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The International Women’s Day has been celebrated the world over with events marking and celebrating the day since 1911. This year, the Dancing Damsels Inc., a registered non-profit multicultural dance promotions company for women empowerment, commemorated the day on Saturday March 18th, at the Toronto City Hall (100 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2). The event, DD Women Achievement Awards 2017, celebrated and recognized the social, economic and political success of women in our community.

Hon. Dr. Kirsty Duncan MP (Minister of Science) today presented the Life Time Achievement Award to Dr. Roberta Bondar & Dr. Menaka Thakkar for their lifetime achievements and lifelong contribution to the community.

As the world’s first neurologist in space, Dr. Roberta Bondar is globally recognized for her pioneering contribution to space medicine research. Aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-42 in 1992, she conducted experiments in the first International Microgravity Laboratory, a precursor to the International Space Station.

For more than a decade at NASA, Dr. Bondar headed an international space medicine research team finding new connections between astronauts recovering from the microgravity of space and neurological illnesses here on Earth such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease. These research techniques have been used in clinical studies at the B. I. Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School and at the University of New Mexico.

A true renaissance woman, Dr. Bondar was trained in professional nature and landscape photography, and is an acclaimed photographer of the natural wonders of our planet. As an author, environmental educator and celebrated landscape photographer, Dr. Bondar has also earned a reputation as a leading speaker and consultant within the medical and scientific communities, and in the field of corporate social responsibility and care for the Earth's environment.

Dr. Menaka Thakkar is the first Indian dancer to receive the Canada council Walter Carsen Prize for the excellence in Performing Arts and the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in dance. She is also the first Indian dance artist to have received an honorary doctorate from York University where she taught as Adjunct Professor in the dance department for several decades.

She has been a major figure in Canada’s dance landscape, where she has created a several generations of Indian dancers across the country, in the classical systems of Bharatanatyam and Odissi. As a choreographer, she has created a large number of original works and successfully experimented with new forms, movement and dance vocabulary, thus making fundamental contributions to the development of neoclassical and contemporary forms of Indian dance.

Her own performances have ranged internationally over a large number of cities and countries in a brilliant 50 year performing career. She became a leading voice for obtaining funding support for Indian dance as a classical art form from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The key note address, on the International Women’s Day 2017 theme “Be Bold for Change”, was given by the chief guest of the event Almas Jiwani, President of UN Women Canada National Committee and CEO of Almas Jiwani Foundation. Almas Jiwani is a fiercely vocal champion for gender equality. She is internationally renowned for her efforts to encourage women’s social, economic, and political empowerment. She spearheads initiatives where corporate growth intersects with humanitarian development.

A model of perseverance and determination, Ms. Jiwani’s efforts to strengthen women’s economic capacity as entrepreneurs and producers have earned her accolades. She plays a crucial role in building networks among charitable institutions and socially responsible businesses.

Ms. Jiwani is a powerful and influential speaker and she continues to travel across the globe to deliver keynote addresses, speeches, and presentations on improving the status of women. She addressed over 400 parliamentarians from 42 countries on the benefits of economically empowering women and the roles and responsibilities of parliamentarians at the International Assembly in the Dominican Republic and Quebec City.

As a part of the IWD celebrations, Dancing Damsels presented the winners the Women Achiever Awards 2017, which is the highest honor conferred by Dancing Damsels to women whose outstanding achievement has made a difference in the community.

Twelve successful women from the fields of Politics, Music, Community Leadership, Volunteering, Performing Arts, Science & Technology, Hospitality, Sports, Literature, Business, Media & Communication, and Healthcare were honoured at the event.

Hon. Dr. Kirsty Duncan MP (Minister of Science) , Ramesh Sangha MP, Indian Consul Usha Venkatesan, Padmini Anand were the Guests of Honor who greeted for the organizers of the event and gave away the prestigious DD Women Achiever Awards for 2017.

Mary Jeyaseeli Inpanayakam – Owner, Ambika Jewellers, Sylvia Francis – Founder of North America’s Leading Tamil Music Band AGNI, Elsa Hsieh – Performing Artists, Music Conductor & Founder of Dolce De Soleil Music Group, Manoshi Chatterjee – Author, Poet, Singer, Music Composer, Elocutionist & TV Show Host of “Cultural Journey with Manoshi”, Enakshi Sinha - Award Winning Performer, Choreographer, Art Educator, Malika Mounir – President ARGANA- Association des femmes maroco-canadiennes, Dr.Vasundara Venkateswaran – Scientist, Research Director & Associate Professor, Ann Buller – CEO & President of Centennial College, Sasha Brathwaite – Program Director Let’s Jam Percussive & Creative Movement, Josephine Bau – Founder & Past Chair of Peel Chinese Community Service Hub, Bhavna Bhatnagar – Ceramic Artist & Director Ceramic Expressions Toronto and Mariatu Kamara – UNICEF Special Representative, Author & Survivor of the civil war in Sierra Leone etc were presented the awards.

The main sponsor of the event was PAZ VIRREY of SunLife Financial. Other sponsors were Chaitanya Health Services, Woodlands Dental Center, Vijaya Jeevarakshagan (RBC IS), CLN Mortgages and Inforce Life Financial Services.

This year, the theme of the celebrations was “Be Bold for Change”. There were entertainment programs by Abhinayakshetra Canada, Fei Mini Hip Hop, Ashley Perez, Nada El Masriya (Hannan Belly Dance), Ontario Heartland Chorus, Preetha Premkumar, Luz Castillo, Cynthia Chow, and Renee Henry.

This event was flawlessly organized under the leadership of Mary Ashok (Managing Director),

Birendra Rajapreyar, Gagan Behari Panigrahi, Sabita Panigrahi, Lata Menon, Sudarshan Meenakshi, Gita Sankaran, Joy Verghese, Mr. Menon, Jaison Mathew ,Gary Gu, Bhaskaran Srinivasan, Ramamurthy Krishnan, Sudha Ramamurthy, Aakanksha Bhardwaj Grover, Sreshta Rout, Upasana Chawla, Hema Nanjappan, Gudiya Praveen, Hema Siva and Lekha Rajiv. 

Dancing Damsels’ International Women’s Day celebration 2017 was a celebration that was enjoyably inspiring and rendered it a day to be remembered for the speakers, awardees and audience alike.

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