Carpenders Park woman 'completely overwhelmed' at nomination for Asian Women of Achievement Awards

Watford Observer: Carpenders Park 'completely overwhelmed' shortlisted for Asian Women of Achievement Awards Carpenders Park 'completely overwhelmed' shortlisted for Asian Women of Achievement Awards

A Carpenders Park woman is "completely overwhelmed" to be shortlisted for the 2014 Asian Women of Achievement Awards.

Rona Kotecha, of St Georges Drive, is the director of the Mara Foundation and Mara Women, which helps entrepreneurs in Africa manage their own businesses, enabling them to become independent from foreign aid.

The mother-of-three, who has worked on both projects since 2009, is one of 54 inspirational women from across the country to have been shortlisted for the award.

Mrs Kotecha said: "Somebody that I know through work nominated me. With the work that I do with the foundation, she thought I should be recognised. I have never been nominated for something like this before and I was completely overwhelmed to find out that I was on the shortlist."

The 41-year-old, who was born Kampala in Uganda, had her shortlist interview on Friday, and will find out in June whether she is the winner of the Social and Humanitarian category.

The Mara Foundation assists with programmes in Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya.

One of its new initiatives, Mara Women, helps the next generation of female African business leaders by providing them with training and helping them get funding.

Mrs Kotecha explained: "My brother, Ashish Thakor, set up the foundation, and asked me if I would like to help. I initially came on board for three to six months and a few years on I’m still here.

"The foundation looks to raise the profile of these entrepreneurs and help them take those steps. My hope is that these awards will elevate the foundation’s work and I’m so excited about that."

She added: "Even being shortlisted for this I feel completely privileged and I feel like it’s a massive achievement already."

Mrs Kotecha said she also hopes that raising the profile of the awards will inspire women who want to go back to work after having children, and not feel the "guilt" that she believes is placed on new mothers when they want to re-enter the workplace.

The awards are in their 15th year and were founded by entrepreneur and women’s champion Pinky Lilani, with the aim of celebrating Asian women who are making an outstanding contribution to culture and economy.

Ms Lilani said: "The quality of this year’s shortlist is a fitting complement to such a milestone year in the Asian Women of Achievement Award’s history. I am incredibly pleased to know that, fifteen years on, we are still discovering the unsung Asian heroes of communities across the entire country."

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