageant, Miss India Worldwide, Miss Sri Lanka Canada, Miss Philippines, Canada's Bridal Show, Ed Hardy & Christian Audigier, Designer Cristopher Carrado, Silver Tulip, She has also worked with a number of celebrities like Zeenat Aman, Salma Agha, Neha Dhupia, Amrita Rao, Babu Mann, Nindy Kaur, Jay Sean and Juggy D.

Now with more than 25 years of experience in the beauty industry, she continues to exhibit a vision that includes a dedication to an educational opportunity that will help launch future industry leaders

Ramneek Singh: DD Woman Achiever 2015-MUSIC

Ramneek was introduced to Indian Classical music at the age of 6. She has learnt from many stalwarts of "Indore Gharana", namely Vidushi Amarjeet Kaur and Pt. Baldev Raj Verma, senior disciples of" Ustad Amir Khan Sahib" and "Pt. Amarnath ji". She briefly learnt from Pt. Vinayak Torvi, a senior disciple of Pt. Bhimsen Johi. She has worked very hard to master the intricacies of this utmost serene and meditatative Amir Khani style of vocal presentation and also performs in other genres like Thumri, Classical based Shabad Gurbani and Folk. Ramneek's unique voice quality and years of riyaaz have won her many an acclaim and leave a mark in the heart of those who experience her concerts.

She has widely performed in US, Canada and India and has also performed for the famed "Shri Harivallabh Sangeet Samaroh", Jallandar, which is the oldest running festival in the world.

She was invited to perform for the prestigious "Tansen Samaroh" in Gwalior, in December 2013.

In North America, she has performed in Washington, NYC, New Jersey, Boston, Rhode Island, California, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria, Vanvouver, to name a few. . In India, she has performed at the Swarmayee Gurukul (Pune), Kolkatta, Delhi, Chandigarh, Benaras, Hyderabad, Jalandar, Gwalior, Mumbai and many other cities.

She was recently invited to perform at the Indian Consulate, Toronto for the Independence Day celebrations and recently performed for the Indian Consulate, Vancouver BC in September 2014.

She was awarded "Womens Hero Award 2014" in Toronto for her contribution to Indian Classical music and nominated for the "Voice" newspaper 2014

She teaches many students vocal classical music, in the Indore Gharana style, in Toronto.

Ramneek has 3 CD's to her credit, namely, "Ibaadat", Naad" by "Bihaan Music", (both classical based), and her latest, "Gobind Naam, released by "Mystica Music" in May 2013, which is a classical based Gurbani CD.

Ramneek has had the good fortune of singing in the highly acclaimed movie by "Deepa Mehta", called "The Midnight's Children", released in 2012.

For a detailed look into her profile. please feel free to check out her website,

Angie Seth: DD Woman Achiever 2015 - MEDIA & COMMUNICATION

Freelance Journalist; On Air Reporter Global News Toronto

Twitter: @kateygoalie


Community Columnist: Desi News Magazine "Out and About with Angie Seth"

Contributor: Fusia Magazine and Zindgi Magazine

Project Committee Member: There is No Honor in Violence Against Women and Girls (South Asian Women's Centre)

Honorary Chair: UN Women Canada

Angie Seth joined Global Toronto’s News Hour in 2013 as a reporter.

Seth began her broadcasting career as a reporter for OMNI television upon graduating from the University of Toronto, with a bachelor’s degree in political science, English, and philosophy. While with OMNI, she worked in various positions in the newsroom, ultimately landing a position as anchor of South Asian News in 2006. She also produced two entertainment programs, Ishtyle TVand Bollywood Blvd.

Seth took a break from television broadcast to join CBC Radio as a freelance news anchor while maintaining her parenting blog, She also writes her own column Out and About with Angie Seth for Desi News Magazine, interviewing top guests including former Governor General Adrianne Clarkson, renowned actor Kabir Bedi, and renowned film and music video director Jazz Virk. She also covers the big events in the South Asian Community.

Seth is strong advocate for women’s rights, children’s rights and the fight against domestic violence. She is currently working on a two year project with the South Asian Women’s Centre titled, There is No Honor in Violence Against Women and Girls

Seth has won several awards including the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her work as a journalist and contributions in the community.

Seth is a long distance runner and has participated in five marathons, including the Boston marathon in 1999. She also coached individuals looking to run their first 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon. Seth lives in Toronto with her husband and three children.

Asha Vishwanath; DD Woman Achiever 2015 -COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP

Asha Vishwanath was born in Bangalore and moved to Zurich with her husband in 2001. After her 2 daughters were born in Switzerland, Asha and her young family moved to Vancouver in 2006 and from Vancouver to Toronto in 2010.

During the mid-nineties she got an opportunity to serve the growing IT industry in Bangalore. She spotted the early opportunity for travel professionals and hospitality industry in Bangalore and carved a nice niche for her budding travel company. Managing the travel and hospitality needs for thousands of IT professionals in the days when the Internet was not yet born, taught her several lessons which she still applies today while serving the larger Indian community today.

In Vancouver and in Toronto, Asha was and is always looking for ways and means to give back to the local community and the larger Indian society that we all left behind.

Asha sincerely believes that Indian communities have to work together to bring the Indian culture to the wider notice of all Canadians. At the same time, she is a passionate believer in helping the local community as well.

In Asha’s eyes, the lessons that we learnt from the private sector, have to be applied to not-for-profit organizations. Asha brings the same customer focus, the drive, the dedication etc. to all the not-for-profits organizations that she is involved with.

Deeply motivated by Prime Minster Modi’s bring your neighbors to India speech, and her travel experience, she has been promoting ‘Travel India’, within her circle. As President of Kannada Sangha Toronto (2014-15), Asha has devoted her energy to fund raising activities, organizing events that spread the awareness of Kannada culture beyond the IT domain.

It is her fervent hope to create a pan-Indian movement in Toronto, bringing all communities together and working as a team to raise funds to promote education and cleanliness in India.

Asha understands that whatever we have achieved today is due to the strong educational system in India and it is our duty to contribute both to India and Canada in every way that we can.

Brandy Leary; DD Woman Achiever 2015 - ARTS & CULTURAL INTEGRATION

Brandy Leary: Choreographer, Artistic Director

Brandy creates contemporary performances through dance based entry points. Her work has been produced in Canada, Europe, India, South Africa and the USA in theatres, urban environments, festivals, museums and isolated landscapes. She holds a BA Honours in Theatre with a specialization in Direction and Asian Theatre from York University's Theatre Program.

Brandy has lived between Canada and India for the past 15 years training, collaborating and creating in the traditional Indian performing languages of Seraikella and Mayurbhanj Chhau (dance), Kalarippayattu (martial art) and Rope Mallakhamb (aerial rope). In Canada she works with western approaches to aerial rope, the bridge discipline of Axis Syllabus and post contemporary dance/circus practies to create choreographic pieces that are interested in site specific and non-traditional audience/performer relationships based in ritual and participatory structures.

She founded Anandam Dancetheatre as an umbrella structure for her performance projects ( and is its Artistic Director. She is a founder and Co-Director of Collective Space (an alternative performance and rehearsal venue in Toronto’s west end) and is a Founder and Co-Artistic Director of CCAFT (Contemporary Circus Arts Festival of Toronto). Brandy is a triple Shastri Indo Canadian Fellow, a Chalmers Professional Development Awardee, has been twice shortlisted for the KM Hunter Award in Dance 2009 and 2011, is a 2013 Multi-Disciplinary Dance Artist Nominee for the Soulpepper Dance Awards and has had her work supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Hal Jackman Foundation, CreatiVenture Collective, Bata Shoe Museum, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Foundation and the Toronto Arts Council. Anandam Dancetheatre

Anandam Dancetheatre: Mission/Mandate

Anandam creates live performances that explore the body as a curious and shifting filter for diverse viewpoints and practices. Performances are created from dissonant sources in often alternative spaces or re-visioned traditional ones, collaboration among artists is post disciplinary and the aesthetic interest is polyculutral.

Our work is specifically fascinated by the present moment as an exchange and collaboration between people in a performative and social context. To us, this present-ness is energetic, transmissive, shamanistic, philosophic, embodied, simple and clear. Through our works this primary interest takes many forms of large and small, public and private but has at its root, and as a priority, an interest in intimacy, the body and the environment.

Malarvilly Varathraja: DD Woman Achiever 2015 - SPORTS


Malarvilly was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Canada. Malar is a graduate from University of Toronto with Hon.BSc. and has Master’s degree in Dance. Malar is a keen athlete with provincial and regional record holder in cross-country. Malar was the first South Asian female to break the provincial and regional records in cross-country record. She has been awarded as the Most Valuable person in sports throughout her school years in Toronto for her athletics talents in cross-country, track & Field, and soccer. She also holds her record in cross-country in North York. She has received “Award for Excellence in Track & Field” and has received numerous scholarships to part take in many prestigious track meets. Malar is a certified soccer coach from The Ontario Soccer Association. For the past 18 years, Malar has been playing netball as a centre player with a South Asian netball team.


Malarvilly is an accomplished classical and contemporary dancer, choreographer and master teacher with numerous performances successfully presented in Canada, India, and the USA. She holds master degree in dance and she has been recognized for choreographing and producing unique theme based production in classical Bharathanatyam and contemporary Bharathanatyam. She had the opportunity to learn from many great legends of Bharathanatyam from India and contemporary artists from Toronto. As a freelance performer, she had worked with inDance, Menaka Thakkar Dance Company, Sampradaya, and Nova Dance. She has been running a successful dance school Ariya Dance Academy for the past 7 years.

Malar is the first South Asian to produce and create a documentary on dance and its growth in South Asian community to make awareness within the community. The documentary was selected for a coveted award by York Region Film Festival. She is also the first artist to win “TOP Talent-Classical Dance 2010”. Malar has also been featured in films, short drama productions, and music videos. Malar has hosted and produced a 30 minutes youth oriented talk show for the community television which focused on educating South Asian youths in different subjects.

Community Worker:

Malar has been an active community worker for the past 16 years. She has volunteered with numerous organizations and had led many innovative projects for the community. She has worked with York Region District School Board and Toronto District School Board in numerous projects. Malar was voted for Liberal convention for Markham area as a delegate under Stephane Dion Campaign.

Thresia Thomas: DD Woman Achiever 2015 - Community Service


Thresia Thomas worked as a registered nurse for over 30 years. She’s a loving wife and mother of 3 children and has 1 granddaughter.

She’s been living in Mississauga for over 37 years. 

She enjoys writing, reading, dancing, cooking, and helping the community in any way she can.

Over the years, she has been involved in many committees such as Toronto Malayalee Samajam, Canadian Malayalee Association, and FOKANA. 

She was the Regional Vice President of FOKANA and when the convention was held in Toronto in 1994, she was behind the scenes for the success of the convention.

She was involved in the Mississauga Multicultural Festival from the very beginning when it first started. She was also behind the success of the municipal elections for her husband, Thomas K. Thomas, and daughter, Tracy Thomas. She’s currently helping in the election for the Ward 4 Councillor seat that her husband, Thomas, is running for as a candidate.

Thresia is a very honest woman that is exceptionally hard working and motivating and is dedicated at helping all those around her and her community.

Reena Deon: DD Woman Achiever 2015- Photography

From India Jaipur , Director of Rena Deon's Photography.

A South Asian creative still Photographer ,Photo - Journalist.

Reena Deon is a familiar name within the South Asian events community within the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from India, Reena pursued photography courses from India and Canada(Toronto).

"Seeing people happy and capture the precious moments makes me happy that drive me to do my job better," affirms Reena. When it comes to charity, Reena steps forward and has raised funds for the less privileged people.

Her portfolio primarily is made of still-photography, however making video is equally up her ally. Commonly, Reena documents events such as political functions, fundraising events, special events for social awareness, birthdays, weddings and all sorts of entertainment events.

Reena has been living in Canada for past 25 years and originally comes from a family of 5 sisters who lives in India. Reena has a 9 year old son, Ajay who spears the motivational factor behind her hard working nature.


Coming to Canada 40 years ago, Mary David has excelled in many different ventures, especially in the field of Martial Arts.

While pursing a career in Real Estate, Mary knew that she needed learn something in order to defend herself as well as build confidence; she started studying karate and instantly developed a passion for it.

Mary comes from a diverse coaching and instructional background, being a former NCCP certified synchronized swimming coach as well as certified swimming and fitness instructor.

Mary’s background in entrepreneurship, including managing her own Real Estate Company, has contributed to the leadership skills that has allowed her to run her own karate school: Stanley Park Goju Ryu Karate.

In August 2014, Mary became the first woman in the Seiwa Kai (“Say wa keye”) GoJu Ryu Organization in Canada to earn her 5th Degree Black belt. 

Mary has coached both of her sons to 3 National Titles each, and supported them at international competitions as apart of Team Canada.

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